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Ford Focus RS: The Hottest Hatch?

Motoring Channel Staff - 11/December/2008

Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS

Ford Focus RS
Ford's flying Focus outputs more than 220kW

Ford Focus RS
The aggressive roof spoiler and diffuser give
the Ford Focus RS an motorsports look and feel

Ford Focus RS
Ford plans on building only 5000 versions of the RS

Ford Focus RS
The Focus RS sits on 19-inch alloys
with
235/35 R19 Continental tyres

Ford Focus RS
Ford of Europe's powertrain engineers fettled the
5-cylinder engine, boosting the Focus RS's speed

Ford Focus RS
Leather and suede Recaro seats? Must be serious

London, England – We saw the lurid green "pre-production" version of the Ford Focus RS at the 2008 British Motor Show in July, and now the official  production version is ready.

We're not sure that the blue colour does the design justice, but it is a traditional RS colour.

With this more conservative paint job and a price tag similar to that of the Audi S3 at around £25,000 (A$57,000), the Ford Focus RS is powered by the same 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo petrol engine.

This engine is seen in the XR5 Focus Turbo sold in Australia, albeit with a much higher state of tune on the RS.

The new model is front-wheel drive which many pundits claim will ruin the performance feel by adding torque steer, but Ford has a few tricks up its sleeve to mitigate such issues, such as the "RevoKnuckle" which you can read about in the Chassis section.

As we revealed in July, the rally-bred Focus RS is set for an early 2009 release in Europe and only 5000 units will be made, which will ensure the RS badge retains its exclusivity.

Already 1500 have been sold.

We asked Ford Australia what it thought of the Focus RS, and the company's brand manager said: "It looks sensational and while it would be great to have something [like this], we won't be importing this model to Australia."

Engine

The new Ford Focus RS could be a Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo rival, particularly when its boosted 2.5-litre turbo mill outputs 224kW (300hp) and 410Nm of torque.

The engine is a modified version of 2.5-litre turbo unit from the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo, which scored four out of five Wombats in a 2008 road test.

As predicted, the RS will sprint from zero to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds and will have a top speed of 250km/h (155mph), making it one of Ford's quickest cars yet.

Design

Showing off a bold body kit, sitting on big wheel rims and low profile tyres and with a wider stance than its donor car, the Ford Focus RS makes a powerful visual statement.

"We believe it's vitally important that a Focus RS looks like both a Focus and an RS – it needs to be individual, distinctive and overt in its performance styling, but it also needs to show a clear progression from and relationship to Focus ST," said Stefan Lamm, the Chief Exterior Designer at Ford of Europe.

Along with its flared wheel arches and 19-inch alloy wheels, the Focus RS receives the following body work changes:

Hood vents
RS Badging
New (wider) front and rear quarter panels
Large front air dam
Deep front fog lights
New side skirts
Aero roof spoiler
Large twin exhausts
Rear diffuser

The interior of the Ford Focus RS has also been upgraded to coincide with the vehicle's motor sports attitude, "dominated by bespoke, sculpted Recaro high-performance sports seats" according to Ford. The seats are also colour-matched to the exterior and feature ebony leather accents, plus 'RS' and 'Recaro' logos.

Brushed aluminium and carbon-look trim give the interior a sporty look and feel, and the 6-speed manual gear lever finished gets RS graphics as does the steering wheel. 

There's three new gauges to inform drivers of turbo and oil pressure.

Ford of Europe's big chief, John Fleming, said "RS is uniquely important to us in terms of our performance heritage and World Rally Championship success, while the Focus has played a major part in establishing Ford’s excellent reputation for driving dynamics.

"The all-new Focus RS will embrace and celebrate both of these – it will be a genuine RS and a genuine Focus and I'm confident it won't disappoint in either area," concluded Fleming.

Chassis

It rides on large 19-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile 235/35 R19 Continental tyres, has a 40mm wider track complete with flared wheel arches, and a stronger driveshaft to weather increased punishment from the boosted engine.

There's also new suspension that includes revised springs and dampers plus a thicker and longer rear anti-roll bar.

The steering has been tweaked to give it a motor sports feel and the anchors have been upsized with 336mm front and 300mm rear discs to generate "vice-like stopping power on road or track" according to Ford.

Changes to the ESP software make it less intrusive, which Ford says facilitates a very sporty driving style before activating.

"We are refining all the handling characteristics of Focus RS without ESP, to hone its natural responses, rather than use ESP to help its handling. 

"In Focus RS, ESP is a pure safety device," said Jost Capito, Ford of Europe's Performance Vehicle guru.

Another chassis upgrade included on the Ford Focus RS is the 'RevoKnuckle' front suspension system.

It's designed to reduce torque steer and what Ford calls unwanted steering disturbances through the front wheels and works in tandem with a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential.

"The Ford Focus is an excellent base for a high performance car – agile, responsive and stable," explained Jost Capito. "We studied at length how best to enhance these qualities for a high performance model. 

"Our work has shown clearly that our approach in combining a tuned RevoKnuckle with the Quaife differential is an ideal solution for a high performance front-wheel-drive road car like Focus RS."

"As you would expect," continued Capito, "we gave all-wheel-drive careful consideration, but by combining and tuning these elements and learning from Ford's expertise in industry-leading handling, we have managed to eliminate the weight of AWD from the car and still have been able to target a class-leading balance of traction, handling and performance."

Related Links:
Ford Ranger Max (2008)
Ford Focus XR5 Turbo (Road Test)
Ford Mustang (2010)
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo (Road Test)
Ford Shelby GR-1
Ford Fiesta (2009)
Ford Fiesta XR4 (Road Test)
- Ford Ka (2009)
Ford Falcon G6 (Road Test)
- Ford Focus RS (2009)
Ford Mondeo (Road Test)
- FPV F6 X (2008)
Ford Focus Diesel (Road Test)

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