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Published: 02/03/2015 - by Alistair Weaver, European Correspondent
COLOGNE, Germany — After months of rumors and counter-rumors, Ford has finally unveiled the new Focus RS, confirming it will be all-wheel drive and that it will come to the U.S.
The third-generation Focus RS will be the first to officially cross the Atlantic and will be powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine producing, says Ford, "in excess of 316 horsepower."
This is the first Focus RS to boast all-wheel drive, and the system has been configured with torque-vectoring for performance driving. It features two electronically controlled clutch packs that distribute the torque both front-to-rear and side-to-side. Up to 70 percent of the torque can be distributed to the rear at any time, while 100 percent of that torque can be apportioned to either of the rear wheels.
Sensors monitor the car's behavior a hundred times per second and adjust the setup accordingly. In theory at least, this should help to quell the understeer traditionally associated with all-wheel-drive systems, and the engineers are adamant the RS will be able to drift.
Further electronics are employed in the damping and steering and there will be a switchable "Track" mode. The RS is designed to be a much more focused offering than the ST, and the spring rates, bushings and antiroll bars have all be uprated. There will also a choice of two different types of Michelin tires sitting on 19-inch wheels, with the more aggressive Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber favored for track driving.
The engine is based on the EcoBoost deployed in the Mustang but features a new twin-scroll turbocharger, an uprated intercooler and a bespoke exhaust system with an electronically controlled valve in the tailpipe. Ford's head of global product development, Raj Nair, promised that the engine will be tuned to pop and fart in the best RS tradition.
The exact power output is likely to be announced ahead of the car's official debut next month at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, but we do know that the engine will drive through a six-speed manual gearbox. No performance figures were announced, but expect it to record 0-60-mph runs in less than 5 seconds.
Cooling the new motor has prompted a significant redesign of the Focus' front end, which now boasts intake ducts big enough to swallow small animals. Ford claims that all the tweaks are functional, including the new rear diffuser and wing. It's undeniably striking, but is significantly less extrovert than its two-door predecessor. Ford insiders accept that some customers were put off by that car's boy racer pretensions and hope that the third incarnation will appeal to a broader demographic.
The interior differs little from the Focus ST, save for some RS stickers and a preponderance of blue stitching. Sadly, the Recaro shell seats on the unveil car will not be coming to the U.S. as they do not comply with U.S. safety standards.
The Ford Focus RS unveil event was enlivened by the presence of Gymkhana and rally superstar Ken Block, who has been employed as an RS consultant. Block has already tested the car and offered feedback to the development team.
We expect more details on the RS's specification to be unveiled at the Geneva auto show before production begins at Ford's plant in Saarlouis, Germany later this year.