By Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press Auto Critic, May 30, 2015
*U.S. expected to biggest market for RS super compact
*Power likely to rise above announced 315 hp
*New AWD system can send 70% of torque to rear wheels
*Competes with Mitsubishi Evo, Subaru WRX STI, VW Golf R
Ford engineers are working feverishly on the all-wheel-drive Focus RS to get the super-compact ready for sale next year.
Its power is rising above the already-announced 315 horsepower from a 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Work also continues to wring the last dram of performance from the new performance-oriented AWD system with supplier GKN. The system reads steering angle, suspension travel, throttle position, wheel slip and other factors to direct power for maximum traction.
Ford plans to use it in other upcoming high-performance models, although not in the F-150 Raptor performance pickup, which uses a different layout because it's based on a rear-drive vehicle and the base Focus is front-wheel-drive.
The RS hot hatchback will also feature Brembo brakes, launch control, a drive mode specifically for drifting, Tenneco two-stage shocks and the ability to shift 70% of its torque to the rear wheels.
Ford will initially only build the RS with a manual transmission, but could add an automatic if sales take off. Ford's not even hinting about what kind of automatic, but if it were to build one, I'd bet on a fast-shifting dual-clutch of the type other European super compacts like the VW Golf R and Mercedes AMG CLA 450 use.
Ford expects the U.S. to be the largest market for the RS. The car will go on sale here next spring, shortly after it debuts in Europe. Ford will sell smaller numbers in other markets all around the world.
A few RS test vehicles are already on the road near Ford's Dearborn HQ and at test tracks in Europe and the U.S.
The assembly plant in Saarlouis, Germany, that builds the RS is very flexible. That means Ford expects to be able to build as many RS as demand dictates.
The 2016 RS will be the first time Ford's sold a Focus RS in the United States. But the model has a history among Europe's hot hatchbacks, where 30 cars have worn the RS badge, going back to the 1970 Escort RS1600 and 1985 Sierra RS Cosworth. There have been two previous Focus RS, in 2002 and 2009.
The new RS is likely to be available for a couple of years before Ford introduces an all-new Focus. The model will probably go away for six or seven years then. (Makes no sense....the vehicle will be discontinued or will be refreshed?)
Ford hasn't said anything about Focus RS prices, but they will compete with AWD hot hatchbacks like the 305-hp, $34,695 Subaru WRX and 292-hp $35,695 VW Golf R.
Ford boosting power, handling of Focus RS hot hatch for 2016 debut