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By Kelly Pleskot, May 27, 2015

A reader recently sent in shots of a Ford Focus RS mule conducting high-altitude testing. Now, our spy photographers have caught one testing in Michigan virtually undisguised. These shots give us our best look yet at the U.S. version of the hot hatch on everyday roads.

Ford is taking some time to fine-tune its U.S.-spec Focus RS before it hits dealerships next spring. The high-performance Focus continues to sport blue brake calipers, a deep front chin, and an RS-badged rear wing. Nineteen-inch wheels finish off the look.

Under the sheetmetal, expect the Mustang's 2.3-liter Ecoboost inline four-cylinder engine tuned to produce over 315 hp. The Focus RS will also feature a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control. Also look forward to Brembo brakes and a drift mode that allows for easier power slides on tracks.

Although Ford produces the standard Focus in its homestate of Michigan, the Focus RS will go into production in Germany. That's likely why the hatch first debuted at the Geneva motor show before making its way to us overseas at the New York auto show a short while later. When the Focus RS heads to dealerships, it will likely be badged as a 2017 model.

Spied: Ford Focus RS Mule Grins for the Camera
 

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Wonder if those engineers ever street race anybody
 

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I was in a Ride & Handling group for FoMoCo once upon a time, and I recall one vehicle in particular that I was driving (an early level RHD Explorer prototype for the UK) that had a sticker on the glovebox that read, "This vehicle cost Ford Motor Company $1,497,500 please drive it accordingly." Most prototypes in the test fleet had similar stickers, but this one had a especially high cost associated with it. They were all over half a million bucks each, though.

It was understood that we would drive like the 95th percentile customer in order to seek out and identify shortcomings in a particular vehicle before the customer did (e.g. like an a**hole, but not necessarily a fleeing car thief), but crashing a car in a street race would have meant that we would be fired instantly.
 
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