One third of the customer’s deposits were placed before prices and specifications were announced at September’s Frankfurt motor show, and interest has accelerated since the car’s base price of £28,940 was revealed.
Many of those ordering the 165mph car are owners of previous RS models, explained Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director.
“These enthusiasts are taking great care in building their optimum specification,” he said. “We expected those first in the queue to be exacting about their requirements, and so it has proved, with many opting for motorsport-style Recaro shell front seats, 19in black forged alloy wheels, Luxury pack, electric tilt/side sunroof and Ford SYNC2 navigation and sound system.”
Selecting most of these options pushes the transaction price of the Focus RS north of £30,000. The Recaro shell seats cost £1145 and a set of the 19in black wheels are £595. The Luxury pack, which includes folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, cruise control and privacy glass, comes in at £1000 and the electric tilt/side sunroof is £575.
One of the biggest switches in the new Ford Focus RS is the switch from front- to four-wheel drive; this is the first RS-badged family hatchback to drive all four wheels since the Escort Cosworth. It also incorporates a 'drift mode' designed to allow controlled slides when conditions permit.
Ford's global product development boss and chief technical officer Raj Nair said, "Crucially, the technology doesn't detract from the driver experience. This is a car you can have fun in and drift in a totally controlled way, or which you can go out and set a fast lap time in. Those two things don't always tally, but this technology gives us the scope to do that."
Nair also confirmed that the case for four-wheel drive was strengthened by a decision by Ford's top management to use Performance-branded vehicles as showcases for innovations on all vehicles. "You saw with the Ford GT how it will act as a halo for Ecoboost technology - we see a lot of technology that the Focus RS can highlight across the range."
The Focus RS’s 0-62mph time makes it the fastest-accelerating RS model ever. As well as the all-wheel-drive system, the car’s accelerative prowess is aid by launch control, a first for a Ford RS model.
The driver selects launch control from the cluster menu, engages first gear, applies full throttle and then releases the clutch. The system then delivers optimum drive – including distributing torque through the all-wheel-drive system, maintaining maximum torque using the turbo overboost function, managing the traction control system, and setting the dampers.
To achieve maximum acceleration through the gears, a performance shift light in the instrument cluster alerts the driver when approaching the optimum upshift point of 5900rpm, and flashes if the engine hits its limit of 6800rpm.
The Focus RS offers four different Drive Modes that configure the all-wheel-drive system, damper controls, electronic stability control, steering and engine responses, and exhaust sound. Normal, Sport or Track settings are available, alongside the special Drift Mode.
“The all-new Focus RS delivers stunning performance and innovative technology at a price that will make both our customers and premium automakers look twice,” said Jürgen Gagstatter, chief program engineer for Focus RS. “After experiencing the acceleration and cornering capability of the Focus RS, drivers will question the sense in spending almost £10,000 more on a premium competitor.”
Speaking to Autocar, Gagstatter said that making the RS affordable was a key target of the project: "What we’ve aimed to do is to have a technically competitive package which is affordable for our customers, that has been the overriding principal here.
"If you look back in history the previous Focus RS was front-wheel drive, but it was the right package for that time. The world moves on, and it was clear from the beginning that we needed an all-wheel drive package.
"When you start planning a replacement product [for the last Focus RS] you have a number of opinions and a number of people to talk to. Relatively quickly we found ourselves where we wanted to be in terms of performance."
Ford Focus RS engine power and torque
The 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine is an uprated version of the unit available in the new Ford Mustang, producing 10% more power than that unit as a result of a variety of modifications. Changes from the Mustang engine include a low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger with a larger compressor to aid airflow, plus a notably larger intercooler and air intake.
The Focus RS’s engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox that has had its shift action shortened for faster, more accurate changes. The transmission and clutch have also been uprated to cope with 324lb ft of torque, which is available from 2000rpm to 4500rpm. Additionally, 347lb ft of torque is availble for up to 15 seconds under hard acceleration, as part of a transient overboost facility.
The engine is also linked to a larger-bore exhaust system. As well as boosting performance, the system is said by Ford to be tuned to “deliver a rewarding and sporty sound character during spirited driving, with the distinctive burbles, pops and crackles that are an RS signature”.
In addition, and in the quest for high-temperature durability, the cylinder head is made of an upgraded alloy and mounted on a strengthened head gasket. For the same reason, the cylinder block also has stronger high-tensile cast iron liners. A significantly larger radiator than in the Focus ST aids cooling.
The engine’s power figure of more than 345bhp has now been ratified. However, it establishes the Focus RS Mk3 as the most powerful ‘standard’ Focus RS to date. The Mk1 Focus RS had 212bhp and the Mk2 had 301bhp. However, the special-edition Focus RS500 had 345bhp - a figure now matched by this latest RS.
Ford Focus RS set-up and pricing
The new Focus RS will be sold as a five-door model only, in line with Ford’s global strategy for the entire Focus range. Inevitably, though, the Focus RS is significantly upgraded, even from the Focus ST.
Most significantly, the chassis has been retuned, with the use of stiffer spring rates, bushes and anti-roll bars, and two-mode dampers that can be switched between road and track settings.
The electric power-assisted steering has also been retuned to work with a more rigid front suspension knuckle and shorter link arms to deliver what Ford describes as “connected and responsive steering with outstanding feel”.
To emphasise the track capabilities of the new Focus RS, it will be available with a specially developed semi-slick tyre for the first time. All buyers will have a choice of standard or lightweight forged 19in multi-spoke alloy wheels, which can be shod with either Michelin Pilot Super Sport 235/35 RD tyres or Pilot Sport Cup 2 semi-slicks. Iconic driver Ken Block has been involved in the car's development process.
The exaggerated exterior look has been created by Ford’s stylists and the practical need for improved aerodynamic downforce and increased brake and powertrain cooling.
The interior also gets several upgrades, including Recaro sports seats, a flat-bottomed, leather-clad steering wheel, alloy pedals and a simpler dashboard layout than on standard cars. This includes a standard 8.0in colour touchscreen and Ford’s Sync2 connectivity system.
Buyers will get four colour choices as alternatives to the standard Stealth Grey. Frozen White is a £250 option, with Shadow Black and Magnetic costing £525 and Nitrous Blue at £745.
The four-wheel drive system and other technical upgrades also raise the possibility of a final, extreme performance version of the car being sold some time around 2017, in the vein of the previous-generation Focus RS500. That car was developed in conjunction with Mountune and sold as a limited edition of 500 cars, 101 of which were sold in the UK.
Ford of Europe boss Jim Farley says the new RS "captures the essence" of the brand. "We make great cars that are affordable and that's what defines the RS. Bringing RS back is a high point for us and customers. We don't just want a sustainable business for Europe, we want a vibrant business. This is a part of that journey."