Ford is working on a top-secret new Focus RS, and is likely to choose next year’s London motor show for the car’s grand unveiling.
Buoyed by storming market demand for the Focus ST — which in its first year sold twice as well as its deadly rival, the VW Golf GTi in the UK — Ford believes it has created market space for a faster, edgier, 30 per cent more powerful Focus whose near-supercar performance and rally-car looks can both take advantage of last year’s win in the World Rally Championship and recall the heady days of the Escort RS Cosworth.
The new car, powered by a 280bhp turbocharged version of Ford’s five-cylinder engine, retains two-wheel drive but will use a special semi-active limited-slip diff to improve traction and on-limit handling. It has standard 19-inch wheels, special springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, and rides a little lower than the already-lowered Focus ST, which keeps its status as Ford’s bigger-selling, more versatile sporty saloon. Like the ST, the RS uses a six-speed stick-shift transmission. Total production is forecast at between 5000 and 10,000 units before the next Focus arrives.
Ford’s performance cars boss, Jost Capito, won’t confirm the car’s existence, on the grounds that it’s not yet in the company’s official plan, though he refuses to condemn the concept. “We are always pushing for cars like this,” he said, “but it is difficult because we have limited funds to spend on sporty cars. However, we would obviously like to build cars like this one.”
Designers want to avoid over-decorating the new RS, but the car is nevertheless believed to have a deeper front bumper with rally-style brake and turbo air scoops, plus a rear roof spoiler design influenced by the WRC cars. Flared wheel arches won’t be on the agenda as they were in the previous Focus RS; they’re deemed too expensive for such a low-volume model. Instead, the RS will use distinctive interior materials and badges to emphasise its special status.
It is perhaps a surprise that the new RS retains front-wheel drive when Ford has access to various Volvo and Land Rover 4x4 systems that might have been adapted. But retaining two-wheel drive saves money: Ford plans to have the RS on the market at the impressively low price of £21,000 to £23,000, only about £3500 ahead of the ST entry price. The project is believed to need around 18 months to complete, so production cars should be ready by June 2009.