Details of Ford's 280bhp, 155mph mega-hatch
23 January 2008

The secret’s out. Ford is working at top speed on a brand new, 155mph Focus RS – designed, in performance terms, to take up where the previous version left off – and wants it on the market early next year at about £25,000, a price deliberately calculated to embarrass Volkswagen’s fast-but-flabby Golf R32.The new RS, which incorporates the updates made to more basic Focus models for 2008, aims at the same hardcore enthusiasts who bought the original Focus RS launched in 2002, and will be foreshadowed by a near-production concept at the London motor show this summer. It will be the 21st in a line of RS-badged fast Fords that started with the Escort RS1600 in 1970.

How fast will the new Focus RS be?

The production model's output is still being calibrated at a figure somewhere north of 280bhp, but it's likely to be governed at the 155mph. Expect it to achieve 0-60mph in under six seconds, aided by an extra-trick electronic front diff that puts the power down better than ever in a seriously powerful two-wheel-drive car, and 0-100mph in around 12-13sec. In summary, we’re looking at Jaguar XKR performance, which is highly impressive at the price.

What have they done to the engine?

The 20-valve, 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbo engine comes straight from the 222bhp Focus ST, but it gets modified pistons, cams and valve springs, a bigger turbo, a larger intercooler and modified electronics to produce its 280bhp.

Why doesn’t the RS have four-wheel drive?

For reasons of weight and cost, but also because engineers believe it’s not needed, despite the high power output. The Ford group does have a four-wheel drive system – already fitted to some Volvo S60s – that could be adapted, but it would add at least 150kg to the car and cut its power-to-weight ratio. Ford is still debating whether to use its six-speed PowerShift gearbox (the equivalent of VW’s DSG system) in the car.

When can I see one?

Expect pictures and details right here – and in Autocar magazine – just before the London motor show starts late in July. Then visit Ford’s stand at Excel, where you’ll see a near-production concept, designed to “raise awareness”. After its show debut, expect the RS to go on sale in March 2009.

Find out more about the new Focus RS in the January 23 issue of Autocar magazine and read about every hot hatch due out in the next 18 months by clicking here.

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Steve Cropley

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24 January 2008

Great news, I love the medium car fast Fords, always have done since sitting in an Escort Mexico in a dealer showroom in Carlisle, when I was about 8 or 9.

This car looks like you would expect, but the real fun will lie in the way it goes down the road. Can't wait for the group test.

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