The RS version of Ford’s new-generation Focus could be powered by both a turbocharged petrol engine and a torquey electric motor mounted on the rear axle, according to senior company sources.
Although the RS Focus has yet to appear on Ford’s confirmed future model cycle documents, the success of the current model has encouraged Ford management to keep the project in pre-development.
The man in charge of Ford’s global development, Derrick Kuzak, confirmed at this year’s Geneva show that the company would build a “global performance version” of the all-new Focus.
Insiders say this global model will use Ford’s turbocharged 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, producing 250bhp and driving the front wheels.
Ford has just started discussions on what to call the car; hot Fords have been known as ST, SVT and XR in various markets.
A new RS Focus, however, will have to be significantly more powerful — a tricky job when Ford’s Team RS will probably not be able to use today’s Volvo-derived five-cylinder turbo motor, which is good for 345bhp in the Focus RS500.
Team RS, led by Jost Capito, is keen to reflect the strong prevailing environmental concerns within the motor industry with a future mega-Focus.
Very senior sources within Ford have told Autocar that Team RS has started early conceptual studies into matching the 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine with an electric motor mounted on the Focus’s rear axle.
Ford has already explored this technology on the 2005 Reflex concept, and it’s just about to be adopted by Peugeot on the 508 executive saloon.
The advantages of the layout for a high-performance car are manifold. It enables the use of a relatively small-capacity engine, but the strong torque from an electric motor gives the car a considerable performance boost.
It also makes it all-wheel drive without the complexity of a conventional set-up using a power take-off and propshaft.
Electric motors are also relatively compact and can easily be packaged within the type of multi-link rear axle used by the new Focus. Space, however, would have to be found for a battery pack.
A hybrid Focus RS would most likely be able to match the performance of today’s RS500, but with much-improved economy and lower CO2 emissions.
Depending on the size of the battery pack, the RS hybrid would also be capable of running at zero emissions for short distances, a facility that is likely to become essential for American-market sales in the near term.
The chances of the RS hybrid becoming a reality are further underpinned by the move towards greener competition vehicles, exemplified by Porsche’s new 911 GT3 hybrid.
Indeed, last year Capito told Autocar, “We certainly have to guard the RS badge and its motorsport heritage very carefully. We won’t put an RS badge on any type of car; it has to have a race or rally link.”
A hybrid race car is regarded by many in the company as an essential part of Ford’s future competition portfolio.
However, if the electrified rear axle does not make it into Ford’s forward engineering plan, Team RS is also likely to look at Ford’s existing hybrid drivetrain, which is currently used by the Mondeo-sized Ford Fusion in the US.
In its current form, the hybrid drive combines a 156bhp 2.5-litre engine and an electric motor to deliver 191bhp to the front wheels.