The spectacular new Ford Focus RS is set to encounter a raft of even more powerful and potentially faster rivals in a burgeoning global market of performance hatchbacks when it reaches showrooms in 2016.
Key among them is a production version of the Volkswagen Golf R400, which, company officials have revealed, has entered an initial stage of development after an enthusiastic response to its public debut at the Beijing motor show last April.
Created by VW’s increasingly prominent R division, the extreme four-wheel-drive hatchback is scheduled to be produced in limited numbers and priced above the recently introduced third-generation Golf R, upon which it is heavily based. It will be a competitor to some highly fancied machinery, including the upcoming second-generation Audi RS3, BMW M235i and more powerful version of the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.
The production version of the R400 is earmarked to get the same version of VW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as that showcased by the concept.
Developed under the watch of the German car maker’s petrol engine boss, Fritz Eichler – the man behind the A45’s similarly configured powerplant – it kicks out 395bhp at 7200rpm and 332lb ft of torque between 2000rpm and 6000rpm.
The prodigious reserves are sufficient, according to VW’s own performance figures, to provide the 1420kg Golf R400 with a 0-62mph time of just 3.9sec – 1.0sec faster than the Golf R and 0.7sec faster than Mercedes claims for the A45 AMG. An official 174mph top speed is also 19mph up on the governed 155mph of the Golf R and A45 AMG.
Not to be outdone by VW, Mercedes is plotting to extend the performance of the A45 through a lift in the output of its highly strung turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, which already has the highest specific output of any series-production four-pot, at 177bhp per litre.