Here it is at last – the Ford Focus RS. We have been a passenger on track, and driven it on the Continent and in the UK, and now it is at our test track ready for a thorough Autocar workout.

The new RS has been a long time coming. It’s curious to think, given how much attention is given to it, that this hot hatch is only just on its third generation, despite the first one arriving back in 2002.

Unlike some sports cars or hot hatches, there isn’t a central driving theme to the Focus RS, no familiar DNA that will tell you – as it might in an everyday Ford – that, ah, yes, this is the new Focus RS.

If there is an underlying theme, it has taken a third car to realise it: after all, once could be a fluke, twice could be coincidence, but it takes three things to ascertain a trend.

The Mk1 RS was pulled off the standard Focus line for finishing – at great cost – where it received wider bodywork and a trick Quaife limited-slip differential of shocking brutality. The Mk2 RS of 2009 was created to roll down the line like any other Focus. The trickery, again, was focused on getting its power to the road.

Again there was a limited-slip diff, but with 301bhp to deal with, it was never going to be enough on its own and there was no chance of fitting anything other than front drive and MacPherson struts. So in went a Quaife diff and RevoKnuckle front suspension, a torque-steer-reducing addition that helped to deploy power to the road without destroying its driver’s forearms.

And, once again, it’s the drivetrain and suspension that are recipients of the trickery this time around.

The theme is this: the RS Focus has never shied from trying something new in order to get tyre-monstering power, for a car of its size, to the road. This time, four-wheel drive gets the nod.

But unlike rival systems, it’s not just front-led, pushing power rearwards when you need it. Nope. Ford Performance has promised something special. And special it will need to be to fend off the vast list of competitors including the Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M2, Mercedes-AMG A45, Audi TT RS and the soon to arrive facelift Audi RS3

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