It’s common knowledge that Europe gets its pick of the best hatchbacks. Ford’s campaign to unify its product lineup across the globe gave the U.S. hope that maybe we’d get in on the action as well, being pleasantly satisfied with the Focus ST and its insanely fun Fiesta ST when they came out. As great as these were, we knew that there was one particular hardcore hatch designated by a specific badge that Ford was holding back on.
That ends today as Ford unleashes the brand new Focus RS.
The third Generation of the RS is the first to be offered on our side of the pond, finally giving the U.S. a Focus with more rally-capable performance instead of an autocross plaything like the ST. What makes this one special? First off, the RS gets a new engine, specifically the 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ecoboost that gives the car over 315 horsepower. It’s the same Ecoboost engine Ford saw fit to offer in the current run of Mustangs.
Better still, the engine is mated to a six-speed manual that’s been upgraded with stronger components to deal with the increased torque output. The power then routed then goes to all four wheels. You heard right: All-wheel drive. Electronically controlled clutch packs on each side of the drive unit also allow for the system to be capable of Dynamic Torque Vectoring. The packs managing the front/rear torque split can also control its distribution from side-to-side on the rear axle, giving the outer wheel a bit more power (based on how it reads the situation), improving turn-in stability, and cutting down the understeer to nil.
The exterior of the Focus RS makes no bones about what this is: this is a performance vehicle and it shows. The muscular exterior is designed to be as functional as possible, with a focus on aerodynamic downforce and intakes to cool the engine and brakes. Its front fascia gets a deep splitter and the automotive equivalent of a nose strip to open up the apertures for engine breathing.
The rear sports a large diffuser and a distinctive roof spoiler, with the RS badge embossed on the side, with Asian and European markets getting an additional clear central fog lamp to meet local requirements. The whole package sits on your choice of 19-inch alloy wheels, one option being a lightweight forged set in low gloss black.
Inside, drivers will find, expectedly, a set of heavily bolstered Recaro sport seats. It differs little from the ST’s interior in that you get the standard Focus fare, but also a flat-bottomed steering wheel, alloy pedals and an additional gauge cluster for turbocharger boost pressure, oil temp and oil pressure.
Your pick of colors are Nitrous Blue, Stealth Gray, Absolute Black or Frozen white. The “Liquid Blue” color of the reveal model, like all the other Ford vehicles who wore it for their own unveilings this year, remains exclusive to them.
The new Focus RS is one of the cars kicking off Ford’s plan to release 12 new performance vehicles under the new Ford Performance division by 2020. Production begins late this year, so the time to start putting some money away for your very own Ford rally car is now.