Raj Nair on the Ford Focus RS: ‘For now the manual stays’

Ford Focus RS
The debut of the new Ford Focus RS was an exciting moment for all hot hatch aficionados, but it looks like the turbocharged five-door will have a greater impact than we thought.

Speaking to Autocar, Ford’s VP of Product Development Raj Nair said that manual gearboxes would be prominently featured in the future of the RS lineup, slowing the inevitable decay of stick shifts across the automotive landscape.

“All our current research says that customers really like these kinds of cars to have a manual gearbox,” he said. “We’ll keep looking at market trends, and of course we’ll give customers what they want, but for now the manual stays.”

According to Ford, the RS’ 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine makes “well in excess of 315 horsepower” and is mated to a six-speed manual. Unlike the Volkswagen Golf R with which it will compete, the Focus has no dual-clutch option.

The Focus RS will also be the company’s first vehicle to equip All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring Control, but it likely won’t be the last.

“It would be fair to suggest that we’ll be looking to use the technology in other ways in the future,” said Tyrone Johnson, engineering manager of the RS.

The technology utilizes two electronically controlled clutch packs on each side of the car’s rear drive unit, which govern both front/rear torque split and side-to-side power delivery. To keep the hot hatch on its toes, the control module monitors vehicle sensors 100 times per second.

What does it do with all that data? Depending on steering angle, lateral acceleration, yaw, and speed, it directs varied amounts of torque to the rear outside wheel during cornering. The result, Ford says, is a virtual elimination of understeer and lateral grip of more than 1g.

As if we didn’t need another reason to want this thing.

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