FORD FOCUS XR4 TURBO
However, rather than drop a digit (a potential 'step backwards' in the customer's eyes), Ford may use the limited local release of the top-shelf RS as grounds to introduce the ST badge in Australia.
For 2012, the new Focus ST will leave behind the five-cylinder engine of its predecessor (and the origin of the XR5 name), sourced from former subsidiary Volvo.
Under the bonnet will be Ford's new 2.0 litre EcoBoost engine, producing around 180kW and 320Nm of torque (Ford has yet to decide on final output figures) - compared to 165kW and 320Nm for the outgoing Focus XR5 Turbo.
Right now, Ford says it has 60 prototypes of the new ST undergoing pre-producting testing at various locations around the world.
“We’re sweating all the details – fine-tuning, testing, and fine tuning again many of the small but critical details to make sure it is worthy of the ST badge,” Mathias Tonn, Ford of Europe's global performance chief engineer said.
“We will build upon and improve the ride, steering and handling strengths that defined the current European Focus ST.”
The 2012 Focus ST was originally previewed in concept form at last year's Paris Auto Show, where it was also revealed that the new performance Focus would do away with the three-door bodystyle offered with its predecessors.
"There are no plans for any coupe or three-door hatch or whatever you want to call it," Ford's Mark Schirmer said at the show.
"All the new models will have four doors. If anything like it exists, it's so skunk works that none of my contacts in the US or Europe have heard of it."
A launch date for the new Focus ST has yet to be confirmed, but when it launches, it will be square off against the likes of the Subaru WRX (expected to continue in its current bodystyle), the Golf GTI, the Lancer RalliArt hatch and the Mazda3 MPS.
While the ST (or XR4 Turbo) is a shoo-in for the Australian market, dates are a long way off being confirmed.
The 'regular' Focus range is scheduled to make its Australian debut in August however, launching in both sedan and five-door hatch form. A debut for the wagon has yet to be confirmed.