TMR's spy photographers have caught what is likely to be the next Focus RS flagship, undergoing cold-weather testing in Europe this week.
Until recently, talk of a new RS had been largely rumour and speculation, with reports in the past month claiming Ford had finally confirmed that development is underway.
These new photos, offering a first look at the new model, suggest the current ST hot hatch could welcome a more powerful stablemate in the next year.
According to recent reports, the new RS will switch out the last model's five-cylinder engine for a new 2.3 litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost unit.
Power and performance figures have not been revealed (of course), although earlier reports on the same engine suggest figures in the realm of 260kW.
With those numbers, the new RS' turbo heart would eclipse the 224kW of the previous model, and even besting the 257kW of the limited-edition RS 500 version.
And, while the next Mustang is expected to get a rear-wheel-drive configuration with the same engine, the Focus RS will likely remain a front-wheel-drive package.
An all-wheel-drive setup is understood to have been under consideration - utilising an electric-drive system for the rear wheels - but Ford has reportedly written off the idea as a cost-saving move.
Expect a new version of the 'Revoknuckle' system from the last RS to help contain this new model's torque-steering urges.
As for body styles, Ford has maintained that only a five-door hatch is planned for the ongoing Focus hatch range, suggesting the new RS will move away from the three-door look.
The final look of the new RS remains to be seen, and while it possible it will debut with flared wheel arches, it is clear the tester shown here is hiding some major work at the front end.
Fiesta RS Off The Table?
New reports this week also suggest Ford will not offer a RS version of the light Fiesta hatch, keeping the recently revealed ST model as the hero in that range.
Speaking with UK mag Autocar, Ford Europe marketing boss Roelant de Waard reportedly confirmed the carmaker does not plan to offer more than one RS model at a time.
"What is clear is that RS shouldn’t be a series, or a car badge that we have in our portfolio all the time. It is an extreme car – something more than ST," de Waard said.
“It is so evocative that I’d be highly surprised if there were not more RS products – plural – in the future, but I would be surprised if there was more than one at the same time.”
The interview follows reports in June last year that Ford had been considering dropping the Focus RS in favour of a Fiesta RS model, inspired partly by the Fiesta's availability in three-door form.