Today’s unveiling of the new RS marks a number of firsts.
Gone is the feisty five-cylinder heart of the previous model, replaced, as many had expected, with a new four-cylinder mill.
Also gone is the last hatch’s front-wheel-drive and tricky ‘RevoKnuckle’ setup. In its place, again as many had predicted, a new all-wheel-drive arrangement.
The era of three-door RS heroes has also now passed, with Ford staying true to its 2010 promise that the new-at-the-time Focus range would be an exclusively five-door hatch, sedan and wagon family.
And, most importantly for Australian buyers, the new Focus RS will be a global model and a local debut is confirmed.
That will be a relief for many, after the last generation came to us only at the end of its life, in limited numbers, and with a $59,990 price tag.
For now, though, Ford Australia is keeping quiet on the specifics, confirming only that it will confirm launch timing and price at a later date. (We can probably still expect a number north of $50k.)
Those key details aside, what can buyers expect?
Power, as rumoured for sometime now, will be provided by the same 2.3 litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine available with the new Mustang, matched to a six-speed manual.
Ford says the engine “shares its fundamental structure” with the Mustang’s unit, but with a number of significant upgrades.
Among the engine’s tricks is a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbo with a bigger compressor, and - as the hatch’s gaping maw suggests - a much larger intercooler.
(That will be important, with many fans lamenting the loss of the previous model’s wondrous five-cylinder song.)
Other enhancements include an upgraded alloy cylinder head for higher temperature tolerance, and a strengthened head gasket.
By now you’re wondering about the new hot hatch’s outputs. That’s a secret, too - but only because Ford is still finalising those numbers.
Still, the company is not heartless. We can expect, it says, “well in excess of” 235kW - which should amount to more than the 240kW described by Ford’s Belarusian arm last week. But how much more, we’ll have to wait and see.
The 2.3 litre engine produces 233kW in the Mustang, but with Mercedes-AMG’s 2.0 litre A 45 hatch churning out a mighty 265kW - and the German tuner has recently promised more - it’s not at all inconceivable that the Focus RS could comfortably find more power in the EcoBoost unit.
But even at 235kW, the new RS would be more powerful than its own predecessor (224kW in regular form), while also creeping ahead of key rivals like the 221kW WRX STI and the 221kW Golf R (206kW in Australia). Then there’s the 184kW Focus ST…
Depending on final figures, we could see the RS hit 100km/h in the space between 4.5 and 5.0 seconds.
As for the RS’s all-wheel-drive system, Ford promises a “groundbreaking” affair that can shove up to 70 percent of power to the rear axle, and all of that can be diverted to either the left or right wheel as needed.
The suspension package gets stiffer spring rates, bushes and anti-roll bars, matched to a dual-mode adaptive damping system that boasts a first-ever ‘Track’ setting.
"The all-new Focus RS is a serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets a new benchmark for driving exhilaration on the road and track," Ford’s product development boss Raj Nair said.
"The RS line has a proud history of technical breakthroughs that have migrated to mainstream Fords to benefit all of our customers, and the new Focus RS is no exception. It's a great example of our passion for innovation through performance and creating vehicles that make people's hearts pound."
Watch for more details on the new RS to come in Geneva next month, and stay tuned for word on Australian launch timing.
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