Ford has finally confirmed that the Mk3 Focus RS will make production, and will be sold largely unchanged around the world for the first time. Prices, specifications and exact performance figures are currently unknown, but it has released a tantalising teaser video showing the car drifting around Ford's Lommel proving ground in Belgium, and confirmed first images and information will break cover on Feb 3 2015.
Footage of the car sliding sideways around a wet track has added fuel to the rumours that Ford will ditch its predecessor's front-wheel drive layout and opt for a grippier four-wheel drive setup. Power output is expected to fall somewhere between 350bhp and 400bhp, putting it eye-to-eye with other four-wheel drive hot hatches including the 355bhp Mercedes A45 AMG and 362bhp Audi RS3.
The new Ford Focus RS is one of more than 12 new performance vehicles due for international release by 2020. It forms part of the company’s plan to provide more cars, parts and accessories to more people, more quickly – through a new global Ford Performance team.
The Focus RS has been noticeable in its absence since the standard Mk3 went on sale in 2011. There have been plenty of rumours and countless spy shots over the past 12 months, but no confirmation – until now – that the car would go on sale in the UK.
It’ll be Ford’s flagship Focus, and is expected to use a highly-tuned version of the four-cylinder 2.3-litre turbocharged engine already used in the new Mustang. Our spies caught the hot hatch testing at the Nurburgring a couple of months ago, wearing a full-production front-bumper for the first time. Look past the light camouflage and this is our best idea yet of just how aggressive Ford’s designers are planning to make the RS.
Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, said: “To earn the RS badge, the vehicle has to be a no-compromise driver’s car that can deliver exceptional performance on the track when required while providing excellent every day driving.
However, for Ford, the RS is as much about customer satisfaction as is it is about strengthening the global One Ford philosophy. As we mentioned, the new RS will be sold largely unchanged around the world, boosting reliability and cutting costs – allowing Ford to reinvest profits into further vehicle development.
Our spy pictures, and the teaser video, reveal the new car will boast two massive trapezoidal grilles for gulping air into the engine, flanked by large air vents on either side, feeding cool air to the uprated brakes. The lowered bodywork continues along the sculpted sills of the car and around to a disguised diffuser at the rear with two tailpipes that can be seen burning holes into the mesh.
With Ford now carrying out aero tests on the production body, and a reveal date confirmed, we expect the RS to go on sale in the second half of 2015, with a public debut likely at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Ford has a proud history of offering rally car-like levels of grip, power and poise for relatively few pounds, so expect it to cost less than £30,000.
The new Ford Focus RS will have some stiff competition when it does arrive. These are the 10 best hot hatchbacks currently on sale.