New Ford Focus RS: prices, specs and 'drift mode'

6 Mar, 2015 12:00pm James Batchelor

New Ford Focus RS races in with a 316bhp+ 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo engine, 4WD and a sub-£30k price tag

Here it is, the new Ford Focus RS has arrived and made its public debut at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. As you might imagine Ford has pulled out all the stops with this third generation Focus RS and the fast Ford is packing in excess of 316bhp that's delivered via an advanced four-wheel drive set-up.

Following the hugely positive response to the Ford GT supercar at the Detroit Motor Show, Ford aims to instil some supercar thrills in the latest Focus RS with a flared nose and wheelarches and an aggressive stance.

The latest model to wear the fabled RS badge goes on sale early next year, and follows a long line of affordable but seriously high-performance Fords – a dynasty that started back in 1968 with the 15M RS and brought us legends like the Escort RS1600, Sierra RS Cosworth, Escort RS Cosworth and two Focus RS models before this. When it goes on sale next year, the newcomer will cost less than £30,000 and deliver performance to rival the most formidable heavyweight hot hatches on the market.

The new Focus RS will come with a drift function: 70% of power can be sent to the rears with all of that power able to be sent to one wheel if needed.

Ford Focus RS 2015 gets all-wheel-drive

Bowing to pressure from key rivals like the Audi RS3 and Mercedes A 45 AMG, Ford’s Performance division has fitted a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system to give optimum traction. The new Focus RS hot hatchback was designed with four-wheel drive in mind from the start to elevate the car to new levels of performance and driver involvement. 

Speaking to Auto Express at the unveiling of the new car, vice president global vehicle development, Raj Nair, told us that the Focus’s clever all-wheel drive system debuts a host of innovations for the brand and was needed to cope with the high power level of the car’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine.

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“Cost didn’t come into it,” said Nair. “It wasn’t a case of engineers vs accountants, but that we wanted to make an affordable performance vehicle with the best technology possible – it needs to be a percentage above an ST. That’s what an RS should be about.”

The first major innovation is the hottest Focus’s new electronically controlled twin-clutch four-wheel drive system. An aptly named 'drift' function allows up to 70 per cent of power to be sent to the rear wheels, with as much as 100 per cent of that driving torque sent to one individual wheel.

“This way you get great steering response but incredible pull out of the corner – and we can use the torque vectoring to keep the car safe and stable all the way through a bend.” 

The second major innovation on the new RS Focus is the low weight of the new four-wheel drive transmission. It’s thought the system only adds around 20kg to the car – a similar weight penalty to that which the clever RevoKnuckle front suspension setup added on the last generation RS. However, with Ford’s latest Dynamic Torque Vectoring system, RevoKnuckle is now redundant. 

Ford Focus RS: 2.3 Ecoboost turbo engine

Under the standard Focus bonnet lies a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, which will be shared with this year’s Mustang. But, unlike the US muscle car, the hatch gets a twin-scroll turbo with a larger compressor for better airflow, as well as a larger intercooler. And we’re assured those sawn-off twin exhausts will emit deep-throated gargles, pops and crackles.

Ford says power is in excess of 316bhp – that’s 48bhp less than the 2.5-litre five-cylinder delivers in the RS3 but there could be the potential to up power even further in future with a limited-run model. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost ‘red lines’ at 6,800rpm, CO2 emissions are down 20 per cent on the old RS’s Volvo-derived 2.5 five-cylinder and a six-speed manual box is standard.

As with most four-wheel drive cars, there will be an efficiency penalty. “We’re not ready to talk fuel economy numbers just yet,” vehicle development boss Raj Nair explained, adding that, “economy and emissions will be significantly better than we’ve seen in previous RS products.” This means the new car could achieve as much as 35mpg.

Geneva Motor Show 2015: preview

Focusing on “functional aerodynamics” has helped Ford improve efficiency by reducing drag and adding downforce to improve grip and handling.

The car’s muscular bodykit – including a redesigned front bumper, grille and large rear spoiler – has been developed with this in mind and to aid cooling of the retuned engine.

New Ford Focus RS: colours and equipment

UK dealers shifted nearly 4,600 examples of the previous RS between 2009 and 2011, and Ford has similarly high hopes with this Mk3. Prices will dip under the £30k barrier for the standard car, which will come with 19-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, Recaro sports seats and a range of sporty design touches; sat-nav and Recaro bucket seats will be optional, as will semi-slick track tyres.

Ford has confirmed that the Liquid Blue colour on the car in our pictures is only for the show model, but it’s promising a new Nitrous Blue paint will be similar. Stealth Grey, Absolute Black and Frozen White will also appear, but the last RS’s Ultimate Green finish has been dropped.

2015 Focus RS: on sale globally

On the outside, it’s clear to see the RS is a serious piece of kit. The flared nose and rear spoiler hint at supercar-beating performance, but it’s a more restrained look overall than its predecessor. And for that you have One Ford to blame – or thank, depending on your viewpoint.

This Focus RS will be the first to be available all around the world, rather than sold only in certain markets. Not surprisingly, the image of previous models – with their big wings, large wheels and gaping air scoops – doesn’t translate that well internationally. But with a five-door body from the humdrum Focus, the new RS is more reserved than the previous model from six years ago.

Ford Focus RS: aggresive design

“We were told by the marketing department that we had to tone down the styling,” explained Ernesto Rupar, Ford of Europe’s supervisor for exterior design. “It was felt the old RS’s look would be over the top for this new car. Everything you see on the new RS has been added for a purpose; there’s nothing unnecessary.

“We went through around five designs to get to this – one of the designs had air vents on the bonnet, but they had no real purpose so they went.”

The Focus’ five-door layout has also prevented the use of a rally car-like wide body – a look that was so distinctive on the Focus RS Mk2. “We would have to have changed the door pressings to give it a wide body look, and that just wasn’t on the agenda,” said Rupar. “So, with no wide body, we had to concentrate on making the front and rear as sporty-looking as possible.

“We were looking at the RS3 and its classy style. We didn’t want to make this car look like a boy racer’s car.” The front bumper is bespoke and has massive air vents at the corners that lead up to the gaping, flared grille. In the lower grille opening, even the intercooler is visible – a clear motorsport design cue.

• Ford Focus RS Cosworth - Most Wanted Cars 2014

Along the side, the RS details are few and far between – it’s a near Focus ST copy. The Mk2’s distinctive side vents with integrated RS badging have gone, too – the blue RS letters have moved to the rear spoiler’s end plates. “We wanted to get the RS badge somewhere on the side, and I suggested the rear spoiler,” said a beaming Rupar. “My dream car as a kid was the Ferrari F40 and that car had ‘F40’ on the wing, so I wanted it on the RS, too!”

The spoiler is just one part of the rear end’s substantial makeover, however. The bumper – with its incorporated air diffuser, reversing light and two angled exhausts – is almost a carbon copy of the set-up on the old RS.

Full specifications will be revealed when the car makes its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month. But for now, it’s clear to see the RS is back – and back with an almighty bang.

2015 Ford Focus RS live reveal on video

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Honda Civic Type-R

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, front-wheel drive
Power: 278bhp (est) 

Honda Civic Type R 2015 Paris 1

The new Civic Type-R will be fighting for the headlines with the Focus RS when they debut alongisde each other at the Geneva Motor Show. Front-wheel drive and VTEC power could surprise. 

Mercedes A 45 AMG

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, four-wheel drive
Power: 355bhp

Mercedes A45 AMG front

The little mega-Mercedes A 45 is the benchmark performance hatch, but tuning arm AMG is considering increasing power to 375bhp in the near future. 

Audi RS3

Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl, four-wheel drive
Power: 362bhp

New Audi RS3 2015 tracking

Latest Audi RS3 packs huge power and great practicality. The tuneful five-cylinder engine is great, although the estimated £40,000 price tag is a bit steep. 

VW Golf R400

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, four-wheel drive
Power: 395bhp

Volkswagen Golf R 400 front

VW hasn't confirmed it's building the uber-hot Golf R400 yet, but the signs look good. Top speed would be limited to 174mph, with a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds. 

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doesn't look as good as the previous model loved the wide arches and ultimate green actually owned one, was painful to live with without 4wd, so big plus they have done 4wd this time. Front bumper looks terrible and wheels are boring, and if they have to do 5 door they should have deleted rear handles...

There is a reason why the insurance is low for the current MK 2 RS, they are owned by mature sensible peeps.

Latest info is that it'll have 345 bhp seems pretty brash to me

Sorry Stephen but you are wrong. I have been driving for 33 years and been behind the wheel of everything from Ferraris to the humble Mini Metro.
For your information I have owned 3 BMWs and 2 Golfs and and Audi A3. The BMWs were all good cars and very well built, but the Audi and Golf were always giving grief. The Golf suffered with 2 electric window failures, leaking windscreen, coil failure, break problems and a faulty alternator. After one session at the dealers, the steering wheel fell in my lap just as I pulled onto my drive. if this had been on the motorway, the results could have been catastrophic.
The Audi had wiring problems, air condition problems, coil problems and yet again, a leaking windscreen.
If I pay money for so called premium or quality brands, that's what I expect. The last 2 Fords I have owned have been good value, fun to drive and fault free.
It's funny, but the reviews from professional motor journalists all put the Fiesta ST at the top of it's class and so was the Focus when it came out.
Your comments to all the other people on this page smack of a young man with a chip on his shoulder. Just because a manufacturer isn't German doesn't mean they aren't good, just the same as not all German cars are good.
I drive 80 miles a day on my way to work and I see just as many German makes on the hard shoulder as any other.
If you like VW & Audi fine, but allow others to enjoy other makes without your childish vitriol.

Wow sounds like Ford have real winner on their books at long last, AWD Escort Cossie was the decent car Ford ever made.
A real halo car for the rest of the Focus range, with new Mondeo & the Mustang on the way it won't be long before Ford returns to massive profits in Europe again.

Reading your comments I very much doubt you have the brains or the where-with-all to even contemplate "bying" one