Ford Focus RS (2016): the third fast Focus goes 4wd

Published: 03 February 2015

► New third-gen Ford Focus RS revealed
► 4wd for first time to tame 315bhp
► Likely to cost under £30,000

The new Ford Focus RS is here, and the big news is, it’s four-wheel drive. That’s right, Ford’s brought the rear axle into play to better manage the superhatch’s power. And there’s plenty of that this time around: the RS is packing more than 315bhp.

What’s powering the new Ford Focus RS?

The 2.3-litre Ecoboost four-pot from the latest Mustang, although it’s had a fair bit of work done to it. 

The fundamental structure’s the same but the cylinder head’s been upgraded and the cylinder block liners toughened up. An altered intake design and a bigger-bore exhaust help it inhale and exhale more freely. In the boost department, the turbo’s been given a larger compressor and is paired with a bigger intercooler. The radiator pack’s grown too, to help keep everything cool.

Ford quotes a ‘projected’ power output of 320PS (316bhp) and promises a burbly soundtrack to match RS models of old, complete with plenty of snap, crackle and pop on the overrun. It’s hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox and a beefier clutch than the Mustang to cope with the increased torque.

All that and start/stop. Ford RS buyers, that most famously ozone-conscious bunch, will be pleased to hear that carbon dioxide emissions will fall by approximately 20% compared with the last RS.

Tell me about that four-wheel drive system.

The way it shuffles torque around is a big part of what it’s about. As well as migrating power from front to rear, it can also vary torque side to side on the rear axle. That side of things is looked after by twin electronically controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear drive unit.

As the driver turns in, torque is pooled to the outer rear wheel, a trick which ‘virtually eliminates’ understeer, Ford claims. Neutral and adjustable handling on the limit was the brief given the chassis engineers, and, tantalisingly, the ease with which the car can be steered on the throttle at a track day.

It’s not just engineered for showboating though, as driven neatly and tidily it’ll be able to corner at more than 1g. This car could seriously upset the 4wd hot hatch apple cart; the likes of the pricey Mercedes A45 AMG and upcoming Audi RS3 could be made to look quite silly.

And the Focus RS's chassis?

Firmer suspension than the Focus ST, with less forgiving tuning for the spring rates, bushes and anti-roll bars. The dampers have two switchable modes, the firmer of which is intended for use on the track. The last RS had a wider track and bodywork to tame its power; the new one's 4wd system has been part-funded by the fact it can stick with a regular Focus bodyshell.

That four-wheel drive system - part-developed by no less than Gymhkana star Ken Block - also means there's no need for a Revoknuckle-style steering system to tame torque steer.

The whole shooting match rides on 19-inch alloys and 235/25 Michelins developed for the car. If you’re really serious about taking the car on track, semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cups are an option.

What else do I need to know about the 2016 Ford Focus RS?

As is the way with most new Ford products these days, it’s a ‘global car’, developed for markets all around the world including North America, China  and Australia. 
This is shaping up to be quite a car. Pricing and on-sale dates are likely to be confirmed at the Geneva motor show, but the UK is expected to remain one of the biggest global markets for the Focus RS, after the US.

Officials at today's world debut hinted that it 'will be affordable,' and we get the impression it'll start at around £30,000 or just under.

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