What's going on here then? New hubcaps for the Focus?
How droll. No, what you are looking at is the first spy shot of the new Focus RS. Yes, the car they said they wouldn't do is back on track, so to speak. Caught after a few sneaky laps of the Nürburgring this week, this black mule hides the next generation RS. It's early days yet. First, Ford is expected to unveil an RS concept at the Geneva motor show, alongside a refreshed and facelifted Focus. Then expect the real thing to arrive this time next year. It'll be worth the wait, through. Although Ford suits deny the very existence of the car, our sources claim the hot RS will be powered by a heavily revised version of the blown 2.5-litre five-pot in the current ST, running through a close-ratio six-speed 'box to a Volvo-sourced all-wheel drive system. Which means none of the wayward handling characteristics of the previous RS. Thank goodness. Click next for more details on the hottest Focus yet...
So what's all that gubbins on the wheels?
Those are advanced electronic load-monitors. Attached to the wheels and front suspension, they store data on the car's ride and handling characteristics according to both the road conditions and the weight of the engine. Ford's engineers are having to go back to scratch to rework the car's underpinnings because of the four-wheel drive layout, tweaked steering, uprated suspension and heavily overhauled engine. The 2522cc engine gets fitted with new variable intake and exhaust manifolds, an uprated turbocharger with larger intercooler and oil cooler and reinforced con-rods to deliver a searing 300bhp and an anticipated 280lb ft of torque for monster in-gear acceleration. It's enough muscle to rocket the RS to 60mph in five seconds dead and onto a 165mph top speed. The engine's electronic management system will also be recalibrated for scalpel-sharp throttle responses.
Whoa! The upcoming Evo X and Impreza STi better be on the lookout
You're not wrong. While the current ST majors on both usable performance and four-season refinement, the RS will be a real wild card. Expect the three-door only RS to be a very frisky and agile little number, and like its Evo X and Impreza STi rivals, capable of humbling much more expensive and powerful machinery But by keeping it (relatively) simple – there's no double-clutch transmission, driver-adjustable torque control or anti-yaw electronics – the Focus will arrive with a pretty mouth-watering price tag. Expect to pay no more than £28,000 for it when it arrives here next spring. Which should make it a contender for the performance bargain of the year.
Anything else I should know before I remortgage the house?
It will look fundamentally different to the mule you see here. Come Geneva, the Focus family gets much more than a facelift. Following on from the sleek and sexy new Mondeo, every Focus body panel bar the roof will be new, bringing it into line with Martin Smith’s 'kinetic design' body language. So while mechanical changes will be minimal, the refreshed Focus will look distinctly different to today’s model. It’s the same inside – the Focus gets an all new interior that again borrows heavily from the Mondeo with plenty of soft-touch and alloy-look plastics and considerably more design flair. The RS will build on these improvements to create a model with serious visual intent. Expect huge 19in alloys hiding vast brake discs to fill the flared wheel arches, a menacing, lane-clearing body kit, bi-Xenon active headlamps, ironing-board rear wing and a much larger front grille to force air into the engine. Inside you’ll find some grippy Recaro seats complete with four-point harnesses, a chunky small-diameter three-spoke steering wheel, that all-important turbo boost gauge and pedals perfectly positioned for heel-and-toe work.