Ford’s Focus RS
has earned a well-deserved reputation for pushing the boundaries of a factory-built, front-wheel-drive hot hatch. The ultimate version, the RS 500
, went out of production in 2010, but set the bar at 345 horsepower from its 2.5-liter, turbocharged five-cylinder engine.
Even standard Focus RS models produced 305 horsepower, which is still a lot to send to just the front wheels. While RS models came with a Quaife limited-slip differential, torque steer was abundant, and getting the power to the ground effectively took practice.
While Ford has yet to commit to a new version of the Focus RS
, Piston Heads
seems confident that the project is well underway. Based on conversations with various sources at Ford in Europe, it’s reporting that the next Focus RS will likely use an electric limited slip front differential and will come to market with some 350 horsepower.
Using an active front differential (like Volkswagen will put in the next GTI) will eliminate torque steer and boost power-on traction across a wide variety of conditions. That should make the future Focus RS both easier to drive and faster around a given circuit, but all-wheel-drive would up the car’s limits even further. Could that be a consideration?
Ford lacks a performance-focused all-wheel-drive system, since its current production Haldex-type AWD setups are front-wheel biased. That works fine for pulling a Ford Fusion through a Colorado snow storm, but it’s less than desirable for hot lapping a tight, technical racetrack in a 350 horsepower hot hatch.
All-wheel-drive adds weight and cost to a car as well, an the Focus RS has always been a front-driver. We’d call an AWD version of the car an extreme long shot, at best.
As for horsepower, the next Focus RS will need to get by with four cylinders, not five. While Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine has been mentioned as a possible choice, tuning it beyond the Focus ST’s 252 horsepower would require a larger turbo, thus creating unwanted turbo lag (among other problems).
A more likely choice for the next Focus RS is the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine
that Ford is reportedly developing for the next-generation Mustang, which is now said to be good for some 350 horsepower. That would make the base RS more powerful than the last generation’s RS 500 variant.
There’s reason to believe the next Focus RS, which will come in five-door flavor only, will also debut on this side of the Atlantic. Cost has always been cited as the main reason why we don’t get the RS, but global production means lower production costs.
Besides, the Focus ST has already begun to pave the way for an even faster Focus. We say build it, and the buyers will come.