And now some observations:
It should really rotate. Anyone who has taken a Focus ST on an autocross knows that that car's rear end is more willing to come around than just about any front-drive car on the planet. Dive into a corner, pitch the car sideways, and you'll have to catch it before the rear end gets in front of you. That's probably made possible by a really stiff rear stabilizer bar, but the RS has much more going for it. Its rear end structure is stiffer, and the torque vectoring system can send the rear end off in new directions. The RS will almost certainly rotate. My only question is: How easy will it be to control once it does?
It will be a dual threat. My laps were taken in a car with the Track Package and its sticky Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, and the driver, Gene Martindale, had the car set to Track mode. With this setup, the RS will turn in its best lap times. The tires will provide plenty of grip, the engine, suspension, and steering will be set for the quickest responses, and the torque vectoring system will help the vehicle rotate through sharp corners. Even in this ultra traction mode, Martindale and the other Ford drivers were able to get the rear end to kick out and maintain some short drifts.
However, this won't be the ideal setup for drifting. That would require the Drift mode and the base tires. The base tires will give up grip much sooner, and Drift mode will A) overdrive that outside rear wheel more readily to help induce oversteer, and B) program the stability control to allow the rear end to hang out without pulling it back on course. If you are considering a Focus RS, you'll want to decide how you want to drive it. If drifting is the goal, the base car works just fine. If track times are important, go for the Track Package.
It will sound good and be plenty quick. Ford is quoting a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds, which encroaches on V-8 territory. With all-wheel drive and a Launch Control feature, it will be quite easy to achieve that number. Though I wasn't in the driver's seat, I could feel the car pull strongly from a stop and out of corners. Ford has programmed the exhaust to pop and crackle when you let off the gas, which really sounds cool. However, the muffling effect of turbos just won't let this car sound as mean as V-8-powered Fords.
I can't wait to drive it. Ford will have a drive program for the reborn RS closer to its Spring 2016 launch. I'm hoping journalists get to experience it on a road course, an autocross, and a drift pad (i.e. a big empty tarmac). That's three kinds of fun that should be enabled by one car. Stay tuned to read how it performs once we get it into our greedy hands