The hotly-anticipated new Ford Focus RS has been unveiled in Cologne and will feature for the first time all-wheel drive. It has done away with its front-wheel drive setup in order to improve power delivery and also to keep up with increasingly stiff competition from the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R.
As expected, the Focus RS adopts a more aggressive design in comparison to the recently revamped Focus ST. The front is dominated by a trapezoidal grille that has been made as large as possible in order to aid engine cooling. A deep front splitter boosts the performance-orientated image further, as well as aiding aerodynamics, while on either side angular openings help to feed cool air into the brake ducts and neatly incorporate vertically-stacked fog lamps.
In side profile there is a less aggressive stance than the previous RS model had much of which is due to the fact that this generation of Focus is now only produced in five-door guise. Aside from the practical benefits of having rear doors the car has a less-stubby look than its predecessor.
At the rear a larger, more protruding diffuser panel appears to play home more to the two generously proportioned exhausts than to the channelling of air flow from beneath the car. As with previous models it is highlighted further by a contrasting black finish. The lower portion of the rear bumper also incorporates slender slits behind the rear wheel arches to improve aerodynamics. Crowning the back-end is a wing that is nicely detailed with the 'RS' logo embossed on each side.
The new Focus RS will roll on 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, which will come shod in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. The 235/35 R19s have been developed by Michelin in close partnership with Ford's engineers to help ensure that they provide a wide spread of grip from everyday- to track day-use. More enthusiastic buyers will be able to specify Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres as an option.
Don't expect anything radically different from the interior of the new Focus RS as it retains all of the same architecture as the core model that it is based on. Wide Recaro sports seats are the order of the day while a new flat-bottomed steering wheel helps complete the look. The latest SYNC infotainment system feeds audio, climate control as well as satellite navigation through the eight-inch colour touchscreen.
As a novelty Ford has incorporated a voice command to ask the satellite navigation to "find a race track" in order to locate the nearest circuit. Other available equipment will include a rear view camera with park distance control and a Sony sound system with 10 speakers and a subwoofer.
Powering the new Focus RS is a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, similar to the one that will feature in the new Ford Mustang and producing 'in excess of' 320hp. The all-aluminium engine includes a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger unit that delivers improved air flow and is linked to a significantly larger intercooler in order to maximise charge density. A new exhaust system is included featuring an electronically controlled valve to improve back pressure whilst adding to the exhaust note.
Helping to transfer that power to the road is Ford's new Performance All-Wheel-Drive system, which features advanced torque vectoring software to maximise traction. It uses twin electronically-controlled clutch packs located on either side of the rear drive unit to manage the torque split between the front and rear axles and also the distribution from side-to-side on the rear axle.
Under hard cornering the rear drive unit pre-emptively sends extra levels of torque to the outer rear wheel in constantly varying amounts in correlation with the car's speed and lateral acceleration, as well as yaw and steering angles. It isn't quite rear-wheel steering but it does promise to help to get the RS around a corner that bit sharper. Up to 70 per cent of all torque can be sent to the rear axle and depending on grips levels all of that can be distributed to just one of the rear wheels.
Ford's engineers have also added uprated suspension that includes stiffer spring rates, bushes and anti-roll bars than those found in the tamer Focus ST, while adjustable dampers that can be switched to a track mode are present too. Also remaining in the suspension setup is the knuckle design from the previous Focus RS; it now has shorter link arms and a more rigid feeling to help improve driving dynamics and it works in conjunction with a specially tuned electric power steering system.
In keeping with recent Focus RS traditions, buyers will have a choice of some rather vibrant exterior hues including Nitrous Blue (a colour exclusive to the RS range), Stealth Grey, Absolute Black and Frozen White. Sadly it seems that the gorgeous Liquid Blue paint of the show car you see here, which is also the same as that used on the new Ford GT supercar won't be initially offered for sale. Speaking of which, Ford won't be revealing pricing details until next month's Geneva Motor Show.