The new Ford Focus RS has arrived. At the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, Ford of Europe’s fastest volume model ever debuts in final production form for the first time, following its preview at the London and Paris Motor Shows last year.

The legendary Ford RS brand is returning after six years, applied to an all-modern interpretation of the RS philosophy, creating the latest in an impressive line of affordable and practical, yet exhilarating performance cars.

Available in a choice of three colours – including its striking, signature ‘Ultimate Green’ – with colour-matched performance interiors, the new Focus RS is the product of five years’ development work by Ford Team RS and combines bespoke engineering, design and aerodynamics with the inherent practicality of a Ford Focus.

Jost Capito, Ford’s Director for Global Performance Vehicles & Motorsport Business Development, said: “The new Focus RS is a serious high performance car – as much a car for driving enthusiasts as the one before it and classic Ford RS models of the past. We’re staying true to the core RS principles of an exciting, yet affordable high performance road car you can live with every day.”

In being both a genuine Ford RS and a full member of the Focus family, the new Focus RS represents a significant moment in the legacy of both brands. Its 2008 production start marked the 10th anniversary of Ford Focus and 40 years of Ford RS, backed by two World Rally Manufacturers’ Championship titles.

“RS is central to Ford’s high-performance heritage and Focus has played a major part in establishing Ford’s excellent reputation for driving dynamics. The all-new Focus RS embraces and celebrates both of these – it is a genuine RS and a genuine Focus,” said Jost Capito.

Bespoke Powertrain

At the heart of the new Focus RS is its turbocharged Duratec RS 2.5-litre engine, creating a distinctive performance character, with peak power of 305PS (300 bhp) at 6,500 rpm and peak torque of 440Nm between 2,300 and 4,500 rpm. The Focus RS powertrain features many bespoke engineering developments, including a new intake and exhaust system to aid engine cooling and breathing, and larger turbocharger, generating a 35 per cent power increase, versus Focus ST. Offering more torque than any Ford RS production car before it, Focus RS’ 440Nm peak is a 38 per cent increase over Focus ST.

Putting that torque on the road is aided by a Quaife helical limited slip differential, optimised by Ford Team RS for the six-speed new Focus RS.  “At the heart of every great performance car is a great engine. We’ve cut no corners in the development of the Focus RS engine. This is a bespoke, high-performance powertrain,” said Ford Team RS Powertrain Manager, Len Urwin.

Genuine RS Performance

Shaping such power into accessible, exhilarating performance and assured traction was the challenge met by Ford of Europe’s renowned vehicle dynamics experts.  The new Focus RS is capable of 0-100km/h (0-62 mph) in 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 263 km/h (163 mph). It is the fastest ever car around Ford of Europe’s infamous handling circuit at Lommel Proving Ground in Belgium, beating even the Ford GT.

Dynamics developments include a 40mm wider track, sharper steering, larger brakes, bespoke 235/35/R19 Continental tyres and refined aerodynamics, but the centre-piece is an innovative suspension technology called ‘RevoKnuckle’.  With RevoKnuckle, Focus RS is the only model in the Focus range not to use the traditional ‘McPherson strut’ arrangement. In place of the regular, one-piece suspension knuckle, RevoKnuckle has two separate pieces – one part fixed to the strut; one part that rotates with the steering line of the car.

This approach has afforded engineers far greater flexibility to set the car’s suspension geometry to minimise torque steer, particularly by reducing the critical distance – known as the ‘king-pin offset’ – between the wheel centre and the steering axis line.  RevoKnuckle was originally conceived as high torque diesel engines moved from large, often all-wheel-drive vehicles into smaller, front-wheel-drive cars. The Ford RevoKnuckle approach is unique in its design and installation and has been developed and patented exclusively by Ford Research & Advanced Engineering (R&AE) and Team RS.

“RevoKnuckle gives the adjustability of a race-car style, double wishbone suspension, in a cost-effective McPherson architecture,” explained Team RS Chief Engineer, Dirk Densing.

Elsewhere, the wider track, higher spring rates and thicker anti-roll bars aid stability, while the car’s agility is assured through a sharper, 13.2:1 steering ratio and efficient 1,468 kg kerb weight. To optimise stopping power, 336mm x 30mm, ventilated front discs and 302mm x 11mm rear discs are matched to anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), and Ford’s Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), as standard. Both are tuned specifically in Focus RS, to allow a high level of sporty driving before intervening.

Combined, these elements have allowed Ford to do what was thought impossible previously: develop a 305PS (300 bhp), front-wheel-drive car that is not only driveable every day, but faster in many situations than all-wheel-drive performance cars. “Through combined efforts of our Research and Dynamics teams, we have created a solution that simply redefines what is possible with front-wheel-drive,” said Focus RS Chief Programme Engineer, John Wheeler.

Performance Style

Focus RS exudes its intent of being the ultimate Ford performance car of its generation and strikes a lasting impression with performance car enthusiasts. It is available in three exterior colours – Frozen White, Performance Blue and its exciting and unique, World Rally-inspired ‘hero’ colour ‘Ultimate Green’ – with aerodynamic elements contrasted in a gloss-black finish to create distinctive styling cues.

The new body colour reflects the green signature colour of Ford’s global partner and World Rally Championship sponsor, BP, and also stands as a modern interpretation of the 1970s Ford Escort RS Le Mans Green colour.  The look is finished with World Rally-style, 19-inch polished alloy wheels, each featuring an RS logo. Inside, an appropriately performance-oriented interior balances genuine sports performance with a strong sense of style and quality.

The cabin is dominated by bespoke Recaro high-performance sports seats, specially designed and trimmed in authentic motorsport microfibre, colour-matched to the exterior, with ebony leather accents and ‘RS’ and ‘Recaro’ logos stitched into each backrest. Sculpted rear seats, featuring the same detailing and high side bolsters as the front sports seats, make Focus RS a genuine four-seat vehicle.

Each cabin interaction has been refined to match Focus RS’ sporty character. Central to this is a chunky, three-spoke steering wheel with RS signature and a shorter-throw gear lever, with six-speed gear shift graphic in RS blue. The performance driving environment is completed by aluminium foot pedals and three additional gauges, including turbo pressure, sitting atop the centre console and angled toward the driver.

Green or blue interior options are available, matched to the Ultimate Green or Performance Blue exterior options, with Frozen White customers able to choose either interior colour. Optional, Ebony black, full-leather seats are available with all exterior colours.

For the first time in its heritage, even the 38-year-old RS badge has been restyled subtly, as a more modern interpretation for the new car. It features a bolder, more solid identity and a more subtle chrome surround.

Aerodynamic Purpose

Almost every body panel on Focus RS has been revised to create its bespoke shape, but its cohesive and dramatic style is more than just appearance.  Major design features are also functional, each doing an important job in meeting heightened aerodynamic and cooling needs.  The standard Focus shape, crafted to generate moderate front end and rear end lift at higher speeds, has been transformed with a prominent front air splitter, twin-blade, World Rally-style rear spoiler and rear venturi, to create the right levels of downforce and cooling.

With its sophisticated, wind-tunnel-tested ‘aero’ package, Focus RS generates genuine downforce at circuit speeds. Overall, Focus RS generates 26 per cent more downforce than Focus ST, yet with a drag co-efficient (Cd) of 0.38.

“Focus RS was an opportunity to take kinetic design into a new, ultra-performance area, where form is much more dependent on function.Focus RS is kinetic design to the max, an all-modern, ultimate performance Focus with attitude. To me, this RS maximises the potential of Focus and defines a new generation of the iconic RS brand,” said Martin Smith, Executive Director of Design for Ford of Europe, Asia Pacific & Africa.

Performance, With Practicality

As the pinnacle of the Focus road car range, Focus RS must be as impressive in everyday use as it is on the race track. For a 305 PS high-performance car, Focus RS is remarkably efficient, with European Driving Cycle combined fuel economy of 9.4 litres per 100km * (30.0 miles per gallon) and an average CO2 rating of 225 grams per kilometre.

Elsewhere, unwanted noise and vibrations have been minimised, while distinctive, sporting sound qualities have been tuned in, via a sound symposer that delivers the powerful intake sound into the cabin, and an exhaust system with a unique RS sound.

Under its stylish, performance exterior, Focus RS also continues Focus’ excellence in active and passive safety, with four airbags as standard and a rigid passenger safety cell that was awarded a 100 per cent occupant safety rating by EuroNCAP, for both offset frontal and side impact. All through Focus RS’ development, durability has been as important as any other factor and much attention to detail has ensured it will continue Focus’ excellent reputation for reliability, despite all its high-performance modifications.

Production of Focus RS is also straightforward, with the car being assembled on Ford of Europe’s principal Focus production line in Saarlouis, Germany, thus ensuring the same inherent manufacturing quality and efficiency present in every Focus.  “For the customers who buy it, Focus RS has to appeal to the head and the heart – to be a high performance circuit machine when required, yet be just as adept in everyday driving,” said Focus RS Chief Programme Engineer, John Wheeler.

A Grand Heritage

The Ford RS marque was born in Germany, in 1968, but it was not until two years later, in 1970, that Ford introduced its first European RS performance car, the Escort RS 1600.  The RS identity has been an important part of Ford’s sporting image ever since. In the 40 years since its first appearance, the RS marque has been applied to just 22 of the most special Ford road cars, each and every one offering stand-out performance and value for money.

RS Fords have been built in many different forms. They have been front-engined or mid-engined; all-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive; and with four-cylinder or six-cylinder, normally-aspirated or turbocharged engines.  Most have employed wind-tunnel testing to evolve aerodynamic features, from Sierra and Escort RS Cosworths right up to new Focus RS. All have pushed the boundaries of technology and virtually all have been successful in motorsport. As a result, each holds a unique place in its market and shares a proud sporting pedigree.

“One of the greatest things about any new RS is the heritage and pedigree behind it. The new Focus RS is as much a car for driving enthusiasts as every one before it and true to the core RS principles of innovative engineering, high-performance and affordability,” said Jost Capito.

Text and Pictures: Ford