Europe is buzzing that Ford reportedly plans to develop a next-generation Focus RS potentially packing 350 hp, according to a recent report published by Auto Express. (A 2009-vintage previous model is pictured above.) Ford executives have said future Ford cars and trucks will have a global reach—and as we’ve seen with the current Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion, they mean it—triggering speculation the RS would be headed to the United States if it is indeed built. But don’t bet your iPhone that the next-gen Focus RS is a slam dunk for the U.S. market.
The RS moniker has been used on the ultimate Focus performance car in Europe for years, but the car never was sold in U.S. dealerships. The last-generation model, sent off with the 345-horse limited-edition Focus RS500, sported a re-engineered, turbocharged five-cylinder engine with Volvo roots. Production ended in 2011 and European RS enthusiasts have been clamoring for a follow-up ever since.
Ford has not confirmed that the next-generation RS has been approved. But the story earlier this month from Britain’s Auto Express got enthusiasts all hot and bothered, as it contained quotes from members of Ford’s European performance division, known as the RS Team, that implied that a development strategy is under way.
Specifically, the story says that any thoughts of re-engineering the Focus ST’s turbocharged 252-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine have been scratched. The reason: Mounting a bigger turbocharger would degrade low-end performance and response. The solution is a larger-displacement engine, apparently 2.3 liters, with an electrically controlled active differential to eliminate torque steer, Auto Express reported.
Additionally, the team is debating the merits of a dual-clutch transmission. While the industry has shifted to dual-clutch in performance cars, the downside is additional weight versus a manual. It further predicted 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds and that sales in Europe would begin in early 2014.
Ford’s U.S. troops are tight-lipped about future product, namely the Focus RS and the U.S. market. “We have been pretty clear that performance vehicles are a global business, but this is not a confirmation that an RS is planned,” Ford spokesman Mark Schirmer said in a telephone interview.
Schirmer said Ford’s attention is on its newest performance car, the 2013 Focus ST, which has a four banger that produces 270 lb-ft of torque. So far, 1500 ST models have been sold in the United States, which is pretty much on target, he said. The company also recently announced plans to offer performance upgrades for the ST through the Ford Racing catalog.
As a person who has followed the industry for a few decades, this author believes two issues threaten any chance of the Focus RS reaching these shores.
The first is price: A loaded 2013 Focus ST crests $30,000. A Focus RS could easily approach $35,000 or even more, we’ve heard some in the industry say. Are enough U.S. enthusiasts willing to spend that kind of money for a high-performance Focus to drive sufficient volumes? Second, the all-new redesigned Mustang hits dealer lots in April 2014. Does Ford want to potentially cannibalize Mustang sales by pulling enthusiast buyers to the Focus RS at about the same time it launches the new pony car?
If the RS is produced, Schirmer believes there is room in the U.S. market for both a Focus RS and Mustang. After all, he said, there are front- and rear-drive enthusiasts, and he reasoned that one model would not hurt sales of the other.
We’d love the RS to hit the market, if only to get a chance to drive it; the ST is really, really good and bodes well for its potential big brother. But we know of at least one group of automotive insiders—the industry analysts—who say they already know whether Ford will sell the car here. Their response: The Focus RS is absent from Ford’s U.S. product plans.
Text Source: Car & Driver