Hot hatches are a staple of European car culture, something Americans typically don't get. It's why Ford hasn't offered its brilliant Focus RS on these shores for many years, despite true enthusiasts clamoring for it. A niche product it is, and yet Ford has finally confirmed that we will soon see the new RS in U.S. dealerships, and today, that car has been revealed: Boasting "well in excess" of 316 hp and 320 lb.-ft. of torque, that bountiful amount of power is routed to each and every wheel.
Yes, the new RS has gone back to its all-wheel-drive roots.
That was the main debate when guessing the specifics of the new RS: FWD or AWD? The fact Ford has chosen the latter shows how serious the company is about producing the hottest hatch of them all. And it's not just any AWD system, the RS features torque vectoring, allowing 70 percent of torque to the rear axle, 100 percent of which can be applied to either wheel.
Under the hood lies the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the new Mustang EcoBoost. While a four-banger in a Mustang is still a topic of hot debate, in a Focus RS, it aligns perfectly (it does feature a few tweaks to the turbocharger). What's more, that motor is meshed to a proper six-speed manual gearbox. And as you'd imagine, damping, spring rates, sway bars and just about every other handling component has been tuned, by Ken Block no less, for ultimate performance. And let's not forget the current Focus ST is a stunner in of itself; the RS, with its sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, should be phenomenal -- at least on paper.
What we don't know at this point is price for the Focus RS. A Golf R starts at $37,000, with a WRX STI a tick below $35,000. To many Americans, that may seem like a lot of dough for a European-built Focus, but if that's your view then maybe you just don't get it. Hot hatches look good, they're practical, and with their diminutive size they offer a unique driving experience, one that begs to be thrashed to redline and chucked around canyon curves like you're the next Sébastien Loeb. Like Carroll Shelby said, these type of cars are "pocket rockets."
The new RS promises to live up to that description, and even if the take rate in the U.S. turns out to be low, I for one am ecstatic it's here.