Ford previews new Focus RS, featuring all-wheel-drive technology

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Ford has previewed the all-new Ford Focus RS, a high-performance road car that debuts the OEM’s Performance All-Wheel-Drive.

The Focus RS – equipped with a special 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine engineered to produce in excess of 320ps – is the latest vehicle to be unveiled as part of the Ford Performance line, which will bring more than 12 performance vehicles to global customers by 2020.

“The all-new Focus RS is a serious machine with high-performance technology and innovative engineering that sets a new benchmark for driving exhilaration on the road and track,” says Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president, global product development. “The RS line has a proud history of technical breakthroughs that have migrated to mainstream Fords to benefit all of our customers, and the new Focus RS is no exception. It’s a great example of our passion for innovation through performance and creating vehicles that make people’s hearts pound.”

Developed by a small team of Ford Performance engineers in Europe and US, the new Focus RS is the third generation of Focus RS cars, following models launched in 2002 and 2009. It will be the 30th car to wear the RS badge, following vehicles such as the 16-valve 1970 Escort RS1600, the turbocharged Sierra RS Cosworth of 1985 with its radical aerodynamics, and the four-wheel-drive 1992 Escort RS Cosworth.

The new vehicle is the first RS model to be sold around the world, and will be produced for all markets at Ford’s manufacturing plant in Saarlouis, Germany, beginning late this year.

“The new Focus RS represents Ford at its passionate best – delivering innovation, unmatched driving dynamics and stunning performance that was previously the sole province of high-priced performance luxury marques and exotics,” says Jim Farley, president, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We are acutely aware of the benchmarks we have set ourselves with RS performance models through the years, and rest assured that this new car raises the game to a new level.

“Just as important is the fact that with technologies such as EcoBoost, we are able to demonstrate how an innovation that powers almost every car in our range can also be the heartbeat of our finest performance cars.”

Gymkhana and World Rallycross star Ken Block was brought on as a consultant on the all-new Focus RS and joined the Ford Performance team at the preview event in Cologne, Germany – the city where the RS legend was born in 1968 with the Ford 15M RS.

The new Focus RS also exploits Ford Performance’s new All-Wheel-Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring, delivering, Ford claims, a new level of handling capability and driver enjoyment, combining outstanding traction and grip with unmatched agility and cornering speed.

The Ford Performance AWD system is based on twin electronically-controlled clutch packs on each side of the rear drive unit. These manage the car’s front/rear torque split, and also can control the side-to-side torque distribution on the rear axle – the torque vectoring capability – which has a dramatic impact on handling and cornering stability.

The control unit in the rear drive unit continuously varies the front/rear and side-to-side torque distribution to suit the current driving situation, monitoring inputs from multiple vehicle sensors 100 times per second. A maximum of 70% of the drive torque can be diverted to the rear axle. Up to 100% of the available torque at the rear axle can be sent to each rear wheel.

During cornering, the rear drive unit pre-emptively diverts torque to the outer rear wheel immediately based on inputs such as steering wheel angle, lateral acceleration, yaw and speed. This torque transfer has the effect of driving the car into the bend, achieving improved turn-in and stability, and virtually eliminating understeer.

The AWD system has been tuned to deliver exceptional grip – with lateral acceleration exceeding 1g – and class-leading cornering speed and acceleration out of a bend. The RS features neutral and adjustable limit handling, and the ability to achieve controlled oversteer drifts at the track.

“This AWD system is a breakthrough technology, capable of delivering supreme cornering and handling at the limit,” says Dave Pericak, director, Global Ford Performance. “We have ripped up the rulebook which says that AWD hatchbacks cannot be fun to drive, and have created a car which will surprise and reward in equal measure.”

To deliver optimum driving dynamics, the AWD system was calibrated alongside the car’s advanced Electronic Stability Control, in particular the brake-based Torque Vectoring Control system that works in parallel with the torque-vectoring AWD.

Ford’s EcoBoost technology powers the Focus RS and nearly every new Ford vehicle. The specially engineered 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine has levels of power and torque that translate into impressive acceleration when combined with the exceptional AWD traction.

Projected to deliver well in excess of 320ps, the bespoke unit shares its fundamental structure with the all-aluminum four-cylinder 2.3-liter engine in the new Mustang. This engine has, however, been significantly upgraded through a comprehensive package of design changes.

Increased output is generated by a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbocharger with larger compressor that delivers significantly greater air flow, along with a much bigger intercooler to maximize charge density. Engine breathing is also enhanced through a less restrictive intake design, and a large-bore high-performance exhaust system with an electronically controlled valve in the tailpipe that helps optimize the balance of back pressure and noise output.

The cylinder head is produced from an upgraded alloy material capable of withstanding higher temperatures, and is mounted on a more robust head gasket with improved thermal capability. The cylinder block employs stronger high-tensile cast iron liners.

Engine cooling also has been given the highest priority, with engineers creating additional space within the front of the vehicle to house a significantly larger radiator pack – the biggest ever fitted to a Focus – that provides the level of cooling demanded for hard circuit use.

Meticulous calibration work has ensured that the power unit delivers excellent low-end responsiveness with a powerful mid-range pull, climbing to a free-revving top-end up to a maximum rev limit of 6,800rpm.

“This very special 2.3-liter EcoBoost unit will inspire drivers as they feel the surge of the turbo, and reward them as they take it to the red line – all delivered with a stirring sound guaranteed to put a smile on your face,” Pericak says.

The six-speed manual transmission has been optimized for the enthusiast driver with a shorter gear lever to deliver faster and more accurate shifts. Both the transmission and the clutch have been upgraded with stronger components to cope with the engine’s increased torque output.With its high-efficiency EcoBoost design featuring direct fuel injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing and advanced turbocharging, the engine also delivers significantly improved fuel consumption. With Auto-Start-Stop fitted as standard, preliminary figures indicate that CO2 emissions will be significantly reduced compared with the previous model.

Ford has also announced that it will add 1,550 new jobs across its Kansas City Assembly, Dearborn Stamping, Dearborn Diversified and Sterling Axle facilities in the first quarter of 2015, as production for the new F-150 ramps up

“Thanks to stronger than expected customer demand, we’re adding 1,550 new workers to support additional F-150 production,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, The Americas. “These jobs are further proof that customers recognize the all-new F-150 as the toughest, smartest, most capable F-150 ever. We sell every truck we can build, and we plan to build more.”

Of the 1,550 new jobs, 900 are allocated for Kansas City Assembly and 500 will be added between Dearborn Stamping and Dearborn Diversified, with the remaining 150 jobs going to Sterling Axle. These jobs are in addition to the more than 5,000 hourly jobs Ford added across its US manufacturing facilities in 2014.

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine of the Year Awards.

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