• The Ford Focus RS As We Know It Is Dead

There’s even a possibility that the RS project could be discontinued altogether

The last-gen Ford Focus RS was a fantastic car in every way, essentially setting a new standard for the term “hot hatch.” The next-generation Focus RS should have raised the bar even higher with its expected mild-hybrid drivetrain, 400 horsepower, and blistering quick acceleration. All of that has changed now, though, and the new European fleet emissions standards have, at the very least, delayed the next-generation Focus RS and could possibly lead to its cancellation altogether.

SUVs and Emissions Standards Could Kill Off the Ford Focus RS for Good

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Here in the U.S., we already got the shaft when Ford canceled just about every car in its lineup to focus on SUVs. With the Ford Mustang sticking around, we thought that the performance-oriented Focus RS would at least remain here in some sort of limited capacity, but that just isn’t in the cars. European customers have been looking forward to the next-gen RS making its debut something this year, but now it’s not going to happen. And, it may never happen thanks to Europes new fleet emissions standards. If it does happen, don’t count on that mild-hybrid drivetrain.

What it boils down to is how Europe’s fleet emissions standards work. Europe’s new fleet emissions standard forces automakers to meet an emission rate of 95g/km, but it varies based on the mix of vehicles and their curb weights. Since Ford delivers so many SUVs, its average curb weight is high, which means it has very little room to play when it comes to that 95g/km figure. With this in mind, Ford simply can’t minimize its CO2 figures enough by going with the mild-hybrid powertrain that we were expecting in the next-gen RS – that’s exactly where the problem lies.

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If the Ford Focus RS is going to manifest into a production model ever again, Ford will have to go full hybrid. Right now, it doesn’t have a system in place that will live up to the standards we expect from the RS. According to Autocar, a “source” has said that “the mild hybrid just isn’t enough.” Meanwhile, an unnamed senior Ford executive told the same outlet:

”We are waiting for our engineering team to come up with a solution on the powertrain, and that is not easy given the new fleet CO2 regulations.”

So, what it boils down to is coming up with a concept that not only meets emissions standards, but delivers the expected performance, and is AWD capable. Right now, that concept doesn’t even exist.

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”The story of all the previous RSs is of the engineers working on the project in their spare time and weekends and coming up with the ideas and concept. On the new one, we’re still waiting for the right concept, especially on the powertrain.”

What Will Power The Next-Gen Focus RS Now and When Will it Happen?

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Everything now points at Ford putting all of its time and effort into an unlikely powertrain: the 2.5-liter hybrid that will power the range-topping Kuga. In the Kuga, though, that setup is only good for 222 horsepower, and it’s all sent to the wheels via a lackluster CVT. It does support four-wheel drive, though, so that’s one hurdle that may not be difficult to overcome, despite how vital it is to the Focus RS’ success. Ideally, Ford will probably manage to jerk 300 horsepower from the aforementioned 2.5-liter engine and another 100 horsepower or so from the electric motor of that hybrid system.

The trick to this isn’t so much doing it – Ford does have the know-how – as much as it is doing it within the budget. The new model doesn’t only have to be hybrid, but it also has to allow for the much-loved and now required drift mode – the accident that made the last-gen RS as popular as it was. It’s said that integrating the last-gens GKN differential, or the next-gen variation of it, would be difficult to do without spiking development costs.

The fear of development costs skyrocketing almost ended the Focus RS once before – until Raj Nair – the Chief Engineer at the time – stepped up and guaranteed that the RS project could be delivered on budget. The problem is that Raj Nair was fired from Ford for inappropriate behavior and is now leading the company that builds the Ford-GT supercar. So, with his “personal guarantee” meaning absolutely nothing at this point, will Ford once again consider shelving the Focus RS altogether?

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That’s a question that we’d like to know the answer to, however, Ford has yet to give an answer. Fortunately, Ford is being run a little differently these days. Back when the last-gen Focus RS was in development, Ford was required to have its cars meet global standards. Now, the company can focus on European-only development, which makes developing the next-gen RS easier, but until Ford solves the hybrid drivetrain problem its currently faced with, the next-gen RS isn’t happening. The best guess is that it’ll arrive in 2022 or 2023 at the earliest.

2019 Ford Focus RS specifications
Type 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine
Output 345 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 350 LB-FT @ 3,200 RPM
0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 266 km/h (165 mph)

Source: Autocar

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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