It’s all but confirmed — Ford has been working on a better Focus RS

We all got extremely excited when Ford dropped details on the Focus RS, confirming that it was indeed reviving the rally sport badge and bringing it to the U.S. With 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque on tap, the new Focus RS is a true driver’s car and has made a huge splash in the hot hatch market – much more so than Focus RS models of the past. In early June, rumors began to surface that the Focus RS was about to be kicked out of the top-range spot by an even better version called the RS500. If that name sounds familiar, it should. It was used back in 2010 for a limited-production variant of a beefed-up Focus RS. At the time, the news was all speculation, but we’ve now received two sets of spy shots that prove Ford is in fact on a mission to one-up its Focus RS.

The model seen in our spy shots is, without a doubt, a beefier version of the current RS. Of course, details are rather scant, and these shots are coming in ahead of any official confirmation from Ford, but there’s no denying that the Blue Oval has something up its sleeve. The best part is that the model is near production ready, with the second round of spy shots showing minor alterations from the first as Ford fine tunes the body’s aerodynamic features.

With that said, let’s take a good look at these spy shots and talk about what we can expect when Ford officially unveils the model to dethrone the current Focus RS.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Ford Focus RS500.

Spy Shots

June 22, 2016 - Ford Focus RS500 caught testing for the first time

2018 Ford Focus RS500 Exterior Spyshots
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2018 Ford Focus RS500 Exterior Spyshots
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2018 Ford Focus RS500 Exterior Spyshots
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Exterior

While you might expect a beefier version of the RS to sport a lot of extra aggression on the outside, it looks like Ford is only going to make minor alterations. In fact, the front fascia, front grille, and air dam are almost unchanged. The uppermost portion of the fascia, right between the headlights, looks to be tilted a little farther forward to give the Ford emblem a more dominant display. The hood itself retains the same shape and muscular body lines, but there is now a functioning vent located on each side of the center hump. The other noticeable difference up front are the inserts that surround the air inlet at each corner of the fascia. On the standard RS, these are simply inserts, but on the model in the spy shots, the inner hole is actually a functioning vent, allowing for better airflow towards the front brakes.

The profile on this mule is identical to that of the standard RS, but the car does have a slightly raked appearance

The profile on this mule is identical to that of the standard RS, but the car does have a slightly raked appearance, while sitting just a bit lower. In reality, the small gap between the tires and wheel arches on the standard RS is non-existent on this model, with the front tires barely having enough space to clear the wheel arches when turned. The wheels are also different, featuring a more open design with five double-spokes and a black finish.

Around back, there are just two real changes to talk about. The same rear fascia and rear diffuser used on the standard RS are present, but the taillights now feature a slightly different layout with the amber colored light positioned to the outside of the lens center, rather than below the reverse lights. The other big change is the spoiler above the hatch. In the first round of images, the spoiler was almost the same as the current RS, but the second round or shots revealed a modified unit that sits much lower and may be optimized for better downforce. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it does look pretty damn good with just these minor changes.

Interior

Of course, we have yet to get a good look at the interior of this test mule. That said, I wouldn’t expect to see anything terribly different from the current RS. The front seats may be replaced with more high-end sport units, with holes for a five-point harness, and the car may boast a revised steering wheel with a flatter bottom and more controls. The instrument cluster will likely carry over, however, it will sport the RS500 logo as opposed to the RS logo. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the instrument cluster go fully digital.

Outside of these few things, Ford may throw in some finer materials here and there, plus a new color scheme. Otherwise, expect to see the same infotainment system and center console. On that thought, the infotainment system may be customized to support the RS500 and any new driving features included as part of the model. If nothing else, expect to see a custom RS500 startup screen.

Drivetrain

2018 Ford Focus RS500 Exterior Spyshots
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As the story usually goes, we have yet to receive official information regarding just what will power this insanely hot hatch. As it’s bound to be positioned above the standard RS, we can say with near certainty that it will produce more than 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The question is, just how the hell is Ford going to one up the 2.3-liter EcoBoost that generates all that power? There are a couple of options to consider here. First, Ford could fine tune the engine and ECU mapping to generate a decent bump in power. That could include using a larger turbo, or incorporating a set of smaller turbos to help increase low-end power and performance. Then again, Ford could also surprise us by cramming a small V-6 under the hood.

As it's bound to be positioned above the standard RS, we can say with near certainty that it will produce more than 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque

In the past, Ford has used the RS500 name to identify a limited-run version of the RS capped at 500 units. So that could be the case here, which means you better start nagging your local dealer about ordering now if you’re ever going to get your hands on one. Then again, the 500 could denote that the RS500 would end up producing 500 horsepower. This would be a huge turn of events, but it isn’t entirely out of the question. Fingers crossed.

Other expectations include a fair drop in overall weight and an updated brake system to help bring this rocket on wheels to a halt when needed. Furthermore, Ford could opt to throw a Getrag dual-clutch tranny on the back of whatever might power this beast, which would provide a significant performance increase over the standard RS, and would make the objective of beating this model on the track an even harder challenge for the competition.

Prices

The price of this hotter hatch is another big mystery, and will be determined by how improved it is over the standard RS. With the standard RS starting at $35,900, I wouldn’t expect to see the RS500 go for less than $40,000 with just minor upgrades, so if Ford goes all out, it could start somewhere closer to $43,000. It really just depends on how much more extreme the RS500 is when it makes its long-awaited debut.

Competition

Audi RS3

2015 Audi RS3 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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With the standard Focus RS almost dominating the hatchback market, competitors like the Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R just won’t cut it against a more powerful RS500 variant. That said, we need to look to the Germans for a proper competitor. Case in point: the Audi RS3. According to Top Gear, the RS3 is “Enormously, mind-warpingly fast” with its 367 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque on tap. It’s enough to push the hatchback to 60 mph in around 4.3 seconds on the way to a top speed in the neighborhood of 174 mph. That kind of performance tops the RS by just 0.4 seconds and nine mph, so Audi better hope that Ford doesn’t do something extreme with the RS500. As of this writing, U.S. pricing for the RS3 is currently unknown, but we expect it to go for somewhere in the neighborhood of $55,000. It’s a little more expensive than where the RS500 will likely sit, but it is German, so it’s to be expected.

Read our full review on the Audi RS3 here.

Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45 4MATIC High Resolution Exterior
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Practically topping the list of the hottest hatches on the market, the Mercedes-AMG 45 should be a pretty decent competitor for the Focus RS500 – assuming the RS500 gets some power updates, that is. The A45 has been around since 2013 and went through an update for the 2015 model year. The update brought some new aerodynamic updates, new performance technology, and a bump in power to create a devil of a car. As of this writing, the A45 offers up 381 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter four-banger. It’s enough to hit 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds on the way to a limited top speed of 155 mph. Unfortunately, we don’t get the glory of having the Mercedes-AMG A45 here in the U.S., so you better move to Europe if you want to get your hands on one. Pricing there starts out at £40,695 before options, which computes to about $59,676 at current exchange rates (06/22/2016).

Read our full review on the Mercedes-AMG A45 here.

Conclusion

2018 Ford Focus RS500 Exterior Spyshots
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So there you have it. The Focus RS really might get a bigger brother that will deliver better performance, handling, and all-around power. With the Focus RS already close to the top of the hot hatch list, its competitors really don’t have a chance, which is why I had to look to a couple of German-made hatches to find anything that could potentially give the RS500 a run for its money. That said, I don’t think Ford is going to usher in the RS500 with a starting price above $50,000, so even if it is as powerful as models like the RS3 or AMG A45, Ford is still going to have some serious leverage over its German competition: price. For now, it looks like the RS500 is pretty close to production ready, so we could see this sucker make a debut before the end of the year as a 2017 model (again, fingers crossed.) When we get more information, we’ll be sure to update you, but until then, dream about it when you can and enjoy the full photo gallery of the spy shots we have so far.

  • Leave it
    • Exterior could be more aggressive
    • Could be priced much higher than the standard RS
    • Power updates could be limited if Ford doesn’t move away from the 2.3 EcoBoost
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