If you're anxiously awaiting the (European) return of the Focus RS, you're in luck. Not only is the official launch, slated for the 2008 British Motor Show, only a month away, but Ford has also released official "spy" photos of the hot hatch hitting the Nurburgring.
We've not seen an RS model since 2003, as it disappeared when Ford launched an all-new European Focus in 2004. Although a performance-tuned ST model is currently offered, the new Focus RS promises to stuff even more performance into the three-door hatch.
From what we can glean from these photos, the car does resemble the Focus ST coupe, but select cues set the performance-tuned RS apart from lesser trims. We can't help but notice the oversized wheel flares wrapped around large-diameter rolling stock (possibly 19-inch alloys). And there's the matter of that front fascia; yes, it does look more rounded than a base Focus, but we see an intercooler lurking behind a large grille opening.
Although Ford is mum on the exact details, we're told the RS will use a modified form of the 2.5-liter turbocharged inline five-cylinder found in the Focus ST (and Volvo C30). Ford suggests that in RS form the motor will produce more than 276 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque - a significant boost over the ST's 225 hp and 235 lb-ft figures.
Although the RS may play in the same league as Subaru's Impreza WRX STI or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, we're not looking for Ford to roll out an all-wheel-drive Focus anytime soon. Instead, the RS will deliver power through the front wheels, aided by a limited-slip differential and by suspension tuned on the 'Ring.
We'll know more about what Ford tweaked for the RS in late July, when the car makes its debut in London. Expect production cars to go on sale in early 2009, but don't expect the RS - or any European Focus - to come Stateside. Perhaps you're out of luck.