We're jealous enough that Europeans have their excellent version of the Ford Focus compact car, but the 2009 Ford Focus RS - a high-performance hot-hatch - truly has us green with envy.
The car, debuting at the 2008 London motor show, is the first Focus to carry the coveted RS badge since 2003. European enthusiasts were given a sport-tuned ST model starting in 2004, but the new Focus RS promises a new level of excitement.
Yes, the Focus RS does make use of the ST's 2.5-liter turbocharged I-5, but Ford's significantly revised the motor for RS duty. Adding unique camshafts, an all-new cylinder head and a larger turbocharger, the engine now produces 295 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. That power is transmitted to the ground via a six-speed manual transmission, identical to that in the ST, but equipped with a new short-throw shifter. Unlike the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru's Impreza WRX, Ford hasn't gifted the Focus RS with all-wheel drive.
Instead, the RS comes equipped with a torque-biased limited slip differential, partnered with what Ford calls the "Revo-Knuckle." Part of the McPherson strut setup, the Revo-Knuckle is designed to absorb torsion without affecting the strut, reportedly eliminating torque steer. The system might just work, as Ford claims the car can reach 62 mph from a standstill in less than six seconds.
The Focus RS also makes use of a 40mm wider track, revised springs and socks, and a longer anti-roll bar. Although engineers created an exclusive stability program for the RS, they also tuned the suspension with the ESP off, in an attempt to remove ESP from the car's handling characteristics.
Ford also tricked out the RS' appearance, fitting flared fenders in front and back, an all-new bumper and side skirts, and a wild rear spoiler reminiscent of those on Focus rally cars. Inside, the driver and front passenger are treated to embroidered leather Recaro buckets, tons of carbon-fiber trim pieces, and a few color-matched accents.
Although the European Focus is slated to appear in the U.S. beginning in 2010, we're not expecting the RS to make the trip over. We hear fewer than 9000 units are slated to be built over two or three years, and we're betting they'll move fast. Color us jealous.