Hot hatches. The Europeans love them, we--as a whole--apparently hate them, and consequently miss out on some amazing cars that our cousins across the Atlantic have been enjoying for years. But that’s all about to change thanks to stylish newcomers like the 2011 Ford Fiesta and upcoming 2012 Ford Focus--two cars that dispel the belief that hatchbacks have to be cheap and boring.
Arguably, the hottest of all the hot hatches is the Ford Focus RS, a fire-breathing three-door with a screaming turbocharged straight-five engine churning out 300 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. While this model will never roll local streets, its successor, based on the new 2012 Ford Focus, very likely will.
At the launch of the new 2012 Focus, Ford’s global product boss, Derrick Kuzak, revealed that a "global performance version" of the new Focus would be launched, and according to latest reports this version will come with an advanced hybrid all-wheel drive system.
2010 Ford Focus RS (European edition)
The previous car’s five-cylinder engine is being phased out due to emissions concerns and in its place will be an uprated version of Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. However, getting the smaller four-cylinder engine to deliver upwards of 300 horsepower will be difficult even with direct injection and turbocharging technologies.
The solution? The addition of an electric motor driving the rear axle. Combined with the internal combustion engine, output could easily pass 300 horsepower. Additionally, the electric motor’s strong torque characteristics will add a serious boost to acceleration, plus the design provides an all-wheel drive system without the need for extra driveshafts. If the electric motor/battery combination proves strong enough, the car may even be able to drive short distances on electric power alone, laying the groundwork for some very impressive fuel economy numbers.
As strange as it may seem that Ford would make such a radical departure for its Focus RS, it’s a move Mitsubishi is planning to do for the next-generation of its Lancer Evolution series, the Evo XI.
Don’t get too excited, however, because the new Focus RS isn’t expected to arrive for at least another three years and anything could change between now and then. In the interim, Ford is expected to launch a tamer Focus ST model complete with a 250 horsepower EcoBoost engine and dual clutch transmission.