Ford has taken the wraps off the brand-new, four-wheel-drive Focus RS, powered by a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine producing more than 316bhp.

Following on from the Ford GT supercar unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show last month, the Ford Focus RS is one of 12 cars developed by Ford Performance that will go on sale by 2020.

There had been much speculation about whether or not this latest Focus RS would have 4WD, as the two previous generations were both front-wheel-drive only. But the new car will be sold around the world, in line with Ford’s ‘One Car’ product plan, and Ford clearly felt that some markets would be resistant to a high-power FWD hot hatch. America in particular much prefers it’s small, fast motors to be 4WD.

The 4WD system itself is all-new. Ford calls it All-Wheel-Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring. Rather than a traditional rear differential, a pair of electronically-controlled clutch packs sit on either side of the ‘rear drive unit’ (RDU). These manage the torque split, both front-to-rear and side-to-side across the back axle, delivering the torque vectoring effect.

The RDU monitors inputs from sensors around the car 100 times a second to determine how much torque should be sent where. Up to 70 per cent of the power can be sent the rear axle; 100 per cent of that can be sent to either wheel if necessary. During cornering, the RDU sends more power to the outside rear wheel, providing better turn-in stability and, Ford claims, virtually eliminating understeer.

The effect of all this is monumental grip, with lateral forces of over 1g claimed. If this all sounds pretty serious, worry not. Hooner-in-chief Ken Block has been involved in the development process, so the Focus RS will be a capable sideways monkey, as well.

The suspension has been thoroughly reworked, over the specification of the Focus ST. Spring rates, bushes and anti-roll bars are all stiffer, combining with two-mode dampers, which have a firmer setting for track driving.

The electric power steering has been recalibrated to work with the more rigid front suspension knuckle and shorter link arms. Ford promises “connected and responsive steering with outstanding feel.” The 19-inch wheels come with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres as standard, with a set of semi-slick Pilot Sport Cup 2 covers optional.

The engine is a development of the unit used in the latest Ford Mustang, mounted transversely, rather than longitudinally. It is much modified over the ‘Stang’s unit though, with a new low-inertia twin-scroll turbo, bigger intercooler, freer-flowing intake system and big-bore exhaust. Ford’s engineers even went as far as casting the cylinder head in a more heat resistant alloy.¬†Ford says the motor produces “excellent low-end responsiveness with a powerful mid-range pull.” The redline is set at a relatively high 6,800rpm.

Ford is being being cagey about the RS’s power output, only saying it turns out more than 316bhp, i.e. more than the Mustang with the same engine. The original Focus RS put out 212bhp, the section generation, 300bhp. That car’s run finished with the special edition RS500, which made 345bhp. It’s thought the new car’s power will be in that ballpark.

Fans of the previous Focus RS, with its charismatic, warbly five-cylinder engine, will probably be disappointed in advance about the noise the new four-cylinder motor produces. Ford has recognised as much, and put some effort into tuning the noise, promising “the distinctive burbles, pops and crackles that are a RS signature.”

A six speed manual gearbox is the only choice, with a shorter lever for quicker, more accurate shifts. Expect 0-62mph in around five seconds, with a top speed over 160mph.

The styling is as wild as you would expect, with much deeper bumpers, huge intakes at the front, a diffuser at the back and an enormous rear spoiler. There will be plenty of complaints that it isn’t a three-door as before, but the current Focus isn’t available in that format, and Ford is gradually dropping all its three-door hatchbacks, anyway.

Standard equipment on the Focus RS includes Recaro bucket seats, adaptive headlights, SYNC infotainment system with satnav, smartphone connectivity and voice controls, climate control, rear parking camera and a 10-speaker stereo.

The on sale date will be confirmed at the Geneva Motor Show next month, but the Focus RS isn’t expected to hit the roads until late 2016, making it the third generation Focus’s swansong, ahead of a new version in 2017. Prices and specs will be announced in Geneva, as well.

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