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2003 Ford Focus RS

Although SVT has recently given the U.S. market its own brand of hot hatch, Ford's RS (Rallye Sport) badge has a worldwide history that stretches to the early '70s, adorning a wide variety of small performance compacts and sedans. Its value became slightly tarnished in later years, as Ford stuck it on anything with boy-racer pretensions. The ad news is you can't buy one in America, at least, not at the moment.

The stock Focus chassis has been one of  Ford's best efforts for some time, yet the car has been thoroughly reengineered in RS form with 70 percent of its components uprated or redesigned. The vast spoilers and unseemly body kits that made the last-generation, Euro-market RS Escorts look so thuggish have been replaced by a subtly muscular stance that's sufficiently different from the standard car to let you know it means business.

On a smooth road, there's only an occasional hint of torque steer. Resolute body control and a resistance to the lift-off oversteer that's normally the scourge of quick frontdrivers make the Focus seem hard edged, yet forgiving at the same time. Steering is sharp and accurate, the Brembo brakes effective and resilient. A bumpy surface will find the chinks in the RS' armor, however, and have you working hard as the ride deteriorates away from main roads..Turbocharging gives the RS what the SVT Focus lacks--generous low-end torque. Rally touches include a special steering wheel, turbo-boost gauge, upshift light, and engine starter button on the carbon-fiber center console.

Inside, you settle into the figure-hugging Sparco seats; the starter button, drilled pedals, and chunky aluminum gearshift knob add more racing flavor. The engine, Garrett turbocharged and good for 212 horsepower--an increase of 42 horses over the U.S.-spec SVT Focus--has a gruff, throaty edge that'll hit all the right notes with hard-core drivers. It goes strong from low revs, spearing forward through five gears as the blower spools up between 3500 and 6000 rpm. It feels urgent, spiky, and very fast. The Quaife differential copes admirably with the power, although torque is limited to 177 Ib-ft in first and second.

Turbocharging gives the RS the low-enf torque the Focus SVT lacks. It pulls strong from low revs as the blower spools up between 3500 and 6000 rpm.

 Focus RS uses a modified version of the Duratec four cylinder, double overhead camshaft engine with the addition of a turbocharger and water-air intercooler. Duratec RS specification includes the standard engine block fitted with a modified oil return system and WRC design forged pistons but with lower compression. These in turn are matched to forged connecting rods. Camshafts remain unchanged and higher-grade spark plugs are fitted to handle the higher heat range. The front of the engine houses a new design of Garrett turbocharger with WRC, water-cooled technology. The size of the unit is optimised for high efficiency and torque delivery throughout the rev band. A new fabricated exhaust manifold is optimised for low down torque, and the 65mm high-flow large bore stainless steel exhaust system. The exhaust system is optimised for minimal back pressure. More features under the hood includes a brand new air intake system matched to the increased airflow demands of the turbocharger

    The temperature of the charge air entering the new throttle body is controlled by a unique water-air intercooler. A separate radiator utilises its own dedicated water cooling supply and is significantly more efficient than the conventional air to air intercooler. The spent charge leaving the turbocharger enters the intercooler at a typical 150 C and exits it below 45 C. The engine has a water pump with 50 per cent more flow, and a high efficiency oil cooler. Additional 'run on' cooling fans are fitted and the engine bay is treated to more heat shielding with higher grade materials used to counter the increased underhood temperatures. A remapped version of the Ford EEC V engine management system controls fuel delivery through higher flow rate injectors. Additionally, the fuel system is completely new with a high-flow pump and pressure regulator valve.

    Power to the front wheels is through a heavy duty AP Racing clutch coupled to a revised and uprated version of the 5-speed MTX75 transmission. The gear ratios are specific to the Focus RS and uses a short-throw shifter to provide optimum performance.

    This is a very hard running performance car that Ford needs to compete with others in this segment of the market. I just hope they have the common sense to import or produce it in the U.S. We will be saying our prayers!

    Price range: $30,000 (est)
    Vehicle layout: Front engine, fwd, 2-door, 5-pass
    Engine: Turbocharged I-4, alum blk/hd, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
    Displ, ci/cc: 121.9 / 1998
    Max hp @ rpm: 212 @ 5500
    Max torque @ rpm: 229 @ 3500
    Transmission: 5-speed manual
    0-60 mph, sec: 6.0 (est)
    On sale in U.S.? Don't know if it ever will be
    but we certainly hope so!                           

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