When Ford launched its 220bhp Focus ST at the Geneva show, company officials were keeping schtum about an even hotter RS version in the pipeline. But now we've caught the flagship model undergoing cold-weather testing. Whilst the ST, which arrives in late 2005, gets 220bhp from Volvo's turbocharged five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine and is more powerful than the previous-generation Focus RS (200 bhp), the RS will be quicker still, with the T5 unit tuned for a good 250 bhp-plus and fitted in combination with the Volvo AWD system.
Like its earlier namesake, and forebears such as the Sierra RS Cosworth, expect the latest RS to take its inspiration from the newest Ford WRC car, which makes its debut in 2006. The previous Focus RS got many race-spec parts - Sachs dampers, Brembo brakes, Sparco seats, OZ Racing alloys, a Garrett turbocharger and AP clutch to name a few - so we'd expect this top-dog Focus to bring much of the rallying experience to the road. We don't predict a tacky bodykit and a huge wing, though: like the previous RS, it will probably remain reasonably understated.