Steering Column 11.07.08

RS reincarnated

FORD has committed itself to bringing out an aggressively-styled, high-powered version of its Focus hatchback.

Looking mean enough to bite your leg off and pumping almost 300bhp into the tarmac through a sophisticated traction managing system, it’ll need just two letters added to its name to tell you it’s special – RS.

Yep, Ford is reintroducing the RS moniker for its new affordable supercar which will go on sale early next year. It’ll have a turbocharged and heavily modified version of the 2.5-litre Duratec five-cylinder petrol engine and Ford predicts that when it goes into production, that engine will drive the car through 62mph less than six seconds after the lights turn green.

Unlike many other giant-killer performance cars, it won’t have four or even rear wheel drive – it’ll be sticking with front wheel drive with a limited-slip differential which the makers say will still “achieve demanding targets for traction, handling and steering”. They apparently considered 4WD but decided it was too heavy and not necessary.

Ever heard of a RevoKnuckle? Sounds dead ‘ard dunnit? Well it’s the name Ford’s given to the front suspension system it recons will make the Focus RS stable during acceleration by doing away with “torque steer” – that’s the squirm you can get through the steering as driven front wheels scrabble for grip under heavy acceleration. Ap­parently it works “in conjunction with a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential” to achieve this – so that’s alright then.

What’ll sell it is most likely going to be the looks. The three-door hatch has huge multi-spoked alloy wheels filling bulging wheelarches – there are vents, skirts, airdams and a little wing on the back – and it has a huge gaping maw of an air-intake arrangement at the front.

The first version will be unveiled at the London Motor Show later this month in a vile electric green paint-job which pays homage to the 1970s Escort RS1600 . . . proof, if ever proof was needed, that the seventies witnessed the death of taste.

Clean SX

Meanwhile, Suzuki has been given permission to road-test a new version of its chunky-styled SX4 hatchback which is powered by a compact hydrogen fuel cell.

Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism has given the company approval to try it on public roads.

The plan is to try the clean-burning fuel as a practical alter­native to conventional hydrocarbons so this isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky academic exercise – Suzuki really wants to build these things for sale one day.

The early signs are promising – we’re told it will take five people, it’ll have a range of over 150 miles and it’ll reach speeds up to 90mph.

Naked performance

Honda has just started selling its long-awaited street-bike, the CB1000R. Despite being well appointed with equipment, lauded by the biking press and having a huge reserve of power and torque, it went on sale last Friday with prices begin­ning at a very affordable £6,950. Powered by a re-tuned ver­sion of the 998cc engine from the 2007 Fireblade, this un-faired bike puts 130bhp in your right fist. Com­mentators talk about the combin­ation of massive power and light weight making it a very potent tool.

Most people love it, but the styling is all a bit spaced out for my taste with Buzz Lightyear ridges and ripples on the tank and radiator cowls, Klingon-styled LCD in­struments and an exhaust-pipe that looks like something you could blast Daleks with.

You’d probably also need arms like a wookie to hold on with the acceleration and wind-blast you could be exposed to on this great beast of a machine.

Mike Grundon


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