The new Ford Focus RS will be previewed on 22nd July 2008 at the London International Motor Show.

It will mark the return of the Ford RS badge, most famously used on the 1970 Escort RS1600, and is set to go on sale in early 2009.

The Focus RS has been created a small team of Ford engineers, headed up by Jost Capito, Ford of Europe’s Vehicle Line Director for Performance Vehicles.

Capito said: “We want the new Focus RS to be a serious high performance car – as much a car for driving enthusiasts as the one before it and classic Ford RS models of the past. We’re staying true to the core RS principles of an exciting, yet affordable performance road car you can live with every day.”

Although the car that will be on display at the London show is a prototype and some details may change before production commences, it is regarded as a largely accurate representation of the final vehicle.

It’s finished in a suitably lurid shade of bright green with in-laid metallic flake, a shade said to be a ‘modern interpretation’ of the 1970s Le Mans Green used by the Escort RS1600.

Contrasting with the wild green paint are gloss ‘piano black’ details such as the strip at the leading edge of the bonnet, the front fog-light surrounds and the door mirrors with integrated indicators.

The Focus RS features a wider track than the regular Focus, with the wheels covered by flared arches.  Triangular air vents sit behind the front wheel-arches, while the bonnet displays a pair of prominent louvres to help maintain under-bonnet temperatures.

Of course, it’s difficult to miss the new front bumper design with deep air-dam and mesh grille.  The Xenon headlights are framed by matt-black surrounds with additional venting beneath.

A new rear bumper includes a large venturi tunnel and venting, while a dual-level roof spoiler takes it inspiration from Ford’s WRC rally cars.

“We believe it’s vitally important that a Focus RS looks like both a Focus and an RS – it needs to be individual, distinctive and overt in its performance styling, but it also needs to show a clear progression from and relationship to Focus ST”, said Stefan Lamm, Chief Exterior Designer, Ford of Europe.

The interior is dominated by bespoke and highly-sculpted Recaro sports seats, colour-matched to the exterior with the addition of ebony leather accents and RS and Recaro stitched logos.

Elsewhere, there’s greater use of brushed aluminium highlights, plus a carbon-look to the centre console, air vents, door grab handles, gear-shift surround and scuff plates.

The rear seats incorporate higher side bolsters and a microfibre finish, while the ceiling uses a black lining to emphasise the sporty feel.

A multitude of RS logos can be found in the driver’s eye-line, including on the steering wheel and gear lever, and there are a set of three additional gauges on top of the centre console.

Styling is only a part of the picture, however.  The big story is, of course, the engine.

The Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder Duratec engine, tuned to produce 300PS and over 410Nm of torque.

To achieve this power output, Ford engineers developed unique camshafts, modified the cylinder head and gasket, and revised both the intake and exhaust manifolds.

The result is expected to be a 0-62mph time of less than six seconds.

Keeping all that power in check is a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing limited-slip differential and an innovative development of the front suspension system dubbed ‘RevoKnuckle’ which helps to reduce torque steer.

Capito explained: “The Ford Focus is an excellent base for a high performance car – agile, responsive and stable.  We studied at length how best to enhance these qualities for a high performance model. Our work has shown clearly that our approach in combining a tuned RevoKnuckle with the Quaife differential is an ideal solution for a high performance front-wheel-drive road car like Focus RS.

He continued: “As you would expect, we gave all-wheel-drive careful consideration, but by combining and tuning these elements and learning from Ford’s expertise in industry-leading handling, we have managed to eliminate the weight of AWD from the car and still have been able to target a class-leading balance of traction, handling and performance.

“The result is a lightweight set-up that will deliver the right blend of traction and razor sharp controllability, in a way no one would have expected from front-wheel-drive, and we believe we have made the right choice.”

Other engineering enhancements include a 40mm wider track, stronger and longer driveshafts, thicker anti-roll bar, and retuned steering system for greater feedback.

The brakes have been upgraded, with 336mm ventilated discs at the front and 300mm discs at the rear, just visible through the 19-inch alloy wheels which wear 235/35 Continental tyres.

The ESP system has been heavily revised for the Focus RS, and includes an option to fully deactivate it for track use.

The new Focus RS will made on the main Focus production line in Saarlouis, Germany, and will include a full European warranty.

We can’t wait.