From Auto Express
Ford's legendary Cosworth is back! And the big news for blue oval fans is that the name will be used on flagship versions of hot Fiestas and Focuses all developed by the company's new performance division - Team RS.
Jost Capito, the German boss of the newly formed Team RS division, has exclusively revealed the first details of the new Focus Cosworth, allowing us to bring you these exclusive pictures and giving us an exciting taster of the supercar-chasing hatch, which is due for launch next year.
Capito revealed that the RS and ST brands will also be expanded to cover other Ford products. And although these will be the top-sellers, it's the Cosworth models which will be the true 'hero' cars. He told us that some within Ford thought that Cosworth should become a luxury sporting brand. "This was wrong," he said. "The Cosworth should be even more ex-treme than the RS Focus. It should be lightweight, stripped out, have more performance and be more extreme. Maybe it wouldn't even have air-conditioning."
Capito - whose past experience includes working on BMW's M3 and Porsche's 911 - also told Auto Express that a future Focus Cosworth is unlikely to be front-wheel drive. "Would a Cos-worth ever be front-drive? A Cosworth would have to deliver 225bhp-plus. When you see what we had to do with the front differential on the RS Focus to make it work properly, that power would be too much for the front wheels.
"There's a limit on front-wheel drive. But it depends on how the power is deployed. You can take it off with the traction control system - so in theory you could have a 300bhp front-drive car. But what's the point? The driver would not feel the power. For real performance we need 220-240bhp - that's hard in a front-drive car like the RS."
According to insiders, the new Focus Cosworth would see it based on the next Focus (due to be unveiled in May) and powered by either a turbo-charged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine or a new version of the Volvo V50's 225bhp turbocharged five-cylinder unit. But Capito hinted that the new powerplant would have to be able to rev freely to 7,000rpm and beyond.
This car would also use the same basic 4x4 chassis as the new V50 T5 AWD. But the Cossie - which won't appear until late next year at the earliest - would be much lighter and more raw than the baby Volvo. Expect minimal noise insulation, lightweight race-style seats, a quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission and suspension and braking components directly inspired by Ford's WRC Focus cars. On the outside, it will take its cue from today's RS, although stylists want the Cosworth's trademark wing to return. And the chassis will also be honed for driving pleasure by Team RS engineers on UK roads - unlike the RS Focus.
Said Capito: "Not enough of the chassis work on the Focus RS was done in the UK on B-roads. It was set up for German roads and the Nürburg-ring race circuit - it is fantastic there. Yet some drivers really wanted a beast of a car - and why not? But we rec-ognise that the majority of Ford's performance car customers are in the UK.
"If the new car can be made to handle well on UK B-roads and motorways, it should work on any roads. Every change we make to the chassis during development will be tested on B-roads and motorways."
By establishing the Cosworth brand, Capito says that the next-generation Focus RS can be less extreme. His team has already sat down to define Ford's three performance brands - ST, RS and Cosworth. "We had to agree what an ST is, what an RS is and what a potential Cosworth is. We thought of analogies with animals - an ST is a dolphin, an RS is a shark and a Cosworth would be a white shark." He describes how this will translate: "An RS will be for driving fun and track day use. And it should be a surprising car that might only be on sale for 18 months or so." Capito hinted the next RS wouldn't have a turbo engine and would be able to rev up to 8,500rpm - like key rival, the Honda Civic Type R.
But Capito pretty much ruled out an RS Mondeo, which would be too big for B-road driving. However, the next-generation Mondeo (due in late 2005) will have the option of four-wheel drive, so a stripped-out Mondeo Cosworth, inspired by touring cars, is possible.
Capito's team will also be developing ST versions of the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo. "I want the ST brand to be better known," he said. "I want the ST experience to be consistent, like VW's GTI brand. It should be a great compromise between sporting handling and everyday use."
Capito wouldn't say, but it's thought the next Focus ST will have a light-pressure turbo engine delivering around 180bhp - enabling it to challenge the MkV Golf GTI. At last, it seems that Ford is finally back in the fast car game and fighting for supremacy.