by Gavin Ward/Auto Express
It's a Ford Focus, but not as you know it. While British motorists have to 'make do' with the 210bhp RS, here's the ultimate version of the small family car, which punches out double that! Called the RS8 because it packs a V8 engine - a first for the Focus - it boasts 420bhp fed to the back wheels.
The amazing motor is the work of the blue oval's Ford Racing division. And the RS8 stunned showgoers when it was unveiled at last week's Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) exhibition in gamblers' paradise, Las Vegas, Nevada. The clever bit is that, to the untrained eye, it looks just like any other fast Focus.
Yet a closer inspection reveals a few giveaway signs of what's hidden underneath. The twin exhaust pipes exit at portals cut into the sides of the rear bumper, while a bigger cooling system can be seen through the mesh front grille. Inside, racing gauges mounted on the driver's A-pillar give up-to-the-second readings, and the beefy transmission tunnel is clearly visible.
As you'd expect of a machine that has been developed far beyond what it was originally intended for, some extensive re-engineering was needed to make all this possible. The engine bay had to be altered to physically cope with the 5.0-litre V8, but this was only after new pistons had been forged, along with a host of other minor modifications.
Next up, a bespoke exhaust system was fabricated, while the drivetrain feeds the power to the rear wheels via a five-speed racing gearbox. Finally, the development team had to create new suspension set-ups for both front and rear, so that the car could handle the massive increase in power.
The RS8 came about because bosses said they wanted to recreate the traditional V8-powered muscle car, but have it wrapped in a modern-day package. Dan Davis, director of the development team at Ford Racing, told us: "This isn't a typical sport compact modification project, but it will sure get attention out on the streets. The Focus RS8 will make itself known at the drag strip and on every road."
In America, the engine and drivetrain package will cost any interested customers nearly £9,000. On top of that, there is the additional expense of paying for the new suspension set-up. But it doesn't look like UK buyers will be getting a Focus V8 any time soon, even though sporty concepts such as the Focus Cosworth were well received here. A spokeswoman for the blue oval was lukewarm on the possibility of the RS8 coming to these shores. "Next year we will introduce the new Focus, but I just don't think there would be a market for a V8 version. The majority of people want to buy economical cars, not pay an extra £9,000 for a bigger engine," she said.