Automobiles

Ford's most-powerful-ever hatch will even save you when you stall

The 350-horsepower 2016 Ford Focus RS blows away previous estimates, and the competition.

2016 Ford Focus RS in Geneva Josh Miller/CNET

Ford has been teasing its latest hot hatch, the 2016 Focus RS, for months now, and enthusiasts are all agog for even the slightest hint of specifics. Yet, despite a steady trickle of information, there are still many unknowns surrounding the car, including the output of its 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Thankfully, Ford's put that all to rest this week by confirming that the RS will put out 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

The RS, which will be available exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, was originally estimated at around 315 horsepower . That would have placed it just ahead of its competition, the 292-horsepower Volkswagen Golf R and the 305-horsepower Subaru WRX STI. Now, the Focus RS will out-muscle cars well outside its segment, like the 333-horsepower Audi S4, which isn't even available with an enthusiast-pleasing stick shift.

Ford's sweetening the deal even further with a feature that should appeal to drivers less experienced with rowing their own gears. Its stall-recovery system is, in essence, an extension of current stop-start technology. If you stall the Focus RS, it will spring back to life without needing to turn a key or move the gearshift. This new technology, however, will not reduce the embarrassment factor of stalling.

While the 2016 model will be Ford's first RS for the United States, European markets have been rocking this performance nameplate since Ford introduced it in late 2002. The first generation enjoyed 212 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, all of which was sent to the front wheels.

The Mk.II RS appeared in 2009. Power jumped to 301 horsepower, torque went up to 325 pound-feet and the drivetrain remained front-wheel only. Up until now, the most powerful Ford hot hatch Americans have had is the 252-horsepower Focus ST.

The third-generation RS will be shared all around the world, as it was created in conjunction with Ford's three main performance divisions -- Special Vehicle Team (SVT) in the US, Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) in Australia and TeamRS in Europe.