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Ford takes wraps off of 345-horse high-performance Focus RS500

by Andrew Ganz

Boasting 345 horsepower, a menacing matte black paint scheme and an outlandish bodykit, the 2011 Ford Focus RS500 is the highest-performance Ford hatchback ever created. Limited to just 500 units, all RS500s will be allocated only to 20 European markets beginning in May.

The RS500, set to debut April 9 at the Leipzig Motor Show, will be Ford's fastest street-legal Focus ever, serving as a "last hurrah" for the second-generation world market Focus.

The 2.5-liter five-cylinder boasts a 15 percent improvement in power over the standard Focus RS' 300 horsepower. In RS500 tune, the turbocharged Duratec five-cylinder cranks out 345 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, while torque is up to 339 lb-ft. from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. A much larger intercooler, increased air flow air filter box, larger diameter exhaust downpipe and an upgraded fuel pump help handle the extra power, although much of the added grunt comes from software calibration.

Ford suggests that the Focus RS500 will scoot to 62mph in 5.6 seconds.

Despite putting the power only to the front wheels, Ford says that the Focus RS500 is a strong-handling machine. Ford's RevoKnuckle front suspension and Quaife helical limited slip differential help reduce torque steer and improve traction. The RS500 was developed primarily on the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany.

The RS500 gets a unique black finish for the standard Focus RS alloy wheels, while the upgraded brake calipers are painted red.

Inside, the RS500 gains an individually-numbered metal plaque and a carbon-effect finish with an RS pattern. The seats are swathed in a unique red trim rather than the standard RS' blue, and Ford will offer Recaro-branded red leather seats as an upgrade. Navigation is the RS500's only other option.

The RS500 goes into production soon and will help Ford finish up the current European-market Focus' second-generation run. The last RS500 will be produced in November. Ford will not sell the RS500 in the United States or Canada.