Just when Subaru thought the competition was going away because the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is ending production, a new challenger, the 2016 Ford Focus RS is getting ready to make its U.S. debut. The new U.S. bound Focus RS will make its official reveal at the New York International Auto Show this weekend. How will Subaru respond to the new competition from Ford with their iconic 2015 WRX STI?
Until now, it’s been the Subaru WRX STI, Lancer EVO and Volkswagen Golf R that have dominated the compact all-wheel-drive sports car market. Now, the new 2016 Ford Focus RS will make things very interesting for Subaru and Volkswagen. Mitsubishi is going in a totally different direction and won’t be part of the discussion after the last EVO rolls off the assembly line later this year.
Ford and VW will dominate the hot hatch market
The 2015 Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO only come in sedan body styles, while the Volkswagen Golf R and new Ford Focus RS come in 5-door hatch models. Until now, the decision to drop the WRX STI hatch body style, hasn’t hurt the 2015 STI as sales of the new generation performance sedans are hot and dealers can’t get enough to meet the demand.
Possibly because of lack of production capacity, Subaru decided to drop the five-door model for the new-generation WRX/STI model change and only offer the four-door sedan variant. Subaru hasn’t said if a five-door hatch is coming at a future date in the new generation sports cars. Subaru may need to rethink offering a five-door hatch again with new competition coming from the Ford Focus RS.
New competition from Ford Focus RS
Subaru will be getting new competition from the next generation RS as it’s coming with all-wheel-drive and will feature the 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine from the Ford Mustang. Ford says the hot RS turbocharged engine will get at least 315 horsepower and 320 lb. ft of torque. The 2015 Subaru WRX STI’s 2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder produces 305hp and 290 lb ft of torque. The VW Golf R’s 2.0-liter turbo produces 292hp and 280 lb ft of torque. The Ford Focus RS will clearly have the horsepower advantage.
Competition will be a good thing for Subaru
When the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution arrived on the scene in 2003, Mitsubishi created a site with a countdown clock for their upcoming Lancer Evolution launch for the U.S. market. At the time Subaru was a major competitor of Mitsubishi in the WRC and was not going to be outdone by their rival in the U.S. market. Subaru would not be outdone by the EVO, and in 2004 launched the STI in the U.S. with a 2.5-liter turbo engine with more horsepower that the EVO’s 2.0-liter turbo.
Focus RS comes with all-wheel-drive
If the new hot hatch from Ford had a front-wheel-drive configuration, this discussion wouldn’t need to happen. The 2016 Focus RS comes with Ford’s all-wheel-drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring that should rival Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The fact that Focus RS will have AWD technology changes the compact performance car landscape in the U.S.
Will Ford Focus RS motivate Subaru?
Competition is always a good thing in motorsports as it motivates automakers to come up with new technology that filters down to the production cars we drive everyday. Competition from the new 2016 Ford Focus RS that debuts this weekend at NYIAS will be good for Subaru and their iconic WRX STI performance car. It will be interesting to see how Subaru answers the challenge and if they will increase horsepower in the 2016 Subaru WRX STI. Will Subaru bring back the WRX/STI 5-door hatch? Stay tuned.