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Focus RS vs Dart SRT redux

by Michael Volkmann on

The Focus RS appears to be one hell of a beast on paper. By all accounts, Ford looks like it hit one out of the park with the Focus RS and all the auto blogs seem to be in love with it.

The Focus RS is believed to be using an AWD system adapted from  Land Rover, which used to be owned by Ford. Developed with Swedish GKN, the Focus RS can have up to a 70% rear bias. The rear differential is clutch activated, and torque is not controlled via a brake-based system. The front differential is an open style and torque is controlled by a brake based system (remember the Caliber SRT-4?)


So what is needed for the Dart SRT driveline to be able to compete with the Focus RS?

Transfer Case:
A new transfer case connected to the PTO of a transmission that can handle the torque of the turbocharged Hurricane engine. This new transfer case would need to have an efficient, high performance disconnect system to save fuel when power to the rear drive wheels is not needed. No dog clutch setup, unless they want rough engagement and a potential hand grenade. (Cherokee is the only model to use a dog clutch here; 200 AWD has a standard clutch).

This new transfer case would need engine, cross member, exhaust, fire wall, and floor pan clearance along with mounting components to be installed.

Rear Driveline:
Next is the driveshaft going to the rear of the car. It needs floor and exhaust clearance. It needs to be strong enough to take shock loading of not only engagement of the PTO but also the shock of sudden traction at the rear of the vehicle.

The rear differential needs floor pan, exhaust, and suspension clearance as well as being up to torque and shock demands. It also may require cooling, either an actual cooling system or heat transfer points… either way, space will be required for cooling, especially if it has clutches to control power from one side of the car to the other. The rear differential has to be mounted to the floor pan or part of a  suspension module.


Rear suspension changes may need to be made to handle power loading that is now at the rear wheels. Currently the rear wheels are simply idlers, add power to them and now the suspension has a new dynamic. The suspension must clear the driveshafts. The driveshafts must be strong enough, especially if power transfers completely from one side to the other, and have floor pan, exhaust, and suspension clearance, as they are articulating members.

Then you potentially need larger hubs all the way around. More robust front axles. Clearance for the more robust front axles. Larger brakes. Different spindles for larger hubs and brakes. Clearance and steering modifications may be needed because of geometry changes due to changing spindles, hubs, brakes, wheels, track width, etc.

Chrysler is already struggling with the programming of non-performance models with the 9 speed. The Dart SRT would need more robust programming to control the power being applied to the system along with the disconnect system.

Parts and Suppliers:

Yes, Dodge had a turbocharged Hurricane engine coming, reputed to be 280-320 hp. Yes, Dodge has the fantastic ZF 9 speed.

Dodge has options for the other driveline components…but should they stick with the current system suppliers (like AMM) but with stricter design parameters and big changes to components? What does ZF have to offer? Call an outside source like Haldex, GKN, JTEKT, etc., be called in?

Ford used a Mark 45 5″ 54 caliber deck gun to fire a round across the bow of the Dart (though that was probably not their primary goal). Ford is not playing around.

Dodge needs to respond to the Focus RS, in a big way. There is a reason why the original Dart SRT mules did not see production. Hopefully the boys at Dodge and SRT have taken this time to massage it and bake in all the changes to make it world class.

Michael Volkmann, a mechanical engineer in the steel industry, autocrossed and road-raced Neons. Michael has drag raced his 1971 Duster 340, 2009 Challenger R/T, and Neons, of which he’s owned seven — one SRT4, three ACRs, and three Sport Coupes.

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