It’s a sentence that will make countless engineers weep, but until now the recipe for a new Ford Focus RS has been a fairly simple one: in years gone by, a slug too much power, uprated ancillaries, big wheels, a few show-off details and a thuggish rear wing just about did the trick.
So bravo to the new generation of Focus RS engineers who have stuck two fingers up to that formula and dared to do something different, harnessing all the computer processing power of the 21st century and a bit of old-school limited-slip differential know-how to create a new type of four-wheel drive system. And when I say ‘new type’ what I really mean is one that - they promise - actually enhances the driving experience rather than hinders it.
At Autocar, we like to make a lot of noise about the ‘old school’ charms of some cars. As the world’s oldest car magazine, you probably wouldn’t expect anything less. But we also continually remind ourselves to look forward, to move with the times and celebrate the forward thinking that makes the automotive industry so brilliantly fast-paced.
Now, a four-wheel-drive hot hatch may not count as ripping up the form book, but it must have taken a giant gulp of bravery from the Ford RS team to sign it off. When you have a brand with that much heritage, not to mention a reputation for simple, affordable thrills, it takes a certain bravery to head off in a new, more complex direction.
Many will argue that the 316bhp-plus power output of the latest Focus RS made it an inevitable decision. They may well be right, although plenty have tried to plant that much power through the front wheels with varying degrees of success, and there must always be a strong temptation to stick to a successful recipe, no matter how mixed up the ingredients get.
But I hope that the engineers are right, and that this new system can improve on what went before it. They’re certainly bubbling with enthusiasm here in Cologne today - as is drift king Ken Block, who has tested the car extensively and has been wheeled out to vouch for the RS’s credentials.
The march of time doesn’t always improve things, but in the car industry it does have a habit of doing so. No question: we're just one month into 2015 and the year is already looking like being a bumper one for new cars. If Ford had stuck to old -chool values, we'd already have a fairly good idea of what to expect from the new Focus RS. As it is, the anticipation has only just started to build.