Ford’s decision to include drift mode on their latest performance vehicle, the Focus RS has definitely been controversial. The problem is, most people commenting on the driving mode, haven’t actually used it, well now I have, I can tell you its fantastic.
Drifting is hard, really hard, but today I drifted in a Ford Focus RS.
On a closed track in Queensland, I jumped in the driver’s side, with an instructor riding shotgun and walking me through it. We started on the skid pan with plenty witches hats to make a circle. The task was to drive around the circle, increase speed, then get the car to slide sideways and keep the power on. Sounds simple enough.
Drifting is a combination of the right entry, the right steering angle, the right power application and throttle modulation. Thanks to the software development of Ford engineers, what normally would have taken days or weeks to learn, took just seconds when the car is in Drift mode. The technology takes care of shifting the power distribution further to the rear wheels.
The stability control is never turned off, just toned down, so that typical snap you experience when shifting from one drift to another is dramatically minimised and makes the car easier to drift.
After the skid pan came a motorkhana where the track was first done in Sport, then Track, then Drift modes. The last run in drift mode was fantastic, some of the most fun I’ve ever had. The challenge here was to transition a drift from one angle to another around a figure 8 before pulling another gear and heading off around another set of cones. This is where you really get an appreciation of the vehicle dynamics, the engineering that went into the handling of the vehicle.
While I successfully drifted the Focus RS today, I certainly don’t think I mastered it. I really felt like 5 or 10 minutes in the car, that I could have felt seriously comfortable and that is extraordinary. As I watched other members of the media try the drift feature, some got it and some didn’t, so while dramatically more approachable than the challenge of drifting in a normal vehicle, this certainly still takes skill, understanding and most of all co-ordinated foot and hand timing to execute well.
This car won’t make you Ken Block, sorry.
I love that Ford are shipping this car in Australia with this feature, a feature for enthusiasts to enjoy at the track. The safety concerns raised are in many ways not valid. First of all, the car starts at $50,000, this isn’t a price point available to many 18 year olds, instead will be approachable for people with many, many more years of driving under their belt.
When switching into Track or Drift modes, the car warns you on the display that this is for track only. When you understand vehicle logs, you’ll understand that if an accident was to occur, Ford could check if the car was on normal road with the drift mode selected and provide that information to lawyers. As you can imagine, insurance companies may decide that you’re on your own if you have Drift Mode enabled.
After having not shipped the Mustang with burnout mode, the decision to leave Drift mode in the Focus RS is one Ford should be applauded for, who give enough credit to driver’s to use it responsibly. With great power, comes great responsibility, use it wisely people.
One other small detail.. the Focus RS is sold out until 2017.