Hasn’t Ford got a few headlines over the last 24 hours? Plenty of people know about the new Ford Focus RS that’s for sure – all because of one little icon on the dashboard, one of four drive modes – “Drift Mode”. Yep, this car has a button to help you drift!
The Ford Focus RS is a $50,000 car – it’s a sports car, it’s sensational to drive. On twisting turning winding roads it is fun to drive, sticks to the road and gives you the driver oodles of confidence to drive the way you want to.
Suspension feel can be changed with the touch of a button to tighten the dampers and give you a much more rigid ride – great on a perfect road, terribly rough on many Aussie roads.
Drive Mode selection is nothing new. Loads of different cars from sedate family sedans to supercars have it. This allows you to switch between things like “Eco” or “Sport” or “Comfort” and “Race”. Depending on the car, that mode could switch on and off anything from the sensitivity of the steering to the intensity of the suspension or the power in the engine.
On the Ford Focus RS the drive mode button in the centre console next to the gear stick allows you to switch between Standard, Sport, Track and Drift modes.
When selecting Track and Drift modes you get a pop-up on the instrument cluster telling you that it’s for Track Use Only.
I had the chance to try this out on a closed circuit – the Mount Cotton driver training facility South of Brisbane. The team at Ford had setup a wet skid-pan with a circle track marked out by witches hats.
After a quick sighting lap, I was instructed to “floor it”. I did. It went sideways, and all around.
After 3-4 laps I managed a full sideways lap, and it was utterly satisfying.
I am pretty sure I yelled “this is the most fun I’ve ever had in a car”.
Have I ever tried drifting before? Nope. Have I ever thought about “drifting” on the public roads? Nope.
Have I gotten a car sideways even a touch on the road? Hell yes! Was it intentional? Nope!
You see, 20 years ago a rear-wheel car was easy to get sideways – especially on wet roads.
Then we had huge advances in safety and technology – and electronic stability control (ESC) became advanced and standard. It’s that computer which stops your car going sideways when you put too much power to the wheels.
What Ford has enabled here is a button that turns down – not off – the Stability Control. You can even then press a second button to turn off completely the ESC.
Breaking news folks, that same ability exists within loads of cars.
My 2010 Holden Berlina Sportswagon won’t go sideways – turn off the ESC and it sure as hell will.
If I took it to a wet skid-pan and tried to “drift” it – it would be hard. Ford have given the Focus RS the smarts to help you experience a little sideways circle action on a race-track or skid-pan.
Frankly, I can’t imagine it would work so well on the open-road – but perhaps more importantly, I can’t imagine someone who’s shelled out $50,000 for the car would even try it!
Cars today are computers remember. So do you think your insurance company is going to payout to fix the damage from a telegraph pole in the rear corner after you drift into it on a corner? Nope, they’ll check the logs and see what “mode” you were in – case closed – and $50,000 wasted.
Let’s be real – “Drift Mode” is not a great look to the general public. But for the Focus RS owner who is thinking about heading to the local race-track to try it out, it’s awesome.
Just like the switch on the Ferrari steering wheel which goes to RACE and then ESC OFF – let me tell you, that thing is going to drift:)
Trevor Long travelled to Brisbane for the Focus RS launch as a guest of Ford Australia – Click here for Full details of commercial interests and disclosures