The Geneva auto show brought confirmation that the new Ford Focus RS will feature what the company is calling “drift mode.” This immediately triggered thoughts of wannabe Hoonigans wrapping their cars, and possibly themselves, around solid objects as they tried to make their own gymkhana videos.
Fortunately, a sit-down with Ford Performance boss Dave Pericak and the division’s chief engineer Jamal Hameedi gave us the chance to find out some more. And the good news for anyone considering letting somebody under the age of 25 anywhere near a Focus RS is that the system reportedly works in conjunction with the car’s stability control system to make you feel like a driving god.
So who came up with the idea of such a compellingly crazy system?
“It organically came through the team,” says Pericak. “We know what our customers love to do, and it was a case of ‘hey, wouldn’t it be really cool to allow someone to have fun, and to use their driving skills, but still have a car that’s able to help when you need it?’ ”
The ability of the twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system to channel up to 70 percent of the RS’s torque to the rear wheels, and then up to 100 percent of that output to either side to enable torque vectoring, makes it relatively easy to persuade the Focus RS into power oversteer. The secret is then making sure enthusiasm doesn’t get the better of limited experience.
“It works in conjunction with the ESC system,” explained Hameedi. “It knows how fast the car is yawing and what you’re doing to catch it. The more you stay ahead of the car, the more the system will let you rotate the car. But if the computer sees you falling behind, your steering inputs not keeping up with the yaw rate, then it steps in and rescues you. We’d say it’s an excellent teaching tool to help develop your skills—it works with you, not against you.”
Yes, it still will be possible to fully switch off the stability control, but Pericak explains that the car will always be far easier to control when left in drift mode. “The limits we’re going to set give anyone enough room to have fun, there’s no need to turn it off. If you’ve gone as far as we’re going to let you [go], then you probably shouldn’t be going any further. It’s like [being] a trapeze artist—we’re going to put the safety net underneath you, but you’re still going to have to go up there and perform the stunts yourself.”
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