Ford Focus RS drift mode hype is drifting us towards the nanny state

Don’t listen to the anti-Drift Mode hysteria. It’s all bollocks.

Ford Focus RS drift mode

Who is stupid enough to buy a car with drift mode, and then go drifting on public roads?

OFFICERS of the nanny state we seem to live in are a strange breed of reverse garbage trucks – crap is regularly hurled out of them. However, it’s easy enough to spot them as they emerge from the woodwork, protesting loudly when a car company makes the mistake of doing something a bit daring and exciting, as Ford has just done with the launch of its new Ford Focus RS.

It’s all because this car has something called a “drift mode”, which has allowed those who think their fellow human beings are too stupid to put on their own pants to get very hot under the waistband and, to use one of their favourite Thou Shalt Not Enjoy Driving terms: “hooning”.

These nanny state officers are most clearly identified wearing police-issue uniforms and special hats, but they’re eagerly aided and abetted by the kind of blokes who wear shiny suits and smarmy smiles and work for TV news programs.

They love a bit of feigned outrage almost as much as they hate hoons and hooning, and Ford’s new hoon mode in particular.

The term “hoon” is a uniquely Australian slur and, to my mind at least, describes the kind of flannelette-shirt loving, breast-obsessed bogans who make attending the Summernats so unpleasant.

There are, sadly, plenty of actual journalists who love a bit of mock horror as well, and will happily give oxygen to someone like Harold Scruby from the Harold Scruby Hates Cars and Loves Pedestrians organisation who would, if he could, ban all motor vehicles tomorrow and force us all to walk everywhere wearing bicycle helmets.

Many of these journalists secretly love cars such as the Focus RS and would dearly love to have a go of the drift mode, which allows you to slide the car around like the world’s pre-eminent and self-proclaimed “Hoonigan” Ken Block, but would only do so if they had the car on a track.

Frankly, if you’re stupid enough to try drifting on public roads in any other car, you’re going to do it without a drifting mode using a button these moral outragers should surely be campaigning about constantly: the “ESC Off” switch.

Effectively, this means the Toyota 86 was also launched with a drift mode, but with less driver support than what Ford is offering in the Focus RS. Likewise, the BMW M2 has a drift mode called Dynamic Traction Control, but again it’s designed to drift best with the traction control off altogether, which it does beautifully.

Let’s not forget the media-enabled amount of fear attached to the word “drifting”. It might explain why there was comparatively no fear mongering when Lexus launched its GS F with “Slalom” mode. Apparently flinging your car around between cones is quite safe, and why would that be?

Oh yes, because you’d only ever really use it on a track.

So what does this dreaded, dangerous drift mode do?

As Ford Performance engineer Jamal Hameedi explained, it works with the car’s stability control system to make drifting the exciting, rally-style Focus RS both easier to drive and safer.

The car’s twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system can channel up to 70 per cent of torque to the rear wheels in Drift Mode, and can then push up to 100 per cent of that to either side of the car via torque-vectoring, making it relatively easy to achieve power oversteer (normally a bit of an effort in AWD cars).

“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,’” Hameedi said.

“It works in conjunction with the ESC system. 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.”

If you’re super-confident you can just turn the ESC off and drift the car in a less-safe way, something the TV reporters, police and scribblers haven't mentioned.

But just give them time. If someone doesn’t soon start demanding that “ESC Off” buttons be removed from all cars, it will be something of a miracle.

Frankly, I’m surprised they’re not more outraged that any car has the ability to exceed 110km/h, ever.

When that happens, the nanny state will finally be completely in control. 


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