A couple of years ago, Ford in Europe released the Focus RS with a “drift” mode. The Australian media were appalled and interviewed the police over this heinous act of public disorder. They published several articles about how the youth were going to kill themselves (and others) with this car. It didn’t matter that it was much easier to drift a Falcon or Holden Commodore without the need of a drift mode!
The primary difference between the Falcon/Commodore and the Focus is the drivetrain. Locally built cars were front end heavy with rear drive, albeit with some form of electronic aids added in to sell them against far superior European competitors. With minimal weight over the rear wheels, it was easy to lose traction!
The Focus, however, was far more technologically advanced. It was fitted with a twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system and four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Track and Drift. Normal mode sets the car up for typical road use with the drive system providing power where it is needed, the suspension and steering defined for the average use and a “regular” exhaust note. The engine and stability systems were set to a fairly soft setting in that the car was not aggressive and the stability systems kicked in early.
Sport mode, as you would think, adjusted the engine management system, exhaust note, tightened the steering and adjusted where the power was sent through the drivetrain. Track mode went a step further by adjusting the suspension and reducing the stability controls to allow the car to move a little more under the driver’s direction. This is normal for cars or bikes with these modes – I have them on my cars and bike.
It was the Drift mode that really upset the do-gooders. It does the opposite to Track mode in that it softens the suspension and then has a management system that directs the power to a specific rear wheel. The GKN sourced twin clutch all-wheel-drive system is very clever, in normal usage it can sense when to change the front/rear power balance and shift the torque to the front more than the rear or vice versa depending on road conditions, speed etc.
The front end of the system is a typical set up for a front wheel drive car however the system permanently sends drive power through a conventional prop-shaft to a rear differential as well. Fitted to this are two secondary clutches that define when power should reach one or both of the rear wheels. Apparently the rear differential is geared 2% faster than the front, so when the rear takes power it naturally wants to push the front out of the way – perfect for instigating a drift or dealing with a twisty road where the dynamics of the vehicle are constantly changing.
This means that in Drift mode, the car can deliver a large amount of torque to the outside rear wheel when needed, helping the car to slide – it is then up to the driver to provide the necessary steering inputs to control the drift or power-slide. The driver still needs to be competent, however I suspect that the car is still capable of stepping in to help when needed. As Ford noted when the media attacked, the original buyers of these cars would have been enthusiasts who enjoyed track days and performance driving and would have had some semblance of skills. I’m sure some will get wrecked by idiots, however most car models have that problem as well!