With its turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4 and dual-clutch, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, the Ford Focus RS was always going to be among the rowdiest of hot hatches. But its most raucous feature, the controversial drift mode, came together mostly by accident.
Australia's Motoring spoke with Ford Performance vehicle and engineering manager Tyrone Johnson, who recounted the birth of drift mode. According to Johnson, the rear-biased stability control condition was discovered when two of the lead dynamics engineers began tweaking the all-wheel drive settings on a test run.
"And they are talking and he says, 'Oh, let me try this out' and he tries it and he says, 'Oh, that's cool. Can you give me more of that?' And he gives him more and he says, 'Oh, that's really cool.'"
Johnson says there was no premeditated plan to develop drift mode it just sort of came together by chance.
"I guess it's just because we are a bunch of crazy guys," Johnson explains. "We just do things."
But even after the engineers developed this cool drifting party trick, there was no plan to make the programing available to the public. That wasn't on the table until drift mode was demonstrated for global technical and development chief Raj Nair.
"it was actually Raj who said we have got to market this, this is a cool feature. We need to make this a prominent part of the program, as opposed to a side note," recalls Johnson.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Drift mode has been a big deal in Australia, where safety advocates are calling to ban sales of the Focus RS in that country until the feature is disabled. Ford does specifically warn that the mode is only intended for use on a closed course, but Harold Scruby of the Pedestrian Council of Australia says that's "not going to stop an idiot from trying this on public roads." That has proven true in Germany, where an owner was recently filmed trying it out on the street and almost crashing into another car.
So even though drift mode probably keeps Ford's corporate lawyers up at night, we're glad this happy accident made it all the way to production. Keep tinkering, you crazy Ford engineers.