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Your turn to drive like Ken Block: Ford Focus RS's new Drift mode

Published: 03 March 2015

► All about the Focus RS's Drift mode
► Torque vectoring enables huge slides
► Oversteer maestro Ken Block assists

The new 2016 Ford Focus RS has a tech secret up its sleeve: it has a Drift mode, letting it behave like a rear-wheel drive oversteer specialist. 

The third generation fast Focus is the first to adopt four-wheel drive, but the Blue Oval is keen to stress it's not a blunt handler with a surfeit of grip over grins.

And to prove the point, it's equipped the Focus RS with a Drift mode, which loosens the electronic shackles of the stability systems and the Ford Performance All-Wheel-Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring set-up. All the better to exploit the 316bhp quoted from the 2.3-litre turbo Ecoboost four-pot.

Serial oversteer merchant Ken Block was on hand in Geneva to prove the point, with some outrageously sideways video showing him behind the wheel of the Focus hot hatch, although he drove on to stage rather more gingerly. Swiss health and safety, and that. 'It's a lot of fun,' he told us.

See Block's best Gymkhana videos here.

How the Ford Focus RS's Drift mode works

Unlike cheaper Haldex-equipped systems, Ford uses complex four-wheel drive hardware developed by British specialist GKN, we can confirm. It can shuffle torque front to rear but also - crucially - from left to right at the rear axle.

It's this degree of control that enables the adjustability of the hot Ford, said Dave Pericak, director of Global Ford Performance in an interview with CAR at the Geneva motor show.

Drivers will be able to choose from Normal, Track and Drift settings (plus there's a Launch mode, too), each mode tweaking the electronic control unit accordingly. In extremis, 70% of torque can be sent to the back tyres.

Drift mode... doesn't sound very politically correct!

Indeed. Pericak told CAR that they would have to disable the system in some territories.

'In Australia, for instance, they have hooligan laws on the road which means we will have to turn off Drift mode to stay legal,' he said. 'It's a simple enough thing to do.'

Production Focus RS models will have a mode button on the transmission tunnel near the gearlever, although the prototypes in Geneva don't have the switch fitted. It's the latest tunable system on a Ford, after the Mustang's burn-out mode.

Ford hot hatch vs the competition

Pericak added that the VW Golf R was the closest rival hot hatch, but insisted the Ford 4wd system was superior. 'We won't go chasing Nurburgring laptimes in this car, although it will be very fast around the Nordschleife,' he promised. 'Instead, we want this car to be really rounded in every area, just like a Fiesta ST is.'

Ford is busy ramping up its sporting output, hence the new go-faster Ford Performance division. It is working on a dozen new products to be launched between now and 2020, including the Focus RS.

No word yet on whether a small Fiesta RS will join the line-up. Smaller margins make the business case for a baby fast Ford tough to stack up.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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