2016 Ford Focus RS

Safety experts in Australia are up in arms over the Ford Focus RS’ Drift Mode, a drive mode which allows drivers to initiate and hold a sustained drift with help from the vehicle’s electronic stability controls.

According to a statement by Ford, Drift Mode is intended for track use only and a disclaimer will appear on the instrument cluster when changing modes, and that typical Ford Focus RS customers “will understand the need to deploy these features under controlled and safe conditions such as during a track day.”

Road safety campaigner Harold Scruby said he is “absolutely stunned” the technology was approved for use in Australia. “A disclaimer is not going to stop an idiot from trying this on public roads,” said Scruby, the head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia. “We urge Ford to reconsider its decision, recall these vehicles and disable this driving mode,” he added.

Ford Australia was required to disable the Line Lock feature in its Mustangs due to strict anti-hooning laws in the country, and the furore surrounding Drift Mode functionality in the Focus RS makes the hatchback the next Ford model to come under fire for features that have attracted negative press in Australia.

“Any sustained loss of traction on public roads is illegal,” said Jack Haley, senior policy manager at Australia’s National Roads and Motorists’ Association. More from outside the motoring industry have chimed in: “they’re obviously marketing the car to young people who are interested in that type of driving. The problem is most people don’t have access to a race track. Without a race track it’s inherently dangerous,” says former president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Brian Owler.

Australian motoring website Car Advice offers a counterpoint: “closely following Scruby, Owler had the most stupid comment of all three, suggesting that Ford is only marketing the Focus RS to young people and that buyers of this car don’t have access to race tracks, ever,” says Paul Maric, senior road tester at Car Advice.

“They are suggesting that each person that buys this car will switch on drift mode each time they head to the shops, or while they pass through a school zone. You know, much the same way that anybody that uses a steak knife is likely to knife people at random, or how drivers with SUVs aim to run everybody down.

“Why else would you use a steak knife, or drive an SUV? The same nonsense reasoning is being applied to the Focus RS, which was built by Ford to use as a daily driver during weekdays and as a track car on weekends,” Maric continues.

“The other thing conveniently neglected in all (local Australian) coverage of this feature is the fact that almost any car that sends torque to rear wheels in some form is likely to be able to drift. By disabling stability or traction controls and standing on the throttle mid-corner, you can just as easily drift,” he adds.