Apparently ‘drift mode’ is a thing now

posted: March 8th, 2017 | by:
in: culture, news, tech

I’m all for any feature that allows me to bias power to the rear wheels of a car, especially if I can do it at the push of a button. (I’d rather just have a rear-wheel drive car, but when push comes to shove, all-wheel drive cars are awesome too, especially here in the Great Lakes State.)

I’d heard that the new Focus RS was going to come with ‘drift mode’, which is exciting! I just wish they’d named it something else.

While drifting has been around since before the questionable Tokyo Drift installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise was first shown on the big screen, it hasn’t really existed as a motorsport in the West until that movie brought it to our attention. Since then, though, drifting has grown quite quickly in popularity and has become much more present in car culture as a whole.

With its increased popularity, it’s not really a surprise that Ford decided to jump on the bandwagon and call its new feature ‘drift mode’. (I’m not going to discuss the fact that altering AWD power bias is nothing new, that’s a different article entirely.)

It’s one thing for Ford to take advantage of the popularity of drifting a feature on its race-inspired Focus RS. It seems, though, that ‘drift mode’ has become a trend within the automotive industry as a whole, being picked up by both Mercedes and McLaren.

I’m all for any technology that lets you take your daily driver and make it more fun (within reason and in an appropriate environment, of course), I’m not sure, however, about calling this feature ‘drift mode’. Yes, it directs a majority of power to the rear wheels. Yes, a driver could drift using this feature. But, it’s not necessarily only for drifting. It could easily be called ‘rear wheel drive mode’.

But its not.

Does calling it ‘drift mode’ really sell cars?

If you’re a man under 35 and love racing, it definitely doesn’t hurt. Young men are primarily responsible for pushing their cars to their limits and beyond and are also the target for the feature like ‘drift mode’. They’re also the key demographic for the drifting fanbase.

In the Focus RS, adding a feature like ‘drift mode’ takes an already fun sport-tuned consumer car and gives its owner another option for fun at the weekend track day. In cars like the Mercedes AMG or the McLaren, ‘drift mode’ seems like a marketing team’s kitschy afterthought. Mercedes makes a mature, refined car even when it comes in AMG trim. McLaren, well, they make cars that are meant to handle well at high speed on the track and that very few of us can afford.

From a marketing perspective, it makes sense for this feature to be called ‘drift mode’. But what happens when drifting is no longer the popular motorsport that it currently is? I have a feeling that ‘drift mode’ will eventually just become the ‘rear-wheel drive’ setting for the traction control system. All the same fun, without the gimmicks.

Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

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