Focus RS: Where there’s smoke, there’s ire

NZ’s safety zealots have yet to flame up as Australian counterparts have in respect to the Focus RS’s cool drift mode.


POTENTIAL that Australian prudishness that denied Kiwis a special Mustang pleasure might yet stop local market play with another Ford fun device, the drift mode on the just-landed Focus RS, is being played carefully by Ford New Zealand.

The super-grunty king of the hot hatches, which has just on sale here for $85,000, has for the past few days been copping negative attention across the Tasman from safety advocates.

Ford New Zealand was today cautious in comment about the beat-up across the Tasman that has triggered police and some pressure groups to demand the model’s ‘Drift Mode’, a software feature that allows the all-wheel-drive model to undertake professional-style four-wheel skids, be disabled.

Cameron Thomas, marketing manager for the Auckland-centred distributor, said there has not been any negative feedback about the function from officials or safety organisations here.

Asked if any fallout was expected, and whether Ford NZ has a response strategy in place, he said: “We have not received this feedback but cannot comment on future scenarios.”

The lobbyists damning ‘Drift Mode’ also crowed success last year when Ford Australia decided that the redesigned Mustang GT would have to do without the Line Lock ‘Burnout Mode’ it takes in America because intentional burnouts are illegal across the Tasman.

That decision was also bad news in New Zealand; because Australia and this country take common specification cars, the Mustang also sells in gelded form here.

Ford NZ at the time said it did want to test our own regulations regarding intentional loss of traction.

However, it is thought that left-hand-drive versions of the latest GT Mustang – including the especially ferocious Shelby GT editions - have arrived with Line Lock intact, being privately shipped US market cars.

Thomas has confirmed NZ and Australia take Focus RS in common specification.

When asked if it was possible that, if the mode were to be disabled for our neighbour, it would also become non-functional for NZ-market cars, he said: “We cannot comment on hypotheticals.”

Australia now has some of the world’s strongest regulations against hooning on public roads and safety advocates there have gained plenty of traction with their argument that drivers could use Drift Mode on public roads.

So far Ford Australia has been resistant to changing the car. The brand cites that there is a disclaimer on the dashboard that clearly states the Drift and a precursor Track performance setting are for circuit use only.

This was also reinforced by Thomas. “Drift Mode is a track feature which is not recommended for road use.”

Ford Australia is clearly uncomfortable being the target of claims that a setting it enabled to give pleasure to enthusiasts is being cited as one that might allow unskilled drivers to “drive like a hooligan” on public roads.

The media pressure ramped up with one television station produced a video to claim that drift mode is dangerous.

Line Lock came in for an equally hard time: It was included on Mustang to appeal to North America’s V8 Mustang owners who like to use their cars in club-level drag racing. The lock allows for the rear, driving tyres, to heat up and thus gain additional traction at launch.

Thomas says Ford NZ has not experienced any feedback about Line Lock not being functional here. He also said his office had not considered it necessary to explain to buyers why the function was disabled.  

Under Australia's strict laws, anyone doing a burnout in a vehicle can have their car confiscated by the police. The same goes for drifting.

Motoring media outside of Australia have mainly decried the hoo-haa across the Tasman.