• Hot hatches like the Ford Focus RS and Mercedes-AMG A45 S have a 'Drift' feature.
• Drifting is more common with rear-wheel-driven cars.
• Most hot hatches channel power exclusively to the front wheels.
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Have you ever heard of a hatchback coming out of the factory and having the ability to drift? The times have changed so much that automakers have enabled hot hatches to slide into a turn like their rear-wheeled counterparts.
Taking a trip back in time, the art of drifting has been around for decades, with its roots stemming from Japan, boasting the iconic winding Touge roads and lush natural backdrops.
The vast majority of models available today channels power exclusively to the front wheels, making it near impossible for the rear end to 'light up.
Hot hatch going sideways
For any car to be able to drift, it must be rear-wheel driven and make a decent amount of power. Locally, the E30 BMW, Toyota Corolla Sprinter, and Nissan 200SX featuring performance upgrades or fitted with a bigger engine serve as the preferred options.
Do you think having a 'Drift' mode in a hatchback is a useless function? Email us, or share your thoughts in the comments section below.
In layman's terms, drifting is when the tyres of a rear-wheel driven car loses traction when the driver enters a turn by either lifting up the handbrake or kicking the clutch with the accelerator depressed.
Perhaps automotive engineers wanted to pack a hot hatch with as many features as possible, or they simply had a natural penchant for the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift movie, prompting their decision to add sideways capability to a chassis where its best characteristic is going fast in a straight line.
Ford started the trend by introducing its high-performance Focus RS in 2015, other examples are the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, and the McLaren P14.
The most recent new models with drift mode include Audi's brand-new RS 3, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S, and Volkswagen's Golf 8 R could all shred the rear tyres at will even though they have all-wheel-drive systems.
The primary purpose of having all four wheels spin simultaneously is to eliminate wheelspin and maintain traction from a standing start or following through in a chicane. Realistically, very few people would buy a high-performance hatchback to go drifting in - no matter the viewpoint, it just doesn't make logical sense.
With that being said, when put in their 'natural habitat, those three cars make monstrous power and are devastatingly quick in a straight line - with the A45 S being the cream of the crop with 310kW.
Using the A45 as a base, the active, fully-variable 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive distributes the power to the rear axle wheel-selectively by AMG Torque Control that enables Drift mode. This is made possible by a new rear axle differential featuring two multidisc clutches – one for each rear wheel.
Drifting is possible
According to Motor Biscuit, Drift mode essentially takes advantage of the onboard computer and sends most of the available power to the rear wheels. While it doesn't ultimately make the hatch rear-wheel drive, it is enough of a difference to break the rear tyres loose.
While the idea of owning a hatchback that can drift might sound fun on paper, it is a feature that will most likely only ever be used once or twice - maybe even never - just to experience such a 'phenomenon'.
The same could well be said for cars with overboost functionality that allows for a high, albeit temporary, increase in power. It is not a function that will or can be used during everyday driving.
Drifting has and always will be a trend closely associated with rear-wheel-drive cars. Most drift cars are built from scratch to eliminate any sort of interference with traction assistance systems and allow free reign of tuning.