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Drift Mode for racetrack only: Mercedes-Benz

Drift King: The new Mercedes-AMG E63 S may feature an all-wheel drivetrain, but with its Drift Mode activated, it can send all 850Nm to the rear axle.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S follows Ford Focus RS to become second car to offer Drift Mode

19 May 2017

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific has rejected recent arguments that offering a “drift mode” in a new car is irresponsible after introducing a setting titled as such in its E63 S.

The German car-maker is now the second manufacturer to offer a setting called Drift Mode behind Ford and its Focus RS, which was embroiled in controversy last year after some media outlets tipped off local authorities to the technology – however the Mercedes-AMG system differs technically from that of the hot hatchback.

While the Focus RS changes its ESC and all-wheel drive distribution settings in order to assist a driver maintain a powerslide through a corner, the E63 S equivalent only disengages its front driveshaft – returning what is the first all-wheel-drive E63 S offered locally, back to its former rear-driven set-up – without 'assisting' the driver to slide the vehicle.

In Ford's case, local enforcement argued that offering a driver-select setting titled ‘drift’ was implicitly encouraging owners to engage in a dangerous on-road activity.

However, both Ford and now a Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific executives have argued that such a setting is tagged for racetrack usage only, given that owners of high-performance cars would likely use the vehicles in circuit conditions.

Speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the E63 S in the Yarra Valley this week, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said the inclusion of the mode simply switched the new flagship E-Class from all-wheel to rear-wheel drive – the drivetrain configuration of the outgoing model.

“Any performance car is capable of drift,” he started.

“To do it (engaging Drift Mode), it’s complex, it’s not something like pressing a button. It is designed for a racetrack. It makes the car rear-wheel drive.

The previous E63 you could do that. I don’t really see the difference. Reality is that Drift Mode is governed by the ESC (electronic stability control).”

The E63 S requires drivers to first engage Race mode as part of its driver-select system, switch the transmission to manual mode by using the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters, and then deactivate the ESC.

The previous-generation E63 S sent 800Nm of torque to the back wheels, whereas the new model can deliver up to 850Nm to the rear axle.

Mr McCarthy argued that personal responsibility to drive safely on public roads is critical with all vehicles, regardless of power or drive-select setting.

“If people use it (Drift Mode) on a public road, the laws regarding loss of traction still apply,” he continued.

“Whether you do it (drift) in an old E63 or you do it in this one, that’s up to you, but ... it’s not for use on the road. It’s for use on the track.”

Asked whether using the word ‘drift’ in a new-vehicle manufacturer-branded driver selectable setting was implicitly encouraging illegal or irresponsible on-road behaviour, Mr McCarthy replied: “Look, some might say that.”“I think the reality is people understand what it is and what it’s used for,” he added.

“We can’t control people’s behavior. That’s up to them. The law still applies.”

The reaction of local authorities and media to the inclusion of Drift Mode on the Focus RS made global headlines after Australia was deemed one of the only countries in the world to take issue with the development of such a setting.

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