Tips, Tricks & Trends

Drift Mode Is a Pointless Hot Hatch Feature We Actually Love

The recent unveiling of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R brought along the announcement of a unique new feature. The Golf R now features a new drift mode, which in theory, should allow its owners to do wonderful skids on the track. The VW isn’t even the only hot hatchback to offer it. So far, only three hot hatches offer the track-only driving mode, and surprisingly, it works almost the same in each model.

What exactly is Drift Mode?

When you think of drifting, the first thought that pops in your head is most certainly not a hot hatch. To convey just how epic drifting hot hatches can be, take a look at the video embedded below of a Mercedes-AMG in action at the track.

The best thing about drift mode is that it isn’t even some half baked system. It truly does allow hot hatches to drift. Like most new car features, drift mode is controlled largely by computers. While most hot hatchbacks offer front-wheel drive, the fastest ones offer an all-wheel drive. Despite offering all-wheel drive, these systems rarely distribute power evenly between the front and rear axles. Instead, the onboard computer measures the grip available at each wheel to determine how much power is needed.

Drift mode essentially takes advantage of this system and sends most of the available power to the rear wheels. While it doesn’t ultimately make your hot hatch rear-wheel drive, it is enough of a difference to break the rear tires loose. Add on to that a fully disabled traction control system, and you’ve got a hatchback that’s willing to play around a bit on track. It is important to note that these systems are designed to be exclusively used on a track. We wouldn’t want you slamming your new Mercedes-AMG into a concrete wall.

Which hot hatches offer drift mode?

Currently, just three hot hatchbacks offer drift mode, and one of them isn’t even available in the U.S. The first hot hatch to offer a drift mode was the Ford Focus RS. Under the hood of the Focus RS lives a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 350 hp. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive came standard. The RS had a starting price of just over $40,000. Sadly the Focus RS debuted for the 2017 model year and subsequently went out of production in 2018. So if your dreams include drifting a Focus, you’ll have to buy a used one.

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Next up is the forbidden fruit that is the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+. Introduced in 2018, the A 45 S produces a mindboggling 416-hp from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Like the Focus, all-wheel drive comes standard, although the only transmission available is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Unfortunately, this hot hatch is not sold in the U.S.

If you want a brand-new drift mode enabled hot hatch, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is your only choice. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the Golf R pumps out 315 hp. Unlike the other two, the Golf R will actually give you a choice between a dual-clutch automatic or a six-speed manual. Additionally, the Golf R is one of VW’s regular production models and won’t be canceled shortly after its release. VW has yet to release official pricing for the all-new Golf R.

Who asked for this pointless feature?

A photo of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R in a studio.
Golf R | Volkswagen

Drift mode is one of those pointless features that we can’t help but love. It’s a big win for enthusiasts when carmakers take risks and go out of their way to add fun features, even if they aren’t practical. Drift mode’s track-only nature means that responsible drivers won’t experience its benefits on the road. However, that doesn’t stop it from being hilariously fun. For that one moment you find yourself on a track with enough space to drift, you’ll be infinitely glad it exists.