Before the time of multiple drive modes, the first traction control systems installed into cars were about as bad as you’d imagine the first blankets worn by cavemen to be: rough around the edges and either way too hot or not warm enough. Many intervened far too early for any spirited driving and if that was the order, could only be shut off to allow for smoky drifts. Not so anymore. Every automaker from Ford to Mercedes now offers a drift mode in its high performance offerings.
Audi has been the notable exception to that rule, and as its head of development Stephan Reil has just told Motoring, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. In the past it was reported that RS-badged SUV models from Audi would get a drift mode, a rarity for large cars with high centers of gravity, but that was soon dispelled. With the new RS3 hitting the block and Audi’s competitors like BMW and Mercedes selling their souls for the sake of making oversteer easy on newbies, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone to see drift mode migrate to Audi. Instead, Motoring got as firm a no as they come. “No drift mode. Not in the R8, not in the RS 3, not in the RS 6, not in the RS 4,” said Reil. “I don’t like them. I do not see the reason for them.”
He added, “We do not see the sense in sitting there burning the back tires. It’s not fast.” This completely misses the point of drifting since the act of vehicular debauchery only serves to offer up smiles, but according to Reil, Audi’s reason for forgoing a drift mode goes deeper than that. “It’s much faster the way we do it, and drifting also does not really suit the architecture of our cars.” Reil could be referring to the fact that even Audi’s performance cars come with the signature quattro all-wheel drive system, which makes drifts much harder to pull off, but that’s no longer an excuse since the new Mercedes-AMG E63 S comes with all-wheel drive but allows the driver to send 100% of power to the rear wheels.
Reil didn’t cave when Motoring brought these points up, instead claiming, “You can do it yourself with the ESP off, if you hold it (the button) for three seconds. Then it will not intervene for you even when it (the car) is fully out of control, because that’s what you asked it not to do. You wanted the full control by pushing that button. You got it.” That’s an answer we can all live with since we can at least have the choice to abort the rear tires if so desired, but Reil’s attitude on the matter harkens back to an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson asked an engineer why it wasn’t possible to turn of the traction control, to which the man replied, “why would you want to do that?” Don’t keep your face in your palm for too long.