Rally star Ken Block has given a bold vote of confidence for the upcoming Focus RS, declaring that it is more fun to drive than his Ford Fiesta rally car.
The American driver made the claim at the stand of the RS at the Geneva motor show on Tuesday. Block worked on the development of the keenly anticipated hot hatch, drawing on his experience in the World Rally Championship as well as his skilful driving exploits viewed by millions on YouTube.
Speaking with Drive, the 47-year-old spruiked the RS' intuitive all-wheel drive system, which includes a Drift mode designed specifically for rear-wheel drive oversteer.
"It's dramatically different to the race car. Because of the regulations of the series, we have to keep the all-wheel drive system very rudimentary – it's all mechanical whereas this system is much more electrical and programmable. It's a lot more fun actually," Block said.
"Our race cars are so agricultural in their sound, their build and the way they function. It's been fun working with Ford on the capabilities of how you're actually able to apply the power."
The 2016 Focus RS introduces new Drift mode technology to the Ford stable that will be offered alongside Normal or Track settings. The Drift function loosens the electric reins of the vehicle's stability control systems to effectively send up to 70 per cent of drive to the rear axle. It can also transfer drive to either the left or right wheels at the rear axle.
"The all-wheel drive system that they have in this car is quite good, and they're doing a lot of testing and development with it," Block said.
"Going out and being able to drive it quite aggressively and then give feedback to the engineers to make changes has been very cool.
"They've set some pretty high goals with the way it handles and the power of it. Until it's totally done I have no idea where it's going to end up as far as power and that type of stuff goes."
However, there's no assurance the Drift mode function will even make it to Australia.
In an interview with Car Magazine, the director of Ford's global performance division, Dave Pericak, indicated the function will be disengaged for the Australian market. Focus RS models will have the mode button located on the transmission tunnel near the gear lever.
"In Australia, for instance, they have hooligan laws on the road which means we will have to turn off Drift mode to stay legal," Pericak said. "It's a simple enough thing to do."
Despite its finessed all-wheel drive system, Block indicated there was one crucial element lacking with the Focus RS that impedes his hooning: power. The standard car will be fitted with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine producing "in excess of 235kW" – a lofty output, but one that is heavily down on Block's current drive.
"The power's definitely the dramatic difference [between this car and my race cars]," he said. "With the videos we use cars with a minimum of 550-600 horsepower (410-450kW) for what I do.
"This engine will eventually have the aftermarket parts to get it to that level but the engine is brand new and it's still in development.
"The programmability of the differentials is what's interesting with this car. Being able to get it to oversteer and to control the amount of oversteer, along with taking it to a track and really being able to grip with it, it's really nice."
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