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25526To date, articles on drifting have been the domain of "tuner" car magazines, with <A HREF="">the January 2008 Sport Compact Car magazine cover story prominently featuring the Discount Tire/Falken Tires Lexus IS 350 drift car</A> being a prime example. Now, however, drifting has reached a measure of mainstream respectability (or <A HREF="">jumped the shark</A>, depending on your perspective) when Road & Track magazine, arguably the most "serious" and old-school of the "big 4" general interest car magazines features a Sultans of Slide comparison test as its January 2010 issue cover story, written by Sam Mitani, with photography by Brian Blades, Guy Spangenberg and Bert Swift.

In typical Road & Track fashion, this is a very thorough and informative comparison, and their attention to detail is evident in their two guest testers: Rhys Millen, son of Rod, nephew of Steve and himself a former Formula D champ and the winner of last year’s Red Bull Drifting World Championships; and Dai Yoshihara, one of the most popular drivers in Formula D. Notably, each has some connection to Lexus. Millen's include the use of his namesake front lip spoiler and side skirts in <A HREF="">the Lexus IS 430 Project Vehicle</A> built by his dad, as well as participating in <A HREF="">SPEED TV's Lexus IS F Test Drive telecast</A>; while Yoshihara drove the aforementioned <A HREF="">Discount Tire/Falken Tires Lexus IS 350 drift car during the 2009 Formula DRIFT season (the series' sixth)</A>. Also exemplary of Road & Track's thoroughness, all cars were tested with <A HREF="">Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08</A> tires, thus eliminating that variable from the test.

With the preeminent drift cars, the AE86 Toyota Corolla and Nissan Silvia long out of production, what current new production vehicles would Road & Track invite to play and compete? In alphabetical order, the seven-car comparison test consisted of the BMW M3, Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, Ford Mustang GT with Track Pack, Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8, Lexus IS F, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Nissan Nismo 370Z. In this group, the Lexus IS F (a 2009 model lacking the 2010's Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential) stood out as the only 4-door sedan and, most of all, as the only car with an automatic transmission. "So how does one slide a front-engine/rear-drive car with an automatic transmission and no handbrake?", asked author Sam Mitani. “Just flick it,” replied Rhys Millen.

25527“With the IS F", Millen explained, "we needed to resort to what we in the drift industry call a feint initiation, or in good old terms, the Scandinavian Flick. The downside of this is that you start your slide a little slower than if you were using a handbrake or clutch kick. But the IS F has enough power to make up for any loss in speed. As soon as you turn the car in, it responds immediately. The chassis is set up really well and is very predictable. The IS F feels really good through the Manji, as it was fast and responsive through left/right transitions. It’s too bad there’s no handbrake here, or it would be even more controllable at the limit. One complaint was that instead of a rev limiter, the engine has a fuel cutoff at redline, so once you get going, it goes into a safety mode, cutting power when you need it.”

No, the Scandinavian Flick isn't some obscure sexual trick guaranteed to drive you wild, but one of several <A HREF="">drifting techniques</A> described in the article. As to the Manji comment, it is a reference to a section of the <A HREF="">Streets of Willow racetrack</A> (the drift test locale) past the Skidpad that starts with a tricky right-hander that leads into a relatively long and straight section. (The <A HREF="">Track Map</A> page of the article makes it all clearer).

25528Author Mitani, in <A HREF="">the article's Lexus IS F page</A> explains that "Our data revealed that the IS F got sideways with the best of them, averaging a drift angle of 37.0 degrees through the two sections, third best of the group. But because our 3825-lb. test car had some understeer at turn-in, possibly the result of having 54 percent of its weight over the front tires, its average speed through the drifts was compromised. But at the end of the day, the IS F was one of the most dramatic cars to drift, its well-tuned independent suspension giving our drivers excellent feedback". And how did the IS F do compared to its rivals in this comparison test? Its one notable ace-in-the-hole is a best-in-test maximum inside steering angle of 37.1 degrees and maximum outside steering angle of 34.3 degrees, as illustrated in the <A HREF="">Testing Methods</A> page. The <A HREF="">Final Results</A>, however, give it a solid mid-pack finish.

For those curious to read and see more, the Road & Track magazine website features the <A HREF="">full article</A>, photos (some of which appear here) and not <A HREF="">one</A>, but <A HREF="">two</A> videos.


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