Video: Does the Tesla Model S Electric Car Drift? Japanese Drifting Pro Shows Us it Can

When it comes to motorsports, Americans love drag racing. autocross and NASCAR, Europeans love the joys of rallying and circuit racing, and the Japanese love them all, with drifting to boot.

Can a Tesla Model S drift? You bet.

Can a Tesla Model S drift? You bet.

And while we’ve yet to see see a Tesla electric car take on a world rally course (although we’re sure it could) we’ve seen everyone from professional race car drivers to enthusiastic amateurs illustrate time and time again that the Tesla Model S electric sedan and Tesla Roadster have what it takes on the drag strip, the autocross circuit and even the race track.

Now, the Japanese (via GreenCarReports, MotorTrend),have proven that the Tesla Model S can prove a formidable drift car too.

Enter drifting legend Nobuteru Taniguchi, and a short video shot of him driving a Tesla Model S electric sedan at a recent drifting competition in Odaiba, Tokyo.

Watch a pro at work, and they’ll perform a ballet of finely tuned right foot accelerator, left foot clutch and opposite lock to produce seemingly neverending drifts that make fans go crazy

For those who are unfamiliar with the sport of drifting, it essentially revolves around intentionally putting the car into a controlled sideways skid while driving around a tarmaced course. The more sideways the car when it goes around a corner the better, with drivers judged on the line they take through each corner, the angle their car is at during the corner, the speed it is travelling at, and the ‘show’ factor — how much smoke the tires produce and how close the car is to the edges of the curve as they travel through it.

Traditional drifting cars have been light, sporty sedans or coupes with torquey small engines and rear-wheel drivetrains. To give the driver the most control over the rear wheels, vehicles are nearly always manual transmission cars with manual handbrakes.  Watch a pro at work, and they’ll initiate the drift with a flick of the wrist and a sharp pull on the handbrake to lock the rear wheels up, then perform a ballet of finely left foot clutch and opposite lock to produce seemingly neverending drifts that make fans go crazy.

Nobuteru Taniguchi  had no problem getting the luxury electric sedan to do the sideways shuffle.

Nobuteru Taniguchi had no problem getting the luxury electric sedan to do the sideways shuffle.

Thanks to their powerful electric motors — either single-motor rear-wheel drive or dual motor all-wheel drive — every single Tesla Model S on sale today has plenty of torque at the rear to be the ideal drifting car. But while there’s plenty of torque, Tesla’s excellent electronic stability control and traction control systems tend to ensure that the rear doesn’t break free all that easily. Add in the fact that most all-wheel drive cars — including the dual-motor variants of the Model S — aren’t all that easy to coax into a drift (only the very best drivers can accomplish a drift with an AWD car).

But find a rear-wheel drive Tesla model S and turn off its traction control system, and it appears from the video above that it will happily go sideways all day. That’s if you happen to be a champion drifter, of course.

To our unqualified eyes, the all-electric luxury sedan seems to do rather well

To our unqualified eyes, the all-electric luxury sedan seems to do rather well with professional drifter Taniguchi behind the wheel, travelling sideways for a good portion of the small drifting course and generating plenty of smoke from its squealing rear tires.

In an interview after taking to the track in the Tesla Model S however, Taniguchi said that the Model S wasn’t quite up to being a full-on drift car, since its steering angle wasn’t as large as it needs to be in order to properly compete.

As our friends at GCR note too, the lack of a manual handbrake probably also excludes the Model S from drifting competition. We’d add that the car’s automatic transmission would likely also cause a headache, since professional drifters use clutch slippage to ensure that a drifting car stays in a drift without overstressing the engine.

If you’re wondering if other electric cars might make a good candidate for drifting, you’re not alone. Both the BMW i3 and the Renault Twizy are rear-wheel drive cars that seem to tick the required boxes for drifting fun. While we’ve never tested the BMW i3 in a drift, we’ve had some sideways fun with the tiny Renault Twizy in a quiet parking lot before.

And as this video from AutoCar shows, we’re not alone, either.

 

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