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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If you are not comfortable with franchised dealers or don't have the time to shop and compare several brands, my service is tailored for you! I help busy people buy new cars by offering expert advice and access to a network of top dealers for all brands. It's like having a friendly salesman for every brand in one person.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why don’t we care about driving dynamics?

Ever since I became a car fanatic in the mid-seventies, the most important thing for me about any given car was its performance. Car performance for most people means acceleration and top speed, but for true enthusiasts, car fanatics and other smart people performance means over-all driving dynamics. Handling, road holding, braking, driving position, visibility, instrumentation, power and other characteristics make up the driving dynamics of the car. One of the most important elements is the feedback the driver gets from the car, which is crucial to vehicle control, because it gives the driver the information as to where the car is in its stability envelope. This allows you to “feel” how stable the car is, and how close you are to loosing control. Good cars give the driver plenty of warning via the feel of the seat, steering wheel and the brakes, before you actually loose control.

After coming to Canada in 1982 I was first surprised and later truly amazed how little interest average drivers have in the driving dynamics of their cars. For most people styling, reliability and passive safety are the things they look for first when choosing a car, once they establish their price point and segment.

The mass media hardly pay any attention to this subject and it seems that the motoring public is divided into two groups: a small group of knowledgeable enthusiasts and the rest of the drivers, who daily use a complicated machine without knowing its limitations.
It seems surprising to me that an average driver doesn’t care about the difference between a brake system that’s easy to modulate and has a positive feedback, and a system that works like an off-and-on switch. The same with steering systems; in most cars it’s difficult to judge the grip at the front wheels and it’s hard to steer the car in a turn without constant corrections. Suspension systems in mainstream cars are next. Most are tuned for comfort and poorly control the car’s body motions, grip and give the driver little feedback.

Why we Canadians pay so little attention to all this is puzzling to me, because of the conditions we face daily when millions of us sit behind the wheels of our commuter cars. Our average driving speeds are very low, because it was beaten into us with police batons, that lower speeds are safer. Despite these lower speeds we still face terrible weather conditions and drivers that break every rule in the book (including following too close - the worst possible thing you can do on a rain soaked expressway), who are ignored by the cops. Speed traps and “running” somebody’s plates for expired stickers are the things the police seem to be focusing on. Drivers are inattentive, selfish and lack discipline and courtesy in traffic. It seems to me, that under these conditions, a choice of a car with good driving dynamics would be a wise one.

Fast, aggressive driving (considered a total no-no in North America) and unlimited speeds on some sections of the German Autobahns, resulted in very advanced driving dynamics and active safety systems in European cars. The Germans practically showed the rest of the world how to build cars designed for drivers. Their automotive press subjects cars to tests hardly seen anywhere else: resistance to cross winds, headlight performance, windshield coverage of the wipers and speedometer accuracy, just to give a couple of examples.

Advanced driving dynamics directly affect the safe operation of a motor vehicle. A well engineered car is stable and easy to control in emergency situations. It makes for easier, smoother driving and less nervous driver, who can respond better to the situation on the road. Just another aspect of vehicle purchase I can help you with.

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