Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where are all the suspension engineers?

If you follow me at all you know I have a big problem with ultra low profile tires, or rather the harsh ride they provide. But really the problem is stiff suspensions with stiff tires. Two recent cars I've driven drove home the problem.

The first was the new Buick Cascada, a small four-seat convertible. If you're of a certain age (as I am) the name Buick conjures up a soft, almost sickeningly soft, right. A boulevard ride. Something meant for cruising in style or soaking up the miles on the Interstate. The Cascada throws that ride away. Twenty inch wheels and tires and a suspension meant for a race car just don't work in my opinion. The ride was harsh; harsh on the order of the Princess and the Pea if you remember that story. I not only felt each bump but every single pebble was like getting whacked in the ass with a 2x4.

The next car was a VW CC R. It had a much more supple ride. The tires acted like they were over-inflated and they transmitted a fair amount of noise but not the harsh ride.

Both cars seemed to have a very stiff platform. There was about zero cowl shake in the Cascada. So what was the difference? On the CC the engineers designed the suspension to do what it is supposed to do - absorb a good portion of the road irregularities without being sloppy. The tires with their stiff sidewalls kept the tire tread on the road and the suspension, the springs and shocks, kept the road from kicking the bejesus out of me. I'm no doctor but I'm willing to bet the constant pounding doesn't do your spine any good.

I'm really getting tired of every car out there being designed to get the absolute best out of a skidpad or race track. The roads I drive on, and I'm in sunny California, are often falling apart. I know the roads back east, and this includes the roads in and around Detroit, are worse. Getting beat up by the road every time you drive somewhere is tiring. It is abuse. It has to stop.

I think suspension engineers have been led astray by the buff books. Or maybe they've gotten lazy. Not every car is a race car and not every driver is a wanna be race driver. Even performance cars suffer from the "if some stiffness is good too much is better."

Stop building every car as if it's only going to be drive on a glass-smooth race track. A car like the Cascada deserves a comfortable ride. I deserve a comfortable ride. No one needs to have their teeth rattled on the way to work. See that big pothole up there? Work on making the suspension at least take the rough edges off it.

Please?

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