When they look back in years to come many driving enthusiast may see 2016 as a dark day with high reeving and emotional normally aspirated engines making way for muted and downsized turbo charged engines in the name of reduced emissions and increased fuel efficiency. The new 4 cylinder turbo charged Porsche 718 Boxster being a great case in point. It has been described by many motoring journalists as being a great sports car with an average engine and a disappointing soundtrack.
However, more alarming than a move to turbo charged engines is the rise of dynamic steering, which as the name suggests dynamically varies the steering rate as you drive. The car which has been on the receiving end of the most rhetoric over the past 12 months has been the Lamborghini Huracan. The reason being that this supercar combines the unpopular dynamic steering with a chassis that is dynamically set up for safety rather than fun.
As respected motoring journalist and current TopGear presenter Chris Harris put it in this now infamous “Lamborghinis Are The Perfect Cars For People Who Can’t Drive” article, the Huracan has built to be easy to drive for the Chinese market and Lamborghini is now the purveyor of cars that understeer.
A first glance the concept behind dynamic steering sounds reasonable. At slower speeds the steering is quicker to make manoeuvring in town and parking easier. Then at higher speeds the steering becomes slower making the car more stable for example when changing lanes on the motorway.
Dynamic steering works by taking multiple sensor readings e.g. speed, gear, revs, throttle position, driving mode many times per second and using this data determines the steering ratio that would be most appropriate for the given input. For example in the Lamborghini Huracan the steering ratio can be dynamically varied between 9:1 and 17:1.
The way in which dynamic steering works is technically very interesting in that it combing a ring gear with a flexible sleeve to achieve the variable ratio. If you are interested to learn more this official Audi video provides a great explanation of the technology:
If dynamic steering has the benefits as explained previously and as illustrated in the official Audi video above, then why was it met with near universal disapproval by motoring journalists (e.g. Auto Express, Autocar, EVO and PistonHeads)when they drove the new Lamborghini Huracan?
Well it is actually very simple. If as a driver you cannot predict the amount of steering that you will get for a given input to the steering wheel, then you will not have confidence in positioning your car accurately on the road or track. And if you do not have confidence in the behaviour of your car, then you are not going to enjoy driving it very much.
The Lamborghini Huracan can currently be ordered with a traditional passive steering system (16.2:1 ratio), but not all new cars do. So how could you improve dynamic steering for driving enthusiasts while still retaining the current system for those drivers who like it?
Again, I think the solution is actually very simple and could probably be implemented as a software update without any mechanical changes actually being required to the car.
What I propose is to retain the existing dynamic steering system, but to add an additional mode where by the driver can choose the “fixed” steering ratio that they want between the upper and lower ranges of the dynamic steering system. Many cars have a personal profile where the driver can save their favourite settings for throttle response, suspension firmness and exhaust noise, so why not add steering ratio to the list.
The issue with Dynamic Steering fixed?