The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 September 2005

Changing the laws of physics

Mr Scott, of course, would tell you you canna do that, Captain, but nowhere does it say in the manual that you can't avoid facing them head on.

Your serious drivers eschew front-wheel drive: with two-thirds or so of their weight up front, fwd cars understeer at the limit and often well short of the limit, and sending your power through the same wheels you steer means that sooner or later you're going to put your foot in it and head off into the weeds. This latter phenomenon is called torque steer, and the only reason I don't often experience it in my fwd car is because it doesn't have enough power to force the issue. (Believe me, I've tried.)

Building a fwd performance sedan, therefore, requires some serious rethinking of those laws. The brain trust at Pontiac thought it over, and reasoned: "If we want to improve traction on a rear-driver, we'd put bigger tires on the back. What if ...."

And apparently no one thought of this before. The new Grand Prix GXP has fat 225/50-18 tires in back — and fatter 255/45-18 tires in front. Wouldn't this bigger contact patch make torque steer worse? Apparently the controlling factor is the stiffness of the sidewall. (Tire pressures are the same 30 psi front and rear.)

Car and Driver has a full road test in the October issue. Between this and the new Solstice roadster, the We Build Excitement guys might actually be building some excitement these days.

Posted at 7:59 PM to Driver's Seat


How about this though ...

0 to 60 in under 4 seconds.
50 mpg biodiesel engine - but sort of hybrid.
Oh yeah, built by 6 high school kids in Philly.

A Hybrid Supercar - The Kids Are Alright.

Posted by: Mel at 8:30 PM on 8 September 2005

I thought I was the only one allowed to put bad links in my comment box.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:54 PM on 8 September 2005

I hope so. I rented a Grand Prix last November to go see my brother in NM.

Its console looked like someone from the 50s designed a "car of the future." It included, I kid you not, the Spiderman font face.

Posted by: Dan at 11:56 PM on 8 September 2005

Interesting. My wife and I both had front-wheel-drive cars when we lived in Fairbanks, and I was able to coax some pretty good get-up-and-go from the four cylinders in my '93 Escort.

Of course, I only did that on roads that were dry and clear, which was surprisingly often even in winter. When the studded tires were actually needed, it really wasn't possible to apply a whole lot of power to moving the car -- only to melting the ice under the front wheels. And at 40 below you actually want the ice under your front wheels to stay frozen until you get off of it.

Never experienced that torque steer thing, even when jetting off the dime from a stop sign onto a busy four-lane. [shrug]

Posted by: McGehee at 8:44 AM on 9 September 2005

I have :( "It's just a jump to the left", literally.

Posted by: ms7168 at 10:09 AM on 9 September 2005