Musings on Corner Carving and Car Configuration

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by mcglsr2, Apr 4, 2016.

  1. mcglsr2

    mcglsr2 Well-Known Member SN95 Supporter

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    So recently, for reasons I will not go into here, I had an opportunity to drive a 99 Saturn SL2. That, in and of itself, is not particularly special. However, I did notice something I consider interesting.

    My daily work commute (in Mexico) comprises of two good-sized sweeping on/off ramps, one going in each direction (though not the same ones). My daily driver is a 2011 STI, so this adds a bit of fun for my commute on those days I am lucky enough to have some open road in front of me. While I am not pushing the car to it's limits as that would be unsafe, I am certainly pushing the car.

    And then the Saturn. Because I drove it for a couple days on my work commute, I got to throw the Saturn against those very same sweepers. And discovered something interesting - the Saturn could handle the corners at practically the same speed as the STI. Huh. Don't misunderstand me, I am not taking these corners at 30 mph. More like 85 mph (in Mexico). The other cars are going like maybe 45 mph. Hmm.

    So I did some thinking about this on the drive in/home.

    I am of the opinion, that on the street, for a given speed limit, it really doesn't matter what car you drive with regard to cornering performance. Kia, STI, Saturn, Mustang, all the same - practically speaking. I am not referring to a big truck or minivan here, but for cars that are similar size/shape. At a steady-state speed, purely corning, at say 85 mph the STI and Saturn are on par.

    Okay, Seriously?

    Now, obviously a STI and Saturn are not on par, and the differences show up pretty quickly outside of that steady-state corning. The STI will be able to accelerate much quicker out of the corner, probably out-brake the Saturn into the corner, etc. etc. But on the street, where people are not pushing cars to the limit because it is illegal and/or they do not feel safe doing so, one might get surprised. In other words, that BRZ/FRS driver with their vaunted "handling" might get surprised on that off-ramp by an eager/capable driver in a POS Saturn. The BRZ/FRS driver watches the rear-view to see <insert "crap" car> fall behind in that corner...except that it doesn't. It stays with them. Hmm.

    On a track, everything I said goes out the window. The BRZ/FRS is a lot faster than a Saturn. But the street isn't a track.

    In Other Words

    The only thing that really matters, on the street, with regard to "performance" - is acceleration. The drags, baby. Nothing else will set your car apart, performance-wise, better than pure unadulterated acceleration. Because most of the other things that matter, braking distance, brake fade, cornering capability, are never really tested in street conditions. Unless one is doing something totally stupid, one will not likely get the opportunity to out-corner or out-break another car. So to buy that BRZ/FRS/Honda S2000/Miata solely because of it's handling capabilities and then NOT take it on a track is pointless. You would have been better off buying a Mustang (as a for-example). You will repeatedly get raped in stop-light pulls and never get the opportunity to redeem yourself. You won't be able to out-corner them at the first hairpin despite loosing the start - because you are on a street. You will stop at the next light....and then get raped again. By a Kia.

    I am NOT saying these are terrible cars. The opposite actually. Nor am I saying the only reason to buy them is the handling, as there is a certain feeling one gets from driving those cars rather then, say a Saturn. In fact they are quite good cars. And they really shine on the track. If you are someone that does not mind losing the stop-light drags, then you will thoroughly enjoy these cars. But if it does bother you, and your car has never seen a track...you bought the wrong car. You will find yourself soon looking for a FI solution because you will get tired of yelling "but my car handles better!" as the Kia pulls lengths on you.

    So if you are looking for a car, or want to make mods to your car, want something with good performance, that "acts" like a performance car, that can beat your friends' cars, all on the street and only the street - then forego everything else and focus completely on the motor (and weight, as a function of weight/power ratio). Brakes don't matter. Handling don't matter. Chassis stiffening don't matter (excepting what is needed to put the power down). "Go" is what matters. And if you stop to think about it, I essentially just described every Muscle car from the 60's & 70's. And look how much of a hit they were.

    If you want a track car, ignore everything I have said here.

    (Bonus Side Note: the 99 Saturn SC2/SL2 is actually a great little car. Its body panels are plastic, which means it weighs like 2400 lbs. That's fantastic. It also has 4-wheel independent suspension. The motor is rev happy, but under-powered. A built motor or low-to-mid boost FI option and this car would butthurt not a small number of people. It would have made a much better candidate for the Unlikely Racecar Series than that stupid Sonata did on the Budget Racers Youtube channel - ugh.)
     
  2. 96blak54

    96blak54 Legend

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    Nice read. No saturn for me
     
  3. g36 monkey

    g36 monkey Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    lol you funny
     
  4. white95

    white95 Apex Junky Admin

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    "Driving a slow car fast beats driving a fast car slow" - white95
     
  5. mcglsr2

    mcglsr2 Well-Known Member SN95 Supporter

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    lol funny in a ha-ha kind of way or funny in a limp-wrist-fanny-pack-wearing kind of way? ;)
     
  6. Thomas_W

    Thomas_W Well-Known Member

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    Good points. I used to do alot of mountain runs with some other mustang buddies in my younger years. My car was a bolt on 97GT with 4.10's and the normal stuff. One buddy had a stage 2 Roush. He would always leave me in the twisties, but i would always be right on his bumper during the straights, the acceleration of the 4.10's was much better than whatever he had.

    Man those were some fun times
     
  7. JerZeyStangz

    JerZeyStangz Well-Known Member

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    Good points. 9/10 times cars are not pushed to their limits on the street, but majority of enthusiasts like knowing that they have one of best handling, or best accelerating cars in their possession. This is why its good to exercise the limits of cars by going to the track, or doing events. This is one of my downfalls, not actually putting the car through its paces and just modding. I am going to get involved in more track events for hoonage and fun.
     
  8. RichV

    RichV Well-Known Member

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    Isn't that what everyone already does?

    There aren't many that can drive a car to it's limits, or will even attempt to. Even for experienced track drivers, it takes a lot of seat time to learn a specific car and maximize on it's abilities and inabilities.

    A couple of years ago I had a student with a new 330xi, he put some sticky tires on it, and I was his instructor for the full day. He had some issues with some of the turns so I'll take a student out as my passenger as a learning tool. So I took him out in a stock 04 GT, 5sp, fully loaded (heavy). I was probably going 6-7/10, talking to him about braking zones, turn in, where to be on the throttle, using the track, etc. We came back and he was absolutely blown away that this old American POS could eat him alive on the track, the look on his face was priceless when I told him it was all stock. It was obviously the driver, but I know how to push that Mustang and drive it around the course. Now if you asked me how the 04 did after that session, I could have told you exactly where it needs modifications and where it falls short on braking, acceleration, alignment, front suspension, rear suspension, and weight.

    But unless you can learn this type of driving, you're absolutely right, you will never max out the suspension, brakes, or chassis. You could leave all those 100% stock and be none the wiser.
     
  9. g36 monkey

    g36 monkey Moderator Staff SN95 Supporter

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    That's so great lol. I remember doing quite well at my first autox up against several vehicles that should have left me in the dust