Ride on time

IN the olden days, ride quality used to be great on smooth roads.

Soft suspension, coupled with 70-profile tyres, meant it was like riding on space hopper. Rubbery absorption of all you don’t like.

Ride on timeGet the wheels encountering something more challenging, though – such as a rut, or a pothole, or a fag-end, and all holy hell would break loose. Your 1982 Ford Fiesta’s ride quality would show the finesse of stepping off a cliff. One minute it’s OK, the next, it’s having you check the suspension top mounts hadn’t blasted through the bonnet.

Slowly, cars became heavier. And people became less willing to see the side of their Fiestas sink to one side when they got in, because of the overtly-soft settings. Bottoming out when you had the shopping and the kids in the back wasn’t brilliant, either. With an increasing demand for less boast-like handling, so car suspension became stiffer.

For years, car makers puzzled with this. For a while, we had stiffer cars that were now pretty inept everywhere. There wasn’t even the comfort of a chance encounter with new tarmac to make you think it was any good. And, no sooner had they sorted it, when the next model became even heavier. Thus, so it went on.

Ride on time 2Now, though, we’re reaching a plateau. Cars aren’t getting any heavier. And suspension dynamics genii have worked out how to make cars pleasing. This means we require a new judgment of what makes ride quality good.

In a few days, I’ll be putting this to the test in a new Renault Clio. See, a while back, I tried the then-new Clio III, and left it with the nuggets of a theory in my head. With the Clio 2009, I’ve another chance to theorise on this, and compare it to both my mum’s rolly old Renault 5, and my quasi-rolly 1993 Clio.

I’ll keep you posted.

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