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Suspension / Ride Quality / Handling - Too firm or just right?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by cab, Sep 30, 2017.

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  1. cab

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    So I posted this over on TMC just after the reveal, but now that we see owners trickling in over here, I figured it might be worth re-posting here:

    History
    So I tend to be pretty obsessive when it comes to the ride quality and handling balance on cars. Years ago I felt this was practically a BMW trademark. Lots of cars handle well, but often beat you up in the process. BMW managed to master the balance (great handling with really good ride quality).

    With the advent of run-flat tires and the "all wheels must be gigantic" (compared to years past) syndrome, ride quality seems to have suffered. Indeed, BMW is a perfect example of this. They introduced run-flat tires on most of their cars several years ago (presumably to save weight on a spare and have better packaging) and ride quality went to pot (even handling took a hit). They seem to be recovering with each generation, but it has been a long haul and, in many ways, between this and electric power steering they still aren't back to where they were (IMO) in the glory days.

    Model S and X
    ANYWAY, in my test drives of the Model S, I felt the air suspension was a must have as it seemed to shave a very noticeable amount of harshness off of impacts, etc. It was a "must have" for me when I purchased (ironically, I ended up with a P85+ where air was the only option anyway). It isn't uncommon to hear other owners comment on the "firm" ride in their Ses and Xes here on TMC either (even with air on may cases).

    Model 3
    That brings me to the Model 3. When I saw the Model 3 would NOT have an air suspension option, I sort of cringed a little as I wondered if Tesla would "get the damping right" for the struts/shocks. (Note: Elon has since indicated air would be avaialble...perhaps paired with dual motors - even so, dampers play a more critical role that the springs themselves). While the reviews (really, little more than very short drives" are sparse, the Motor Trend review and video seems particularly telling. The written review notes the handling is, frankly, pretty d*mn good. They compare it to the Alfa Romeo Giulia and "maybe even Quadrafoglio" - the Alfa has gotten very good reviews for its handling so I consider this high praise. However, the Quadrafoglio is Alfa's version of a BMW M3, Audi RS4, Cadillac's ATS-V or Mercedes AMG C-Class and those cars can have a suspension that, while cool when "carving corners" gets old in day-to-day driving. In a recent comparison between the M3/ATS-V/AMG/Qudrafoglio we see a split. The Germans did NOT ride well, but the Caddy and Alfa did. In both cases, those cars came with adjustable dampers which usually have different modes (i.e. comfort/sport/etc) and are "active" (dynamically changing) in every mode. We don't get that in the case of the Model 3. We get ONE suspension tune. Indeed, in the Motor Trend video the FIRST thing Kym says to Hans when on the road is "First Impression? Ugh, I feel the road. Is this sort of a, um, sporty, firmer suspension?...So it's a sport oriented feel right off the bat". He goes on the further describe it as "nimble as heck", and comments on how there is a "nice bit of tremble through the steering" (giving good road feel).

    Anyway, it sounds like car enthusiasts will LOVE it...everyone else...hmmm.

    Excerpt from Car and Driver's Comparison of Cadillac ATS-V, BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG and Alfa Giulia Quadrafoglio (bolding is mine)
    With the exception of Porsche’s 911 and 718 Boxster/Cayman, there is no other 1.00-g chassis that rides as well as the Giulia’s. The electronic dampers provide transcendent wheel control and somehow round off bumps that would ring through the BMW and Mercedes. Even in the hardest of the three modes, the suspension remains civil in a way that eludes the German sedans.

    Excerpt from Motor Trend Review First Drive of Model 3 (bolding is mine)
    What’s blanching, though, is the car’s ride and handling. If anybody was expecting a typical boring electric sedan here, nope. The ride is Alfa Giulia (maybe even Quadrifoglio)–firm, and quickly, I’m carving Stunt Road like a Sochi Olympics giant slalomer, micrometering my swipes at the apexes. I glance at Franz—this OK? “Go for it,” he nods. The Model 3 is so unexpected scalpel-like, I’m sputtering for adjectives. The steering ratio is quick, the effort is light (for me), but there’s enough light tremble against your fingers to hear the cornering negotiations between Stunt Road and these 235/40R19 tires (Continental ProContact RX m+s’s). And to mention body roll is to have already said too much about it. Sure, that battery is low, way down under the floor. But unlike the aluminum Model S, the Tesla Model 3 is composed of steel, too, and this car’s glass ceiling can’t be helping the center of gravity’s height. Nearly-nil body roll? Magic, I’m telling you. Magic. And this is the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive starting point. The already boggled mind boggles further at the mention of Dual Motor and Ludicrous.
     
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    • MelindaV

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      I think it is something that is very subjective and will need to be judged by each individual for what they like/don’t like.
      What I think of as too soft and squishy, someone else may think is still harsh and rough.
       
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      • SoFlaModel3

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        I am hopeful they will have found the right blend, but my own personal preference would be stiffer (without being back breaking everyday) and I expect it to probably be software than my ultimate hope.

        I wish the car sat a pinch lower as well, but I’m unlikely to go aftermarket for suspension.

        My dad has a Model S 75 with the 21” turbines and standard suspension and I don’t think it’s too harsh.

        To @MelindaV ’s point this one will be very subjective.
         
      • MelindaV

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        Also would rather it be lower to the ground... as I found out looking into seat height with @Rick59, my current car’s driver seat is about 10” lower than the Model 3’s lowest setting (and my backup car sits another inch or two lower still!)
         
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        • cab

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          Agreed on the subjective nature of whether or not the car is too firm for some vs. others or handles better or worse. There are some aspects of both that do tend to be at least somewhat objective however. Impact harshness, as an example, can result in both shudders through the cabin (or not) and a loud noise at the moment of impact (or not). Things like lean in turns, and grip levels are also measurable.
          Since the average person won't be able to measure those things, their best point of reference will likely be previous cars so (fictitious example) comments like "it handles like my 2010 3 series with a sports suspension, but impacts result in less head toss from occupants" will be helpful for those of us trying to "place it". Test drives are immensely valuable of course, but it's hard to say when we'll be getting those (and short drives aren't always a great indicator).
           
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          • JWardell

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            I agree with your comments, and am very much hoping Tesla copied BMWs near-perfect suspension tuning, which firm is not exactly the right word for. It feels like you are on taught rubber bands connected to rails. Sporty, but you feel a bump in a runbbery way just once with no rebound. It just feels adhered to the road but still comfortable. It makes you feel like you can (and want) to push it harder, and puts big smiles on your face.
            BMW's steering used to also be the absolute best out there as well, but they killed that when replacing the hydraulic with electric. I don't have much hope for Tesla having much steering feel either. I'm not sure there is anything left that does.
             

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