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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

    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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  2. 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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  3. 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.
     
  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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.
     
  7. scaots

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    If it is designed for autonomy and thus rider comfort, then I don't see them making it too stiff or harsh.
     
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  8. arnis

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    We have seen Model 3 on upgraded wheels. Video material of occupants showed it was not comfort-type suspension.
    It doesn't matter if vehicle behaves "solidly" on silky smooth roads. It's about average roads, speed bumps, gravel etc.
    Though BMW 3-series is slightly less comfy compared to 5-series (less mass), on 17-18" it's still way above average comfy.

    Also, some studies show that average US driver prefers more mushy suspension compared to average EU driver.
    And many manufacturers even have different suspension settings for different markets (US Leaf is softer than EU).
    Why Tesla's are way stiffer than even EU driver prefers, that's a mystery.
     
  9. MelindaV

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    you are basing this on seeing shaky hand held videos?
     
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  10. arnis

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    MotorTrend first drive video. Franz even verifies that M3 doesn't have comfort oriented suspension. And as I said, we can see it.
     
  11. arnis

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    Ultra fast crash course of vehicle damper settings:
    [​IMG]
    We see two lines.
    Green is for comfort. The higher it is, the more comfortable is the drive for occupants.
    Orange is for safety. The higher it is, the more safer, stable, better handling the vehicle is.
    For example, fully comfort oriented dampers (C-setting) have safety way down. Some older
    SUV with long damper travelling distance and very little resistance. They can drive over bumps
    and potholes without transferring vertical oscillation jerk to cabin though they are too mushy
    and vehicle can lose control in Moose maneuver or when vehicle starts to bounce too much.
    Another example, fully safety/sport oriented dampers (S-settings) has comfort level reduced a lot.
    Many small sports cars with regular dampers might have that (Miata).
    And then there is ideal compromise range, between C and S.
    I should note that cheaper vehicle with more simpler suspension design have those both lines lower
    and high end vehicles with expensive suspension setup have those higher. These lines are vehicle
    specific, though they look very similar to all cars.
    Now, why some premium German brands had "sport - comfort" button for suspension like 2 decades ago?
    Due to this compromise between C and S. It is NOT possible to have them both at "very good" simultaneously.
    Passive air suspension (Model S/X) somewhat raises green line but it is not shifting on X-axis.
    Very complex suspension addons can move on X-axis in a blink of an eye (active suspension adjustment).
    Bigger wheels slightly raise orange line and lower green line. Suspension setting (x-position) is the same.
    The only way to travel on x-axis is to have adjustable dampers (not coilovers). These look exactly the same
    compared to non-adjustable dampers but have a small two pin connection. Voltage changes how damper
    acts on bound-rebound. Some vehicles have computers that choose in what mode damper should be
    (it can be changed many times per second).

    So this is the end of damper crash course.

    The fact that Tesla offers air suspension and does not offers comfort-sport adjustability concerns me.
    BMW 5-series does not even offer air suspension and is considered one of the best vehicle suspensions.
    Though it offers multiple additional functions (dynamic dampers, dynamic roll stabilisers, dynamic steering, rear steering)
    We can be pretty sure Tesla Model 3 is very close to S-setting. At least first vehicles are.
    Model S is somewhere 2/3 to S (compared to BMW 5-series with default not adjustable not sport suspension ~1/3).
    This is just engineering, not marketing. I suspect "Smart Air Suspension" feels more "Premium" compared to
    "Adjustable suspension" or "Adjustable Dampers". Though Tesla should have thought about that a little more,
    add some computing (GPS data) and voila Smart Suspension (automatically adjusts comfort according to conditions).
    Yes, air suspension helps, but marginally compared to things I just listed (except Teslas do not need dynamic stabilizers
    due to very low center of gravity, therefore marginal benefits).
    BMW 3-series has never offered air suspension but even this vehicle offers adjustable dampers. They are way cheaper.

    Just an example of high center of gravity and bad suspension settings (though dampers are fine for everyday use)
     
  12. MelindaV

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    The model 3 has coil suspension, not SAS, so your comparison to the S with SAS doesn’t work. Stop making up what you think it is or isn’t and stating it as fact.
     
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  13. arnis

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    Did I mention Model 3 with SAS? Quote please.

    But AFAIK, Model 3 will likely come with SAS later on with performance or AWD. And not with adaptive dampers.
    I hope M3 never offers SAS, though that is just my wisdom and wish.
     
  14. TrevP

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    I can report first-hand that the ride quality is just fine. I'm not a pro reviewer but i drove it over dirt road, grass and highway pavement. Felt and drive great. It's not a plush Lincoln by any stretch but anyone who's used to a BMW 3 series will feel quite comfortable with coils.
     
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  15. ng0

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    I agree. I'm by no means an expert, but San Diego roads are awful and yet, I still felt the ride was quite comfortable. Maybe I'm just not very picky when it comes to that stuff, but it felt smooth and very comfortable to drive.
     
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  16. arnis

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    18" or 19" ?
     
  17. ng0

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    The version I drove had 18s. Can't speak for how the 19s are.
     
  18. danzgator

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    I know I'm mixing apples and oranges here, but the Model S/X/3 do have steering adjustments for Comfort/Standard/Sport. I thought maybe those also affected suspension settings, but it doesn't look like it does.
     
  19. arnis

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    Correct. It does not.
    BMW offers variable steering effort for around 25 years. Back then it was
    automatically adjustable. Much lighter steering at low speed and default (heavy)
    at higher speeds. I would even recommend Tesla to add "AUTO" mode for steering.
    It's just a software update: 0-30km/h comfort, 30-80km/h standard, 80-250km/h sport.
    No money down. It's actually a safety feature. Applies to S/X/3.
     
  20. ölbrenner

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