By James Wong
Worringly, I’ve reached a point when I am feeling like I’ve learnt all of the car has got to teach me. Of course, that’s rubbish.
It’s just that I haven’t got the time to drive it.
On the times that I do though (and I specially plan for them so I’ll go explore some awesome B-roads), I start to discover a side of the MR2 that is cogent to the articles that have been written about this car.
Bringing the car to the limit, which is a lot more comfortable to do now that we’re reaching sizzling temperatures of up to 23 degrees Celsius with dry roads, I discover that the car has a huge reserve of understeer. Which is a bit of a surprise really, as I always had the impression (an unlearned one, I admit) that all rear-wheel drive vehicles have a tendency to oversteer. Well, apparently not.
After some physics recall sessions (nah I’m just kidding), I reasoned that the odd response of the car is probably due to the mid-engined layout. The thing about this configuration is that the car is inherently balanced. So getting a lot of speed into corners is something that the car does well – and does neutrally. That’s precisely what this car tells me it is doing. And of course, get really silly and it will understeer – now that’s a bit harder to explain. I reckon that when you accelerate, you shift the weight of the car to the rear. This weight bias, along with the weight of the engine adding to this, makes the front end very light. With this, the rubbers up front don’t find enough purchase and they don’t grip the road as much as they should. With of course the resulting understeer. I first realised and truly felt this weight balance thing in a go-kart. I had so much more grip in the front by just braking lightly and getting some weight into them.
The other theory is that the Rev 3 cars onwards are inherently made to understeer due to the complains of it being a dangerous car to drive on the limit. So tweaking the suspension geometry also has some part to play in this. Not to mention the slightly slow steering rack as well which makes quick steering inputs a little of a challenge. The car feels like it has a GT-focus and it really shows. This isn’t the darty fiesty number like the AW11.
Whatever it is, when you do get really, really silly – that is when you get on first gear and dump the clutch and get the steering wheel flipped really quickly – you will get your oversteer. Albeit coming in a very unwilling fashion. In a RWD car that isn’t powerful, like the MR2, it might just be the only method in getting the rear to kick out. There just isn’t enough torque to get the car to dance.
Well, what a learning experience so far. So not all RWD cars are created equal. Of course, I am not disappointed with the car because it can’t oversteer easily; in fact, my respect for it grows even further because of this character. I just love the mid-engined layout and the balance it affords. That said, two seats have been a struggle to accommodate so far!
Hopefully, sometime after my exams I hope to get the car on a track to do more learning. Till then, expect more notes as I visit some B-roads further north towards Cambridge!