By Gerald Yuen
It’s human nature to crave for the best possible version of any product they desire. Take timepieces for example. The more we get hooked onto the dark depths of the horological world, there is a tendency for us to desire more complicated “movements”, as simple automatic “ETA” complications won’t make the cut for us anymore.
The same concept applies to cars. More exposure to performance-oriented vehicles will raise the bar on our level of satisfaction. But do big numbers on paper directly translate to driving fun? Yes, driving cars with oversized motors beneath the hood will make us feel invincible, but we’d rather substitute this temporary boost of adrenaline with a continuous stream of what we call “flow”… and we assure you that it can be more fun than just driving flat out for short spurts.
So what is flow? We have to admit that this article from Pistonheads set us thinking: http://www.pistonheads.com/news/24980.htm. Simply put, flow is the ability to wring maximum potential out from a car without having to back off excessively, even when dealing with nip and tuck roads. For a vehicle to achieve ample flow, two conditions have to be met.
Firstly, the chassis has to work seamlessly with the suspension to neutralise irregularities. This might sound simple, but we’ve been in many cars that might be fast on paper but struggle to hold ground with less powerful cars, primarily due to the vital lack of understanding between suspension, chassis and tarmac. This leads us on to the second point. Optimal flow can be attained with a “less is more” approach. By operating a car with less horsepower, you are more likely to keep revs nearer to its boiling point, and that maximises the potential of both the powertrain and drivetrain most of the time.
Let’s compare a 122bhp Mk6 Volkswagen Golf, with a 200bhp Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI. There will definitely be occasions where we can fully utilise all 200bhp from the GTI, and it will probably reach destination Z much faster than the 122bhp Golf on the same stretch of roads. But this immeasurable sensation of flow can be lacking in the GTI – and this is where the 122bhp variant will triumph. It soaks up bumps efficiently due to the 16” rubbers that look like donuts, its chassis less rigid but well sorted to tackle regular B Roads confidently, and the engine is not overly powerful so that you can keep it on the boil most of the time. The GTI is definitely fast, but the Mk6 Golf is certainly fun.
Even if your pockets run deep enough to buy higher end variants, you might want to reconsider what makes driving fun first, before splashing the cash on your purchase. And if you are working on a tight budget, you can either rob a bank, or go with the flow.