Thursday, December 08, 2005


North American Suspension Setups

I though I understood a while back why it was that the auto manufacturers in the North American (specifically US market) always put such boring laxative-esque suspension setups on their vehicles. Originally I thought it was for the purposes of counter balancing the absolutely horrid road surfaces throughout the country (especially Pennsylvania and all points north), and to help keep Americans sedate and distant from feeling any feedback whatsoever (not that most would know what to do with said feedback).

The theory as mentioned above got shot right out of the window several years back when every manufacturer started putting 17" and larger diameter wheels on their offerings, as anyone who has owned or driven a vehicle with ultra-low profile tyres will tell you, you feel eveything and your chances of a flat upon meeting a pothole or curb are way up there in the realms of most-likely.

I gather that since the people in the states sans the enthusiasts (not to be confused with the wanna be boy racers) haven't had the opportunity to experience their vehicle (if it happens to be of a global market model) with the suspension it was originally built upon, they don' know what they should be feeling. Sure, there are individuals out there (such as myself) that will go through the effort to aquire the necessary peices to bring their vehicle's ride in line (or even beyond) the factory's original design/intentions (to taste mind you), such as myself, but most wouldn't, and it is mainly because they don't know what they're missing.

You can have a firm suspension that corners fairly flat, and provides positive feedback through the steeering and seat while allowing for a non-jarring ride. The english, germans, french, swedes and italins have been doing this for years. I know that when I converted my Late Model 240's suspension to a Bilstein setup with progressive springs and 25mm anti-sway bars front and rear, the car felt solid, able footed and quite controllable while still retaining an absolutely docile ride when wanted. The same went for my MkII Golf (and eventual turn-key rally/hillclimb Group 2 competition car).

Wouldn't it make sense to return to reasonbly sized tyres and profiles, matched with more competent suspension setups? Would it not be more cost effective for the respective manfuacturers to have a simplified process in place utilising uniform parts? Doesn't this have beneficial repercussions throughout the supply chain and process? Maybe this wil change one day, but sadly, I'm doubtful, afterall this is the land of Walmart and MacDonalds, mediocrity abound on the road towards automotive entropy.


Reminds me of back-to-back drives of a MkII Golf in the United States and Europe I did a while back... day and night differences in handling. I had no issues with driving 100-120 in the Euro Golf... where trying to do that in an N.A. Golf would be impossible.
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p.s. - keep up the great work on your site!

Thanks for your comment, and might I say quite an all-encompassing site you have. To issue though, do you see any reason why we couldn't get proper firm suspensions over here on all but the high-end luxury level cars? If you can buy a car with 18" wheels from the factory with 40 series tyres, why couldn't we get firm suspension setups from the get go. I'd take a proper firm suspension over 18" wheels for better handling anyday.
My old MkII Golf Rally/Hillcimb car would run on 225/45 13's for Hillclimbs (lower ratio was needed), and quite frankly, even that profile wasn't necessary thanks to the rest of the suspension's designed stiffness.

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