Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Interesting idea from John Simister in The Independent

The Independent may no longer be producing a weekly motoring supplement but it still producing some decent motoring content. Road tests from John Simister are a particular highlight, John has been testing cars professionally for over 20 years and knows what he’s talking about.

Recently the Renault Laguna estate came under his scrutiny and he was somewhat critical of the modern trend towards nose-heavy car styling. The problem is that a lot of cars have their engines mounted ahead of the front wheels. To conform with regulations the engines must be surrounded by sacrificial crumple-zones which pushes the front of the car further and further ahead of the front wheels.

It is possible to make cars that follow the established mechanical layout and conform to the regulations for occupant and pedestrian protection, Audi do it well and Citroën did a magnificent job with the C6. On the whole, however, it is a bad idea both in terms of styling and engineering to have so much of the car ahead of the front wheels. Simister suggests,

“One of these days a mainstream car maker is going to take a deep breath and reconfigure its front-wheel-drive powertrain so the driveshafts run in front of the engine instead of behind it, but until then, cars are condemned to be ungainly.”

Which reminded me that Jim Randle, formerly head of engineering at Jaguar, suggested the best driveline layout for high-speed stability was front-wheel drive with the engine mounted behind the driven wheels. It is a layout that probably wouldn’t suit a small car, even though the Renault 4 and the original Renault 5 used exactly that layout. It does recall some of the greatest old French cars including the Renault 16, Citroën SM, DS and the father of them all the Traction Avant. It is an idea long overdue a revival.

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