When talking to fellow enthusiasts, one of the main things to remember is that no one has the same opinion. Just like when talking about art, food or politics, everyone’s opinion is valid… most of the time (an example of something that’s universally considered wrong can be found below).
Current car technology has made it possible for everyone, enthusiast or not, to drive fast and not spin out at every corner. Whether it’s a driving aid like traction control or an automatic gearbox, these technologies have made driving easier, and in my opinion, a bit less entertaining. The reason we like to drive, is that connection that comes with fully controlling a car. Some of the terms below may not be used for much longer or may be outdated already, but a car lover should have these terms in their vocabulary:
Manual V automatic transmission
A car enthusiast needs to feel the connection while driving. A car isn’t just a piece of machinery that takes us from point A to point B. One of the biggest gripes hardcore enthusiasts and traditionalists have, is the proliferation of the automatic gearbox. To be honest, in this day and age, automatic ‘boxes make more sense. Driving a manual in the city, in stop-go traffic, is irritating. Additionally, today’s auto transmissions deliver a smoother ride, better fuel efficiency, and can shift gears in tenths of a second providing faster acceleration times.
However, being a car lover is less about logic and more about feel. Three pedals (accelerator, brake and clutch) and a manual gearbox deliver that connection to your car and makes for a more involving drive. The manual gearboxes in cars today are a far cry from the transmissions of old and require as much engineering as some automatic gearboxes. While manual transmissions may be as technologically advanced as their automatic brethren, they deliver on that feeling of control and immersion that enthusiasts crave.
For a more in-depth look at gearboxes and their speeds, check out the upcoming post to be published later this week.
Short for aerodynamics, this term is used rather loosely to describe everything from a spoiler to the complicated active aero kits found on racing cars. The ease with which a car cuts through the air is very important. It can affect noise levels, fuel efficiency, speed, and high-speed handling. Drag coefficient is a commonly published rating of a car’s aerodynamics and relates to the shape of the car. A drag coefficient of 0.0 means that the object has no drag. Volkswagen showcased its XL1 at the 2011 Qatar Motor Show to demonstrate how fuel efficient the combination of low kerb weight, a slippery body, and a tiny engine could be. Weighing 795 kilos with a drag coefficient of 0.186 and an 800cc two-cylinder diesel engine, the XL1 delivers 310 miles to the gallon (0.9 litres per 100 kilometres).
Downforce is a subject that also falls in this category. Formula 1 cars have massive front and rear spoilers (sometimes called wings) to keep the car stable while cornering at high speeds. By changing the way the air flows, spoilers create a downward pressure that provides greater levels of grip allowing an F1 car to turn at speeds unmatched by road cars. Some supercars and hypercars have active aero that adjust the various wings and fins electronically, based on the speed and other conditions to give better stability.
Remember that installing a rear-spoiler on your front-wheel drive 80bhp hatchback isn’t going to make you a racer, but it can make you a ricer.
These words were made famous by the Fast and the Furious movie franchise, when Vin Diesel’s character (Dom) berates Paul Walker’s character (Brian) after their first race. People driving a car with an automatic transmission can skip this section. Most modern manual synchromesh gearboxes found in cars don’t require a mastery of this technique either. Before 1920 and the introduction of the transmission synchronizers, double clutching was required to shift gears. The method while downshifting is: push the clutch once to shift to neutral, rev the engine to match the speed of the next gear, and then depress the clutch again to shift into that gear.
When done correctly, this ensures a smooth gear change, less wear on your gears and, if perfected, a quicker shift time. This technique also relates to Heel-toe & Blipping. If someone driving any car made in the past 30 years says they were double-clutching, now you can call them on their bullsh*t.
Granny shifting/short shifting
These words are used in the same line in The Fast and the Furious to further point out the mistakes Paul Walker’s character made in that first race. A characteristic of all internal combustion engines is that as the revs rise, so does the power. So the faster you want to go, the more you rev the car. However, this isn’t always the case. Every engine has a specific power band where you can find the largest amounts of power and torque which will keep the car moving at a brisk pace. This means that you don’t have to rev the pants off your car to get the most out of it.
Finding that specific band is a matter of driving experience and looking at the power and torque curves. As discussed in the Naturally aspirated and forced induction section, naturally aspirated cars have a linear power and torque delivery while turbocharged cars have their torque come in much earlier. Remember that point when experimenting to find that sweet spot in your cars’ rev range.
Short shifting is a useful tool if you own a manual transmission car and want to maintain traction on slippery roads or be fuel efficient. There is never a need to rev the engine to its redline while driving in the city. This would only increase your fuel consumption besides being noisy and unnecessary.