Piston Slap: Strut 'yo Stuff or Make A Wish?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

When you wish...

TTAC Commentator Seminole 95 writes:

Sajeev,

I enjoyed reading the responses on my NVH question.

Here’s another question for you. How significant is that Honda uses a double wishbone suspension on their family sedan (the Accord) whereas the Toyota Camry, Chevy Impala, and Hyundai Sonata use the cheaper MacPherson strut? Does the DW suspension make handling better in the turns? Does it last longer than a strut suspension, thereby giving you better ride quality as the car ages? Is the DW something that a car buyer should favor, or is it more complicated than that? I remember that many fans complained when Honda switched the Civic from DW to strut.

It looks like the Ford Fusion might use the DW suspension, but I am not sure. Interestingly, it also looks like the BMW 3 series uses a strut suspension, so maybe the DW is not necessary.

Sajeev Answers:

I think BMW signed a Deal with the Devil to make such an enlightened driving experience, as many of their famous machines run such illogical items like steering boxes (not rack and pinions) and the aforementioned MacPherson Strut design. Just kidding. Except not…the E39 M5 shouldn’t do what it does with such boneheaded bones. And yet it did! And still does!

Well, then!

Fact is, the suspension design (by itself) isn’t a big issue for most passenger cars. This excludes killer F1-like race vehicles, if you missed that. Odds are there’s more low-hanging fruit in one’s choice of geometry/alignment, spring, shock, sway bar and tire compound than there ever will be in a MacPherson vs. Wishbone quandary.

When it comes to automotive suspensions, I am a big fan of less is more. Which is laughable, considering the multilink design and air bladders in my Lincoln Mark VIII, one of the finest riding/handling cars out there (once you neutral out the handling with Addco sway bars). But my car needed tons of replacement parts after 10+ years and 120,000+ miles, parts which either do not exist or are far cheaper/easier to replace on a normal MacPherson setup. So maybe my point is still valid. Possibly.

I wager this issue is a red herring, the bigger problem is what I mentioned before: spring rates, shock valving and tire quality. Hell, tires are the most important part of this equation! Best and Brightest, off to you!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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4 of 44 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Nov 03, 2011

    Meh... worry more about shocks/struts and the bushing that the suspension rides on. That with tires and wheel sizes will have more affect than anything else.

  • Niky Niky on Nov 04, 2011

    I'm in the "comfort" camp. I've noticed you can make a double-wishbone front end ride better while maintaining the same handling characteristics (or better) as a stiffer McPherson front-end. The Miata and Mazda6 are wonderful in this regard... though I feel the current Mazda6 iteration has a little too much front-caster for everyday use... it's still much better in terms of feel than the front end of the BMW 3. The MX-5 is simply otherworldly. Double-wishbones and lightness allow it to run a very soft set-up very successfully. But in the end, get the suspension tuning right, and you can make anything handle. Even a live rear axle...

    • See 1 previous
    • Yaymx5 Yaymx5 on Jan 07, 2012

      "The MX-5 is simply otherworldly. Double-wishbones and lightness allow it to run a very soft set-up very successfully." Yup. :)

  • TheEndlessEnigma The Mitsubishi hate and snark in many of these comments is expected. I really do need to challenge anyone here who bristles at the mention of Mitsu and immediately begins a Tourette's inspired flow of vitriol. Before you rant on about how bad Mitsu's are, get into one and drive it. Surprise surprise, they are good vehicles, it's just kewl and hip to be a lemming and blindly follow the "Mitsubishi Sucks Because Doug DeMuro Told Me So" crowd.
  • EBFlex Remember when they introduced legislation to take natural gas stoves away? Now they want to charge electric trucks with it? If liberals didn’t have double standards they wouldn’t have any at all.
  • Glennbk First, Cadillac no longer has brand cache. And as such, the prices need to drop. Second, reliability. Cadillac doesn't have that either. Dedicate GM funds to re-design the High Value Engines. Third, interiors are too gimmicky. Take a step back and bring back more buttons and less black plasti-chrome. Forth, noise isolation. These are supposed to be luxury cars, but sound like a Malibu inside.
  • Dave M. Mitsubishi for many years built stout vehicles for whatever market they were in (specifically citing Mighty Max and Montero). In the '90s they became the LCD for high-risk borrowers; coupled on top of mediocre and stale product, interest in them waned. Aim for the niches (hybrids, small pickup, base CUVs). I find it interesting that they have a plug-in CUV based on/made by Nissan, but Nissan doesn't.
  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
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