By on July 18, 2014

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How quaint it all seems, looking back 10 years and remembering how the enthusiast public was fretting about the Dodge Neon SRT-4 and its half-shaft threatening 250 lb-ft of torque.  How could a front-drive car put such twist through the front wheels? Well, now we’re dealing with Fusions and Sonatas putting down similar figures, and the newest crop of turbocharged front-drive hatchbacks are putting down some staggering numbers.

Having just driven a 2015 Volkswagen GTI, I was sure that the 210 horsepower/250 lb-ft figure quoted by VW was a bit underrated. Turns out that’s what it really makes at the wheels, which works out to about 241 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque. My car didn’t have the Performance Pack and its mechanical LSD, but I didn’t think torque steer was anything to fret about.

But if I got the APR Stage 1 ECU reflash, I’d re-consider that. The 291 horsepower figure is Golf R territory, but the most astonishing number is the 367 lb-ft at the wheels. That’s as much torque as a 2004 Mustang Cobra “Terminator”, arguably one of the fiercest performance cars of the mid 2000’s, was putting down.

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60 Comments on “Torque Steer? What’s Torque Steer?...”


  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    this is the same motor that Audi has been using since like 2010, right?

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Torque steer can be engineered out, to a point. It’s an issue of whether the manufacturer wants to spend the money to do so.

    Since most of the cars sold here are slushboxes anyway, the transmissions are usually programmed to not put it all down at once.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Right, torque steer is all about engineering.

      My Iron Duke Celebrity had torque steer in wet conditions from a dead stop if you punched it. That had really nothing to do with the mighty 120 lb ft of torque it was putting down and everything to do with suspension/shaft design.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Torque steer can be programmed out as the stability program cannot be off on the 2015 Gti. The steering wheel will sense input and the ecu will reduce torque until the steering wheel is opened again.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Torque steer can be engineered out, to a point. It’s an issue of whether the manufacturer wants to spend the money to do so.”

      It’s not just cost, it’s also something they’ve learned to do over the past decade through experience. My Protege5—all 130lb/ft of it—could wheel-hop and torque-steer like mad.

      We’ve learned a lot about chassis geometry since then, and we can apply it much, much more quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        It’s not something they’ve suddenly learned how to do in the past decade. Citroen was doing it right 60 years ago.
        Of course, they had one of the most sophisticated suspensions ever, and inboard brakes which gave them room to get the geometry right.

        Arguably, torque steer only became an issue with MacPherson struts.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      It can only be engineered out by fitting the engine the ‘right way’ and using the correct driving wheels for a performance car. I mostly think some gentle torque steering is OK though, as it makes me feel a bit like riding a wild horse. My brothers Integra has steered me away from hating fwd, but rwd will always be more comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        I remember my Mom’s 1970s era Honda Civic would wrench the steering wheel out of your hands and it had less than 100 hp. My 2007 A3 with over 200hp you only felt it on the track and then just barely. Yea there has been a lot of engineering done on fwd during the last 40 years.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If anybody was wondering why Toyota is considering dropping the V6 in the Camry, this would be why.

    With numbers like that from a boosted 4, the reason most people buy V-6’s is kind of moot. And no NA engine can produce that kind of torque curve. Yes, it’s all well and good that a V6 can produce obscene power and torque near redline, but mere mortals don’t spend much time near redline; they like decent torque and power at the lower end of the rev range where the engine spends the most time (and the HP and TQ dropoff from a boosted engine is therefore less important.)

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      I have a co-worker with a hemi charger and I have an Audi A4 quattro with the 2.0T. we swapped cars and went for a drive. I was quite frankly underwhelmed by the Hemi. I expected more. He was unexpectedly taken with the low end power from the Audi’s turbo 4.

      Am I saying that a a 4-banger Audi can whip a 5.7L hemi? no. What I’m saying is that in everyday driving, even when spirited, the turbo 4 is close enough that the difference doesn’t matter, and the fuel economy difference makes that difference plus some.

      there I said it: I’d rather have the turbo 4 than the hemi.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        I’m assuming the 500lb weight difference and the RWD vs AWD change had no impact on this seat-of-pants test :p

        Your A4 makes ~200hp/260ftlbs, while a base model Hemi is going to see 340/390. With all due respect, everyday driving means different things to different people – I prefer big, NA engines, but I spend a lot of time on the highway cruising. If I want more of an impact around town, a small turbo is almost always going to be more direct-feeling, but I HATE the feeling of that same 2.0T in the A5 – it feels downright anemic at stoplights; I much rather prefer the 4.4 in my e63 645i (but you get 4 more MPG’s with the 4-pot.)

        As for the OP’s ‘mere mortals’ statement – I hate that I have to rev the nuts off of most small turbos to get up to highway speed on a ramp.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Take that 28cars!

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Yea… I am still a big N/A advocate… but I hate driving cars like the S2K or RX8 on the street… and after coming back to car ownership after 3 years with nothing but a bike, I realize I spend most of my time between 3-5K in my Z, and actually get a little annoyed if I *HAVE* to wind it out to position the car where I want it to be

      I still adamantly refuse to do a 2.0T four in my “fun” car until they make one that naturally sounds as good as an S2K or something of that nature (turbo S2Ks still sound great so I don’t see what the problem is), and many of them don’t make good on their fuel economy promises (Honda/Toyota V6s have the same gas mileage as the Hyundai/Ford 2.0Ts)… but after spending more and more time with BMW’s TT 6s I’ve been won over. I hated the N54/N55 because they don’t sound as good as the S54… but the N52 and my VQ don’t sound that great either, by comparison. And with an exhaust they are OK. And of course, the torque. And the tunability. A JB4 makes a 335i a 12 second car that can average 23-25 MPG on the same loops my Z is lucky to break 20 MPG on. My heart’s not in them but turbo engines are hard to argue against from a practical POV on a street car. Plus I still have my motorcycle for my NA fix…

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Here’s a few bucks that says you’re driving an automatic.

      Most people who drive automatics like engines that develop lots of torque quickly. This has been the formula since automatics became widespread in the 1960s, and was the reason for the popularity of relatively slow-turning, large displacement V-8s. Those drivers are conditioned to believe that an engine that routinely revs over 3000 rpm is “strained,” and, frankly, lots of them sound that way.

      If you drive a manual, you don’t feel the need for gobs of torque coming on at 2000 rpm and, instinctively, you learn to meet your acceleration needs by varying your shift points. In a hurry? Shift at 4,000 rpm. Just cruisin along? Shift at 3,000.

      And, the fact is, when you ask your engine to develop significant power, the 250 hp 2 liter turbocharged engine is going to burn more fuel developing, say, 200 hp than the 250 hp. 3-liter normally aspirated engine developing the same power. So, the combination of a small, forced induction engine pushing around a heavy vehicle is going to disappoint in real-world fuel economy vs. a larger displacement normally aspirated engine of the same max horsepower. An extreme example of this is Acura’s RDX. The first version was a forced induction 2.3 liter engine and a notorious fuel sucker. The second version used a 3.5 liter normally aspirated V-6 of the same power output, which gets better EPA ratings and better real-world mileage. Of course, the RDX is about a 4,000 lb. vehicle, and that’s the problem.

      I believe the reason for this disparity is that, on boost, the effective compression ratio of the engine is very high, so the manufacturers run the engine rich under those conditions to avoid detonation. The extra unburned gasoline in the exhaust can be burned off in the exhaust catalytic converter, so the emission performance is not compromised . . . but the engine is wasting fuel.

      I agree that n/a engines that have to be revved like motorcycle engines to develop acceptable power or torque, as in Honda’s S2k, are a little tedious to drive on a daily basis. That’s why I chose a 3-liter Z3 instead as my “toy car,” notwithstanding the S2k’s track superiority.

      As for the supposed hemi comparison, my guess is that the guy drove the hemi with the old 5-speed automatic which certainly did that engine no favors in the 300. I’m sure the same car with the new 8-speed is a whole ‘nother animal.

      And, if your still into “exhaust notes,” a large displacement engine always has a deeper-sounding exhaust than a smaller engine, the exhaust plumbing being equal. AFAIC, exhaust notes don’t really start to sound right until displacement reaches 3 liters; and for really impressive-sounding exhaust, 5 liters is a minimum and 7 liters is the “Sound of God.”

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I think automatics work well for cars with too small engines, because you don’t have to do all the shifting yourself, especially in heavy traffic and inner-city driving. While with a large engine with decent torque and a manual, you can just leave it in one gear most of the time, because it won’t stumble even if it goes below 1000 rpm.
        I also don’t understand why you would need something like 8 gears in a v8 car with a decent torque curve. If your engine needs more than 6 gears, just get a freaking CVT…

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Good point re: shifting. The desirability of torque long predates automatic transmissions. In addition to marketing/snob appeal and to NVH considerations, a big selling point of the straight 8’s, V8’s, V12’s, and V16’s offered by Cadillac, the Three P’s, et al. was that you (or your driver) could get your unsynchronized manual transmission into top gear more quickly and not have to downshift as often.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        the Hemi was the 5 speed auto, the Audi was a 6 speed stick.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Where do you want to send your check? I drive a 5-spd ’04 1.8T Passat.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Your Z3’s engine was enhanced greatly with turbos. Yea, small engines that try to be big engines (in big cars) suck. But big engines that were OK in NA form only become more streetable and efficient when you slap a turbo on them. An x35i makes E46 M3 horsepower but has like 50% better gas mileage. And its the same story with any other apples to apples NA to turbo engine comparison where the NA engine wasn’t underpowered.

        Plus as Ferrari has shown with the California T and Mercedes with their V8, turbo engines don’t have to sound like synthesized ass. I don’t know why BMW, VWAG, Hyundai etc struggle so much with turbo engine sound; their cars turned me off for a while. An x35i with an exhaust sometimes sounds like a diesel at low revs.

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      V6 and obscene power. Two things I would never think I’d see in the sake sentence

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “And no NA engine can produce that kind of torque curve.”

      If TTAC will allow me post a link address, here is the curve for the 3.6L in the ATS. Does this look peaky to you?

      http://gmpowertrain.com/2014_images/charts_lg/lfx_chart_cadillac_ats.jpg

  • avatar

    I met a guy who was trying to enter his 2012 Chrysler 200c in for repairs.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    -Well- everytime I step on it…it pulls to the right.

    “Do you have the 4-cylinder or the Pentastar V6?” I asked.

    -V6

    “Yup, that’s your problem right there!”

    *continues to explain what the torque steer phenomena is*

  • avatar

    Way back in the day, my Dodge Omni GLH didn’t torque steer. I do, however still pull the wheel left as a reaction to flooring it.

    I recall for a long time reading in the car press that 200, 225 hp max were what FWD could handle….

    • 0 avatar
      Kaosaur

      There’s another poster here I know who is a GLHS lover who has frequently described the torque steer of those as “murderous” and said that if I ever want to drive a GLHS, I should drive the GLH Turbo first and get used to it.

      I’m hoping he comments here. :)

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Old tires on a couple decade old car will torque steer.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        With equal length half shafts, FWD Chrysler turbocars of the 80s did not exhibit the long shaft side pull found on heavily modified European and Japanese minisports. This was where the nasty behavior manifested itself. With a consistent direction of pull, the import FWD racer knew just where the steering wheel twitch would take them and when it would happen. With Chrysler’s product, the significantly higher horsepower and torque levels would wrench the wheel away from the side with the furthest suspension or extension, though drivers with a velvet touch inside their iron fist could keep it in check. This varied the direction of the pull depending on how hard you charged into a corner.

        Once Quaife’s helical bias differentials became available for various FWD applications the phenomenon effectively disappeared, although that was several years too late for many of Chrysler’s L-body performance cars. I recall 2 turbocharged Omnis at a local dealership on the windward side of the island which didn’t make it though their test drives unscathed, usually when the driver started applying power along Lilipuna Rd.

        It was most often the 2nd and 3rd owners of those vehicles who crashed them, via a combination of high power, worn suspension and an already broken in power train which did not give the driver time to adjust when they mashed the throttle. I’m certain the higher mass of today’s compacts also serve to damp out unwanted oscillations in the steering system, as a mid-80s Omni tipped the scales at just over 2200 lbs, putting its horsepower to weight right into “yee-haw!” territory.

        Tire quality was also an important factor; after 5 years of nothing but Goodyear’s GTs and Gatorbacks, I found myself a bit short of cash the day I decided to replace the tires on the Omni and sprung for BF Goodrich’s Comp-TAs; I nearly wrapped the car around a telephone pole an hour later.

  • avatar
    triumphbob

    Derek
    Torque “at the wheels” is a function of engine torque less transmission losses and gear ratio.
    Power is irrespective of gear ratio.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    If you’re putting down significant power to the front you either need an LSD or hiperstrut/revoknuckle set up.

    It’s asinine that any V6 FWD car doesn’t have an LSD as standard…

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Amen. That’s why my signature on the main Maxima forums contains the random sentence, “HLSD should be standard on all Maximas.”

      In 2002, 255 HP/~240 lb.ft (pre-SAE change numbers) in a 3200 lb. sedan made for juuuuust a bit of torque steer to remind the driver that, yeah, this is a quick little car.

      Then Nissan Altimaized the Maxima for 2004. 265 HP/255 lb.ft in a ~3450 lb whale of a sedan, channeled through 245/45s instead of 225/50s results in no torque steer ever, but the potential for gobs of wheel hop when the motor mounts start wearing.

      Honestly, I enjoyed the brutal-feeling acceleration in my ’02 Maxima. Even on the same tires, Contintenal DWSs in both cases, the need to grip the steering wheel tightly when launching, then getting pressed back into your seat when the torque chewed the tires off halfway through first gear is more interesting than the newer Maxima’s penchant for whisking you up to speed without much drama.

      Edit: Oh, prompted because a mechanical helical LSD was available from 2002-2006 in a small number of the 6MT Maximas. I believe most or all of the ones sold in Canada came with it. Vastly superior to the viscous LSD used in some mid-nineties Infiniti-branded Maximas (the I30).

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I just bought a 6-speed 2007 Altima 3.5SE. Next year I’m planning to get a 6MT 2006 Maxima (unless I get a good deal on a 2003 CL Type-S). Since nothing in the current age that I can afford appeals to me anymore, I’m gonna buy older Japanese stick-shift V6 cars until the supply runs out.

        Altima is a blast to drive. The trim rattles are asinine, but that melts into the background once I’m up to speed and the ride smoothness brings a smile to my face. I haven’t experienced any notable torque steer, for the few times I launched it hard.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          Yeah, I’d seen you mention your newest acquisition on another article. Do try and spring for the ’06. It gets tilt-down mirrors when you shift into reverse, but that might be automatic-only.

          Also, hold out for a 2006 6MT with the “elite package”–the four heated buckets + rear power sunshade. Jump on one if you see it. I’ve only ever seen one other Maxima with the elite package, an autotragic. The 2004s had some issues with flimsiness in the shifter that was fixed in 2005/2006. But the ’04 6MT is still a lot stronger than the 2002/2003 6MT. That one didn’t have enough cones/synchros for 2nd and 3rd gear, so they developed what the Maxima community (not-so-)affectionately calls the “third-gear crunch.”

          But, yeah, the huge tires on the 2004+ 6MT Maximas, plus the much better suspension geometry, results in no torque steer under dry conditions. I haven’t launched it hard enough in wet conditions to see if it’ll go sideways, but I imagine it’s quite able.

          Aside: My ’05 6MT has been a good car, definitely different from the ’02 6MT it replaced, but the driver’s seat is punishingly uncomfortable to my 6’2″, 180 lb frame for long highway cruises.

  • avatar
    ZT

    We used to have a Saab 9-3 Viggen (the coupe in Lightning Blue…miss that car) and it didn’t have the rescue kit. Yes, it would torque steer pretty bad, but since boost was limited in first and second gear, it wasn’t totally unmanageable. I have a 9-5 Aero with the same drivetrain and it doesn’t torque steer much at all –– it is a better chassis after all.

    • 0 avatar
      doublechili

      I had a ’99 Viggen in the same Blue – I miss mine too. It had such a bad reputation for torque steer, but I never found it to be that big a deal. I think part of the thing is that writers would drive the car for a short period of time and a lot of what they wrote was their first impressions. As an owner, you get used to the car after a little bit and you learn the quirks and you move on. In that car, you don’t try to win a stoplight race on an uneven surface (I don’t race anyway), and settle for the incredible 40-70 mph acceleration. :)

      I’m going by recollection, but the Viggen was about 225hp with maybe 250 lb. ft. of torque (limited in 1st and 2nd as you said), and it weighed less then 3000 pounds.

  • avatar
    Deaks2

    The previosu gen EA888 engine (as found in my 2011 Mk6 GTI) also makes as much at the wheels as it is rated fro crank HP by VW… It’s nice to see a company underpromise and overdeliver.

    http://www.goapr.com/products/ecu_upgrade_20tsi_trans.html

    Stage 2 tune with an intake and a downpipe and this car still surprises me, and without the turbo lag of my old Suby :)

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Our Avenger will torque steer pretty bad on rutted paved roads but not bad on smooth roads such as concrete instead of asphalt. The same roads the Cobra replica tramlines pretty badly on with the billboards but not with the BFG tires so I wonder how much the square shouldered tires have to do with how bad they torque steer as well as the suspension.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Pretty widely known that VW underrates its engines, Derek. The new GTI has been running high 13s at over 100 mph – tough to see how you could do that if the car was actually making 210 hp and weighing 3100 lbs.

    And yes, that reflash is $600 and no, they still don’t torque steer very much even with that much power.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    And that’s why Rear Wheel Drive is better

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    For what its worth, the MT Verano T doesn’t really torque steer.

    It would frighten the old folk if it did.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Launch the Verano in the wet from a stop. Then do it again with the .TC off. The Verano 2.0 T has very good launch control from a stop in the wet fromwhere you can actually feel the Verano’s tires transmit a grainy feeling as you would on a race track as a tire starts to slide.

      Turn the .TC off and the wheels will hop as the tire spins.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        And rear wheel drive cars never spin tires?
        What you are describing isn’t torque steer, it’s something else.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Hell I can get my F150 to axle hop and it has the 4.6 V8 and the archaic 4 speed auto.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Ah, the 4R70W. Perfectly fine for a truck or Econoline van, but worthless for something that’s actually supposed to move quickly like a Mustang.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            True it is great for a truck. Why? Well the unofficial marketing slogan was: “Shifts like sh*& for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of miles.”

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I honestly wouldn’t mind a new fangled 8 speed in my old Thunderbird, maybe then my gas mileage would go up a bit too.

  • avatar
    ev4mike

    My Chevy Spark EV is rated at 400 lb-ft of torque. It’s a hoot to drive, but when you step on it you better hold on tight! The only thing I would change about it would be to make it RWD for better handling while cornering. I don’t know why they didn’t do that since the loss of the engine and gas stank left them enough room to engineer it as a RWD car. I suspect it was due to cost considerations. Following my three year lease ($4900 total out of pocket after down payment and $2500 check from state) I will be ready for the affordable Tesla Model 3.

    I am now a full EV convert and am awaiting delivery of my Marbel electric skateboard with 25 mph max speed (even up to 15% grade), 10+ mile range and a wireless handheld acceleration/regenerative braking toggle switch that will allow me to skate down steep hills at a rate commensurate with my diminished 50 year old skills and courage.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    My Spark EV puts 400 ft-lbs of torque through the front wheels and it’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with all the sideways movement under full throttle. Kind of fun, in an uncontrolled, slow-car-driven-fast sort of way.

  • avatar
    stottpie

    Sure smells like an overrating DynoJet in here.

  • avatar
    skor

    You wanna talk torque steer? I once drove a first gen Ford Probe GT turbo. I think it was rated at 130hp and 190ft/lbs. You could change lanes using nothing but the throttle.

  • avatar
    relton

    Why is it that my front wheel drive car with an 8.2 liter V8, 550 ft-lob of torque, has absolutely no torque steer. None. Maybe ’cause it was made 44 years ago, when customers wouldn’t buy a car with torque steer?

    OK, so maybe the feet, or the pounds, were smaller back then. But it’s still a lot of torque.

    Part of the answer is tat the car runs with a negative scrub radius. This requires wheels with a lot of inset, which look cool with the right hubcaps. Part of it is equal length half-shafts. Part of it is fairly stiff suspension bushings, and the remaining part, I am convinced, is carefully thought out geometry.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      A big part of it is also a power steering pump from an aircraftcarrier, cancelling out any feedback from the wheels, including torque steer.

      • 0 avatar
        relton

        Actually, this car has excellent feedback through the steering, mush better than other cars of its day. The variable ratio steering gear makes the car seem smaller than it is.

        I suspect you have never driven a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado. The cars handling flaws are more related to a lack of cornering power at the limit, not steering feedback.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I admit I have never tried anything like it, so my opinion is purely based on what I have read. The pure weight above the front wheels of the Eldo (even if the 500 was a ‘lightweight’ for it’s size) suggest that the steering wheel wouldn’t be possible to turn at all at low speeds without massive assist though.
          I’m really tempted to try an Eldo though, as there are a couple for sale close to me. (a relly nice 68 coupe, and a very not nice 75 convertible) but nothing I have read about them suggests that they are good cars…

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Part of it is equal length half-shafts.”

    I think that is a pretty big part of it.

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