By on November 3, 2017

 

suspension wishbone

Emanuel writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve noticed that most of the mainstream sedans like the Accord, Mazda 6, Fusion and Sonata have abandoned the upper and lower control arm suspension, or what is normally referred to as double wishbones, in favor of the simpler strut based front end. Honda, which never failed to mention the Accord’s advanced double wishbone setup in their ads, claims the change was due to NVH and crash compliance issues. It also says that, because of how it tunes the strut setup, the current car handles and rides better than the double wishbone design.

I think this is a cop out and the change has been done mainly as a cost-cutting measure. As manufacturers add more content to cars that’s more readily visible (infotainment systems, push button start, blind spot monitoring, etc), things that are mostly hidden to the consumer — such more advanced suspension — are sacrificed.

My perception is that, all things being equal, a double wishbone suspension will ride and handle better than a strut setup. What say you?

Sajeev answers:

I learned this the hard way: nobody gives two shits about what Car Enthusiasts perceive in theory.

To wit, I once believed BMW signed a pactwith Satan Himself to get MacPherson struts and recirculating ball steering performing so brilliantly. But it happened, proving their worth for mass-market vehicles. Hell, Z06 Corvettes beat the living snot out of most everything via transverse fiberglass leaf springs dating back to the Model T and other horseless carriages. This includes out maneuvering a 911 Turbo S with front struts. If Porsche and BMW use them, if Chevy uses “far worse” and accomplishes so much, who cares if Honda ditches double wishbones on a mainstream family sedan?

Step out of the wholly-theoretical world of Car Enthusiast fodder: strut suspensions are cheaper to make, have less parts to fail (or rebuild) and the odds of someone exploring their geometric fail points on the street or even a track day is right at zero. ZERO.

You’ll race a long, long time for this to matter. It will cost you six figures, countless friendships, your marriage, etc. And in the meantime?

People gotta buy cars and they like to buy less stuff (they’ll never see), less things to wear out. It’s a win-win for everyone, even a die-hard double wishboner shall succumb to the harsh reality of the car business.

[Image: honda-tech.com]

*That honor now goes to Starbucks and Pumpkin Spice Everything. 

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: Suspension Cop Out or Wishbone Thinking?...”


  • avatar
    olddavid

    What about our SLA air bagged suspensions? All things being equal, do you install Eibach or rebuild the struts and compressor? All 50 of the LVC crowd are watching with baited breath. Or alcoholed breath, but I digress. Damned Irish Coffee

    • 0 avatar

      I have been running Westar springs up front and they are fantastic. Shocks are better than OEM Motorcraft stuff. Will never look at rebuilders as long as Westar is around and Autozone sells it for 20% off online with a lifetime warranty.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    “…have less parts to fail (or rebuild)…”

    http://bit.ly/1S4kIcw

    All else being equal, I think double wishbones *can* handle and ride better than a MacStrut setup. That said, there’s so much more that goes into suspension tuning than just the starting point.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The strut takes up less space. Less space, especially at the top like in the picture, means less area for better weight reduction.

    It could be better crash protection as those strut towers are sometimes multi layered in metal thickness. That would put allot of stress on the strut bearings also.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    can we quit with the nattering about the ‘Vette using a leaf spring in the rear? The big difference between the Corvette’s rear suspension and the Model T (and any car/truck using rear leaf springs) is that on the latter, the springs themselves are what locate and hold the axle in position. The leaf spring on a Corvette is just a spring, the wheels themselves are located by upper and lower control arms.

    just one of the many stupid things Clarkson said which people parrot w/o any thought.

    • 0 avatar

      And that’s kinda why I brought it up. People bag on MacStrut setups in theory for the same reason, when some designs (i.e. BMW and Porsche) are truly fantastic for passenger car applications, and damn near any street car short of an exotic.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        What about the BMW and Porsche designs makes them perform so “truly fantastic”?

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        Also, the examples the requester gave were FWD (Accord, Mazda 6, Fusion and Sonata), but the ones you cited are RWD (i.e. BMW and Porsche). Can you give examples of conventional strut designs other than the Corrado that are “fantastic” and what design features make them so?

        • 0 avatar

          The citations are to prove that MacPherson struts are a great suspension design for all the cop-out reasons (space, cost, safety) and for performance reasons.

          I have no problem with new Honda front suspensions I’ve driven on the street, especially since the performance needs are far less demanding than the Porsche/BMW. I can’t fathom why anyone would outside of the realm of bench racing.

          I haven’t found any specific design features comparing a Porsche setup to a Honda that I can hyperlink to, but you can bet that the lower control arm’s casting (unsprung weight, etc), the strut’s internal damper (think Koni, not Monroe) and all the associated geometry (i.e. less about durability and tire life, more about performance) of a performance application proves its just fantastic for a street car. You will get what you pay for, in terms of a premium vehicle with a premium MacPherson setup.

          • 0 avatar
            Pig_Iron

            What currently available vehicles would you consider as having a “premium” FWD strut setup?

          • 0 avatar

            Good question, would need a lot of time comparing part numbers to see if such a thing exists. That’s considering all the platform sharing these days, I wonder if any of the more expensive FWD cars (aka the near luxury category) use bespoke control arms, unique geometry over the platform siblings.

            But odds are the fancy mega-responsive shocks of Lincoln’s Drive Control or Cadillac (XTS) Magnetic Ride Control are a good example of far better performance on a FWD platform.

          • 0 avatar
            Pig_Iron

            Thank you. I hadn’t thought of those. I’m not even sure if the Ford RevoKnuckle is still in production. Regardless, it’s a fascinating topic to me.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            VW/Audi use a fairly fancy strut geometry to improve handling. Something about aligning the steering axis or some such, but I am too lazy to Google it for you.

            I have never been overwhelmed by various cars with upper and lower A-arms vs. cars with struts. Plus even more bushings and balljoints to wear out. The tuning matters far more than the actual layout. Modern cars tend not to have a lot of suspension travel anyway, so the opportunity for less than ideal geometry changes is pretty small regardless.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    All this suspension anxiety is nonsense.
    Simple Hotckiss would do the job, be sturdier, and be cheaper, — for 90% of typical street driving (^_^)
    We have been trying to incorporate much too much racing technology, — and end up paying for it.

    ========================

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “My perception is that, all things being equal, a double wishbone suspension will ride and handle better than a strut setup.”

    I agree, but in the real world, struts have the advantage. Double-wishbones allow for a low hood line whereas struts are vertical and address pedestrian safety better. And being vertical, struts also provide more leg-room for the driver and front passenger.

    As others have pointed out, struts are less complex and lighter, so struts come out on top regarding cost and maintenance. Struts can be tuned pretty well too, but only here do double wishbones have the edge, and a slight one at that.

    But like 500+ HP engines which rarely get fully exploited, double wishbones tap into bragging rights. I get it, and personally prefer double wishbones. It’s nice to be proud (but not in an obnoxious way) of your car and the engineering behind it, even if it’s just a family sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      ” It’s nice to be proud (but not in an obnoxious way) of your car and the engineering behind it, even if it’s just a family sedan.”

      unless you designed and built the car yourself, being proud of something you had nothing to do with (other than buying it) is pretty crass.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        “unless you designed and built the car yourself, being proud of something you had nothing to do with (other than buying it) is pretty crass.”

        Fair enough. A better word would have been “appreciative.”

    • 0 avatar

      Being proud of Germans and Japanese building great vehicles for you to mindlessly consume? Proud to be American and avoiding American cars at any cost (“smart buyer”)? BTW I talked with Japanese engineers and they always were sincerely proud that they beat Americans in their home market, you could see genuine happiness on their faces, not that fake pride Americans have about their belongings. Needless to say I always felt uncomfortable in these situations. Try to beat Japanese or Germans then we can talk.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Eh? Not sure where all this angst about pride or appreciation is coming from. I made no mention of country of origin — I was just pointing out the technology. DBW are just cool, but more appropriate for the track than the street.

        Did I touch a nerve when I compared DBW to massive HP that goes untapped? It’s ok to want more power that we can’t use but not ok to want more handling that we can’t use?

      • 0 avatar
        AtoB

        Try to beat Japanese or Germans then we can talk.

        Once upon a time we did. Simultaneously.

    • 0 avatar

      Being proud of Germans and Japanese building great vehicles for you to mindlessly consume? Proud to be American and avoiding American cars at any cost (“smart buyer”)? BTW I talked with Japanese engineers and they always were sincerely proud that they beat Americans in their home market, you could see genuine happiness on their faces, not that fake pride Americans have about their belongings. Needless to say I always felt uncomfortable in these situations. Try to beat Japanese or Germans then we can talk.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    There are also these knuckle strut systems which reduce the scrub radius:

    – Ford RevoKnuckle
    – GM HiPer Strut
    – Honda Dual Axis
    – Toyota Super Strut
    – Renault Double-axis Perfohub

    But even the VW Carrado, which was so praised for it’s handling prowess, had ordinary conventional struts. VW designers must have taken great care with that design.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It’s irrelevant. We have to remember the context in which Honda made those DWB suspensions. Japanese auto companies were basically coked out of their minds and high on bubble cash. I’ve owned, modded and driven many DWB Hondas (see screen name), and I currently have a 2009 Civic…… that Civic’s cheapo strut front suspension is as good as any DWB Honda on the street. The turn in is unreal, and the steering’s weight and feel are perfect.

    Struts definitely do take up less room as well, and for tinkerers like me are better on the street as long as the base geometry is good. Ask anyone who has lowered a DWB Honda about FUCA clearance…

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The OP’s perceptions are wrong.

    Tooling up an application-specific strut costs just as much as doing so for an SLA (short/long arm, or double wishbone) suspension. Parts cost is likely a wash across the two. Manufacturing likes struts better because they are simpler to marry to the chassis along with the powertrain so there may be some labor/process related savings.

    Struts may actually be made to ride better than SLA because it’s possible to shift a larger percentage of overall suspension mass into the sprung mass category by not having an UCA.

    If you no longer have a design goal of a low cowl/hood height the struts’ packaging characteristics are all positives and no drawbacks. Let’s face it, look at cars today and try to convince yourself they give a rat’s rear about hood height. Also Honda long ago abandoned any pretense of tailoring their mainstream vehicles to the sporting driver or enthusiast. Nobody in the core Accord market knows or cares what suspension design they have as long as it rides well and doesn’t break.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      The days of low hood height are gone forever, thanks to frontal pedestrian impact safety requirements that originated in Europe. So we are sacrificing the driver’s ability to see what is right in front of the vehicle (like a child on a Big Wheel) for the safety of stupid people who cross the street without even glancing up from their phone. That’s a win, right?

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    “People gotta buy cars and they like to buy less stuff (they’ll never see), less things to wear out. It’s a win-win for everyone, even a die-hard double wishboner shall succumb to the harsh reality of the car business.”

    Then why doesn’t this work for manual transmissions?

    People gotta buy cars and they like to buy less work. It’s a win-win for everyone, less work & lower production costs. Even a die-hard shifter shall succumb to the harsh reality of the car business.

    There FIFY.

  • avatar
    markogts

    “I once believed BMW signed a pact* with Satan Himself to get MacPherson struts and recirculating ball steering performing so brilliantly.”

    I suppose that devil was a wishbone bush supplier…

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    The most significant effect of Honda going to struts is that you can’t lower them several inches anymore without severe negative effects. Car culture’s gotten boring.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Yup, hood height for pedestrian safety. If you can’t look low you might as well use strut.

  • avatar

    My 1988 pile of junk GMC pickup truck has double wishbones, and it handles like a shopping cart with a bent frame that only rides on three wheels at any given time. I am currently working on a BMW strut conversion.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Those old Honda double wishbone suspensions had what, 4 1/2 inches of total suspension travel? The later Legends and that awful Vigor were prime exanples of how not to do it. Talk about a waste of having SLAs in the first place if you don’t utilize its primary benefit – minimal camber change with large wheel movement. For decades I commuted to work over a large suspension bridges watching Hondas hop over the expansion joints. Not sure they’re much better today. The 2013 Accord managed a head bobble on new pavement.

    The 1982 thru 1985 on Accord that had Honda dealers charging thousands over list featured, wait for it, MacStruts. Say it ain’t so, Martha! It ain’t what you got, it’s how you use it. And despite decades of VW Golfs which when working handily beat Honda in the ride and handling department, all of them had MacStruts. Hard to believe, I know. People get hung up on the strangest things.

  • avatar
    kuman

    there was a show in mythbuster proving you can indeed polish a turd.

    IMHO something which is only workable, yet done in a proper way in many occasion will work out better than something that is “perfect” but executed poorly.

    case and point. I have tasted better MCD fries more often than fries in upper class restaurants.

    By no means MCD fries are better than natural fries, yet they are engineered and executed so well, it excels over real potatoes cooked by a half ass-ed chefs.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    I owned a 94 Honda Accord and a 98 Accord years ago with the double wishbone setup and although they handled great and were low to the ground, they rode like crap. A same year Camry rode so much smoother and was quieter to drive although they used a Macstrut suspension.

    I do notice the lack of wheel travel in modern FWD cars, this leads to a choppy stiff ride that becomes very jittery on rough uneven roads.

    I’d still prefer a big RWD SLA coil spring setup for the ultimate riding comfort, with a long wheel travel. You can not obtain the same riding qualities or wheel movement geometry in a limited strut setup vs the reliable Long Arm Short arm design which is superior IMO.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    And yet, Sajeev, the suposedly primitive Corvette is using SLA suspension both front and rear. I don’t think that example can prove your point from both a positive and negative perspective at the same time.

    I agree that struts *can* be made to work well enough for street cars. That doesn’t mean that the advantages of SLA or multi-link suspensions don’t exist.

    You should have gone with your gut instinct that FoMoCo hit its zenith when the Mark VIII came out! ;)

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