Automotive

What makes the mini cooper and Civic Type R (and other previous Type R variants) such good handling cars?

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  • Dec 22nd, 2018 11:51 pm
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Jan 27, 2004
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What makes the mini cooper and Civic Type R (and other previous Type R variants) such good handling cars?

General rule of automotive knowledge...
FWD easier to produce. Handling not so good (with exceptions).
RWD more expensive to produce, but better handling.
AWD/4WD unrelated to discussion... but awd could be made to handle extremely well.


How do they get cars like the TYPE R variants and Mini cooper to handle so well? They handle well enough to hang with similar RWD cars... But how do they achieve this with a drive train type that is typically associated with under steer and economy cars?
28 replies
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Biggest thing is probably some form of torque vectoring either through mechanical or electronic differentials. This helps send power to the wheels that need it. Like for a CTR when going through a turn, the outer wheel gets more power and they slow down the inner wheel to help turn better. Plus having near 50/50 weight distribution helps too.
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Feb 11, 2007
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They focus on light weight, ideal suspension geometry and a good differential, which all means higher cost, and less comfort as a trade off.
FWD will still never be as good as a similarly setup RWD though, because the wheels can only use 100% of the friction circle of the tire, which means brake, steer, or accelerate. While a RWD can accelerate while steering.
Also the suspension geometry for ideal cornering (usually higher camber) conflicts with ideal brake/acceleration geometry (usually low camber).

With AWD and sophisticated torque vectoring (Nissan GTR, Rimac, Tesla AWD, LeMans Hybrid Prototype class) you can achieve the best acceleration and corning by braking inside wheels, sending torque where needed, and recouperating electrical energy during braking.

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Jan 15, 2006
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bomber17 wrote:
Dec 15th, 2018 4:34 pm
Biggest thing is probably some form of torque vectoring either through mechanical or electronic differentials. This helps send power to the wheels that need it. Like for a CTR when going through a turn, the outer wheel gets more power and they slow down the inner wheel to help turn better. Plus having near 50/50 weight distribution helps too.
All modern cars have the computer driving for you. You can never truly turn off everything despite the system showing stability/traction is off. The programming behind the CTR does magical things that a driver will never be able to do. Now the integra type R on the other hand was a true track focused car with seam welding and additional structural braces to stiffen the car which in turn gave it better handling along with a LSD. No cheating aids of any kind.
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Mar 23, 2004
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In a word, engineering. Suspension, weight, tyres, CofG/wt. distribution, power distribution and electronic systems, all of these things factor into it. Clearly regardless of where the engine is mounted or what wheels are driven, a great handling car can be made in pretty much any configuration if it's done correctly--i.e. well engineered. People that bellyache about having to have this or that, are mostly just bellyachers/snobs. You know, like those that go on about how FWD is "wrong wheel drive" and that kind of thing. Though granted as power and torque get up there, FWD starts to get less and less ideal. For most FWD cars, over 300hp becomes stupid. There's exceptions, as you indicate something like the Type-R manages to get away with this fairly well but most FWD cars it really does not work out great for a number of reasons.

TBH though for most normal cars (not speaking of hiked up cute-utes, wannabe-SUVs, CUVs, trucks, or anything with a lifted ride height) you can make them handle significantly better...just by changing the tyres to good/real ones. Those two Australian guys (among others) on YouTube proved this on a BR-Z/FR-S where they compared what gives better handling--aftermarket suspension OR good tyres. This car is already low to the ground and has good handling characteristics from the factory but the end result was the good tyres made more of a difference than crappy tyres and coilovers. Of course both the coilovers and the good tyres made it handle best but tyres being your baseline traction and not being able to beat physics, wins out over anything else in terms of making the largest initial difference. And not just in handling either, better tyres also = better braking and better acceleration too. This is why I think it's pretty inexcusable for people to drive around on junk like no-seasons or buy garbagy Chinese ice cream tyres, etc. and drive around like that. Just doesn't make any sense from a safety standpoint.

Incidentally the converse is also true. Just because a car is RWD doesn't mean it's going to handle better or have better characteristics than a FWD one either. There's probably tons of examples of "regular cars" from the 70s and earlier that suck compared to many modern-day FWD cars in the handling department.
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Talking about handling. I'm not sure about Cooper or Civic Type R. But I owned a CRX Si before. And that car was the best car regarding handling on the road. I could literally feel the road, the bumps and knew if the car could handle the turn or not. Only problem was that it stuck easily on snow LOL. I believe it is the weight balance on the car. And I didn't feel the wind on a windy day on hwy for such a small vehicle.
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bomber17 wrote:
Dec 15th, 2018 4:34 pm
Biggest thing is probably some form of torque vectoring either through mechanical or electronic differentials. This helps send power to the wheels that need it. Like for a CTR when going through a turn, the outer wheel gets more power and they slow down the inner wheel to help turn better.
A limited slip differential cannot slow down either wheel. It can only equalize the two wheel speeds by making the slower wheel spin faster. When taking a corner the outside wheel has to rotate faster than the inside since it has a longer arc length to travel in the same time. So a limited slip differential forces the inside wheel to spin faster than necessary; it slips against the road. This is why some performance FWD cars with limited slip differentials experience understeer or "push".

The main benefit of a limited slip differential is the ability to send power to the wheel that has grip. When a car goes around a corner, the inside wheel becomes unloaded (ie. less weight on it). Energy wants to take the path of least resistance, so in that case, that is the inside, unloaded wheel. With an open differential (ie not limited slip), the result is an inside wheel spinning against the road, and the outside tire receiving no power. A limited slip FORCES the power to the outside wheel which still has grip and the car goes around the corner faster.

This principle applies to all drivetrain configurations: FWD, RWD, AWD, MR, RR etc.
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derass wrote:
Dec 15th, 2018 6:03 pm
A limited slip differential cannot slow down either wheel.
But an "electronic" LSD (which isn't really an LSD at all) can. It does this by lightly applying the brake on the inside wheel(s) as the car goes around the corner. With the power on this qualifies as a form of "torque vectoring" as he stated. There's a couple of caveats though. In using the brakes, if it's too aggressive you're just going to slow the car down; also you're using up a small amount of that "triangle of traction" now on braking rather than cornering or acceleration. If the braking is light and minimal this can still make the car easier to drive around corners and more well behaved even if it's a FWD car with an open-diff. VW's XDS is a good example and the system does work fairly well and is fairly unobtrusive when employed.

Of course now if you're overdoing the limits of the car and the tyres, you're going to trip the stability control and/or traction control which will indeed slow it down (brakes for one, throttle closing for another) though this will at least be able to right a car that's a little out of control. Depending on what one is doing though, that "little out of control" is desired at times and tripping the ESP will bring that to a close while also heating up the brakes. Hence why anyone that tracks a car and knows even a little bit about what they're doing, wants to be able to disable stability control--most of these systems are too quick to react in that kind of scenario.

There's also other systems to torque vector. Acura's SH-AWD, for example, can apportion rear-end torque via the EM clutchpacks the same way (varying the torque dist. from side to side) in order to corner better (at least during power-on cornering). Note though that the "SH-AWD" system varies on different vehicles so how well this works also depends on the system employed. Many of these systems don't actually make the car handle better in terms of raw handling but they make them easier to drive and more forgiving to someone who may get on the throttle too quickly or aggressively on corner exit (or even mid-corner) turning something that wasn't setup or driven like a "perfect corner" into one that nearly matches it anyway.

While some people think these systems are too "nanny-ish", you have to think about the typical driver on the roads out there and the hilarious requirements for licensing we have in places like Canada and the US. You pretty much pay a few bucks and do a parallel parking, obey the speed limit, and traffic signs and boom you got a licence. You don't have to know a thing about how a vehicle operates, how a car puts power to the road, what traction even is, and even the first thing about over and understeer (the very two things which will get you into trouble on the road). You have to know none of those things, never mind how your individual make/model/equipment operates. Then you see threads on places like here where someone drives their brand new $50-60k CUV off the road because "they were told" AWD negates the need for tyres with proper traction, or other stories where someone drives into a pole because they didn't understand that snow is slippery (and I'm not kidding here these are things mentioned in two threads here recently). So nannies or not, 98% of "drivers" on public roads really do benefit from these things.
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ES_Revenge wrote:
Dec 15th, 2018 6:36 pm
But an "electronic" LSD (which isn't really an LSD at all) can. It does this by lightly applying the brake on the inside wheel(s) as the car goes around the corner. With the power on this qualifies as a form of "torque vectoring" as he stated.
Well, yes. That's a torque vectoring system, not a limited slip differential.

It's not accurate to be calling such a system an electronic LSD, whether it's torque vectoring or traction control or stability control or whatever the case may be. Because there are actual electronic limited slip differentials. Instead of using cams and ramps to engage clutches like a traditional, mechanical LSD, they use motors or magnetic coils.
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May 17, 2012
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Technology plays a role for sure but you guys are forgetting a big factor -- weight. The mini, civic and integra type rs handled like go-karts because the weighed very little. Off the top of my head the first type r civics and integras were something like 2300lbs while a 'normal' fwd is pushing 3k lbs or more

Upgraded suspensions and larger rear swaybars also helped combat a FWDs tendency to understeer.
Jr. Member
Nov 2, 2012
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Toronto
I'm thinking engineering wizardry is what making them handle so good. I remember going to the Mini Cooper S driving event when it first launched in Canada. Next to a go-cart, the next best handling cars that I've tried, would be the Mini Cooper S.

Amazing convertible mechanism as well, props to the BMW engineers who were responsible for the convertible mechanism.
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iconicrocket1 wrote:
Dec 17th, 2018 11:55 pm
I'm thinking engineering wizardry is what making them handle so good. I remember going to the Mini Cooper S driving event when it first launched in Canada. Next to a go-cart, the next best handling cars that I've tried, would be the Mini Cooper S.

Amazing convertible mechanism as well, props to the BMW engineers who were responsible for the convertible mechanism.
They also have the legendary BMW reliability to match.
/s
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Dec 17, 2015
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York, ON
ITR still most fun to drive car, takes effort to wring it and get a good lap.

It depends on what the comparison is...

In this case I’d take CTR over Mini Cooper S. More reliable and more storage

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