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Suspension / Ride Quality / Handling - Too firm or Just Right?

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by cab, Jul 30, 2017.

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  1. cab

    cab Member

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    So I tend to be pretty obsessive when it comes to the ride quality and handling balance on cars. Years ago I felt this was practically a BMW trademark. Lots of cars handle well, but often beat you up in the process. BMW managed to master the balance (great handling with really good ride quality).

    With the advent of run-flat tires and the "all wheels must be gigantic" (compared to years past) syndrome, ride quality seems to have suffered. Indeed, BMW is a perfect example of this. They introduced run-flat tires on most of their cars several years ago (presumably to save weight on a spare and have better packaging) and ride quality went to pot (even handling took a hit). They seem to be recovering with each generation, but it has been a long haul and, in many ways, between this and electric power steering they still aren't back to where they were (IMO) in the glory days.

    Model S and X
    ANYWAY, in my test drives of the Model S, I felt the air suspension was a must have as it seemed to shave a very noticeable amount of harshness off of impacts, etc. It was a "must have" for me when I purchased (ironically, I ended up with a P85+ where air was the only option anyway). It isn't uncommon to hear other owners comment on the "firm" ride in their Ses and Xes here on TMC either (even with air on may cases).

    Model 3
    That brings me to the Model 3. When I saw the Model 3 would NOT have an air suspension option, I sort of cringed a little as I wondered if Tesla would "get the damping right" for the struts/shocks. While the reviews (really, little more than very short drives" are sparse, the Motor Trend review and video seems particularly telling. The written review notes the handling is, frankly, pretty d*mn good. They compare it to the Alfa Romeo Giulia and "maybe even Quadrafoglio" - the Alfa has gotten very good reviews for its handling so I consider this high praise. However, the Quadrafoglio is Alfa's version of a BMW M3, Audi RS4, Cadillac's ATS-V or Mercedes AMG C-Class and those cars can have a suspension that, while cool when "carving corners" gets old in day-to-day driving. In a recent comparison between the M3/ATS-V/AMG/Qudrafoglio we see a split. The Germans did NOT ride well, but the Caddy and Alfa did. In both cases, those cars came with adjustable dampers which usually have different modes (i.e. comfort/sport/etc) and are "active" (dynamically changing) in every mode. We don't get that in the case of the Model 3. We get ONE suspension tune. Indeed, in the Motor Trend video the FIRST thing Kym says to Hans when on the road is "First Impression? Ugh, I feel the road. Is this sort of a, um, sporty, firmer suspension?...So it's a sport oriented feel right off the bat". He goes on the further describe it as "nimble as heck", and comments on how there is a "nice bit of tremble through the steering" (giving good road feel).

    Anyway, it sounds like car enthusiasts will LOVE it...everyone else...hmmm.

    Excerpt from Car and Driver's Comparison of Cadillac ATS-V, BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG and Alfa Giulia Quadrafoglio (bolding is mine)
    With the exception of Porsche’s 911 and 718 Boxster/Cayman, there is no other 1.00-g chassis that rides as well as the Giulia’s. The electronic dampers provide transcendent wheel control and somehow round off bumps that would ring through the BMW and Mercedes. Even in the hardest of the three modes, the suspension remains civil in a way that eludes the German sedans.

    Excerpt from Motor Trend Review First Drive of Model 3 (bolding is mine)
    What’s blanching, though, is the car’s ride and handling. If anybody was expecting a typical boring electric sedan here, nope. The ride is Alfa Giulia (maybe even Quadrifoglio)–firm, and quickly, I’m carving Stunt Road like a Sochi Olympics giant slalomer, micrometering my swipes at the apexes. I glance at Franz—this OK? “Go for it,” he nods. The Model 3 is so unexpected scalpel-like, I’m sputtering for adjectives. The steering ratio is quick, the effort is light (for me), but there’s enough light tremble against your fingers to hear the cornering negotiations between Stunt Road and these 235/40R19 tires (Continental ProContact RX m+s’s). And to mention body roll is to have already said too much about it. Sure, that battery is low, way down under the floor. But unlike the aluminum Model S, the Tesla Model 3 is composed of steel, too, and this car’s glass ceiling can’t be helping the center of gravity’s height. Nearly-nil body roll? Magic, I’m telling you. Magic. And this is the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive starting point. The already boggled mind boggles further at the mention of Dual Motor and Ludicrous.

    Motor Trend First Drive Review (and video)
    Exclusive: Tesla Model 3 First Drive Review - Motor Trend
     
  2. Stolz25

    Stolz25 Member

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    I had some of the thoughts reading that review. Sounds like it's going to be a pretty rough ride.
     
  3. Tiger

    Tiger Member

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    If you look at the Motor Trend First Drive Review Video, you can tell the ride is quite rough by the way the passengers hairstyle moves throughout the ride ... ;)
     
  4. cab

    cab Member

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    Yep, there is a bit more "head bob" there than folks might be expecting. The road surface doesn't look pristine, but it also doesn't look horrible either ( I would describe it as "typical").
     
  5. UnitaryExecutive

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    I know most folks want more of a comfort ride in their vehicles, but I find that Motor Trend tends to value what I do - fast acceleration, handling and sporty rides (old 3 series and Infiniti G35's). It seems most manufacturers have gone away from the harsher rides because they're not very popular.

    Nowadays, it's hard to find a sedan in the < 5.5 0-60 time with good handling and a sporty ride.
     
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  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    In my brief ride, the suspension felt responsive, "tight" and transmits more road imperfections than a Model S with air suspension.
    I like sporty cars, and think it is great. People looking for more comfort may prefer Model S.
     
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  7. Stolz25

    Stolz25 Member

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    LOL. There are a lot of reasons I'd prefer a model S. I'll just let my boss know tomorrow I want a huge raise so I can buy it. Shouldn't be a problem.
     
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  8. Lunarx

    Lunarx Member

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    It probably is a stiff ride, which is true to the description of 19" Sport Wheels.
    Those wanting a smooth ride, should stay with the 18" wheels.
    Save the $1500 and apply towards aftermarket wheels, if you find the Aero Wheels unsightly (that's my plan now).

    Also, I'd bet the smaller battery offers a better ride, than the heavy battery in the test drive car.
     
  9. jeremyz

    jeremyz Member

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    That bit of the review of the Model 3 is the best thing I've read about the Model 3. I hope that the Model 3 is way closer to the Roadster than the Model S on the handling spectrum. I feel like the Model S drives like a giant boat; I find its performance somewhat disconcerting. The Roadster feels glorious. And with the adjustable suspension set to the Lincoln Town Car mode, it doesn't break out all of your teeth out. Unfortunately, I don't think the Model 3 will have the best Roadster feature, no power steering.
     
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  10. favo

    favo Model 3 Reservation Holder

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    Overall, I like a sporty suspension, so the Motor Trend article is good news. Maybe the P will have an electronically adjustable suspension (wishful thinking). Somewhere down the line, they might offer air suspension as an option on Model 3.
     
  11. Ken7

    Ken7 Member

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    Absolutely! I mentioned this a couple of times as a good rationale for staying with the 18" wheels...which I will do. If you want purtier wheels, go aftermarket or, perhaps, remove the Aero covers.

    Of course the question still remains, how is the ride quality with the smaller wheels? It seems all of the test drives occurred with the 19". I'd like to see some mention made, in some review, of the comparison in ride quality between the 18" & 19" on the 3.

    I'm also wondering if we'll even get a chance to take a test drive with the 18" wheels. I'm betting the dealer's testers will all be 19".
     
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  12. Stolz25

    Stolz25 Member

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    One of the videos showed being able to adjust the steering wheel resistance, but I suspect if the suspension could be adjusted that would have come up when they were discussing the feel of the road.
     
  13. calisnow

    calisnow Active Member

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    Hello brother-from-another-mother. Oh for the E36 3 series, the E39 5 series. We will never see the likes of your ride+handling quality again. :sniff:

    You are absolutely right. I own two S's - a 2016 with coils ('cause I cheaped out and listened to people who said there is no difference) and a 2017 with air suspension. It's night and day on our imperfect California roads. That extra big of small hit absorption in the air suspension makes the car much more comfortable to drive over the long run. I regret coils almost every time I drive the 2016. Yes they have a bit more feedback but NO - Tesla has not mastered the ride + handling magic of the E36 & E39 IMHO. On the other hand it's been years since I've driven a 540i and I sold my M3 almost a decade ago. I could be remembering through rose colored spectacles.

    This here car enthusiast loves sports cars but for typical freeway commuting driving wants a comfortable ride. Horses for courses. I will say that AP1 has been the saving grace of my 2016 S - it reduces freeway fatigue and road rage enough that it more than makes up for the rough ride of coils. However the best of all worlds is the air suspension S. And YES - more suspension options on the 3 out the gate would be nice.
     
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  14. cab

    cab Member

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    LOL yes, the E36 and E39!! I had a '97 328i sport, 2001 530i (std suspension) and 2002 M5 (and my son has a '97 M3). I test drove the BMW i3 and even had one for a 3 day test drive, but there was another example of a suspension "miss". The uber short wheelbase combined with a too firm suspension resulted in serious head toss for occupants and, as a bonus, darty freeway handling (no doubt in part due to the skinny tires)! Suspension tuning is definitely a black art these days.
     
  15. shrspeedblade

    shrspeedblade Member

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    Another 97 E36 M3 Sedan owner (in the past :() here. It's actually the benchmark in my head for the Model 3 in a lot of ways- but goodness knows the maintenance better be less! :eek:

    I figure if I ever start to think Model 3 rides a little harsh, I'll just take my coilover equipped Miata out for a jaunt- guaranteed to cure me in no time!
     

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