Four-wheel steering is an old technology but its recent re-introduction is quickly turning into a must-have for all
All-wheel or four-wheel steering became a fad in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mazda, Honda and Nissan dove head-first into this technology providing it as an option on the priciest trims of their sporty cars. Indeed pricey and less than reliable, 4-wheel steering quickly went away but left a mark. We’ll have waited nearly two decades before its return and today, it is a must driving feature.
The Volkswagen Auto Group, Porsche and Audi in particular, have reintroduced this technology in many of its sportier vehicles. At Audi, and as the latest iterations of many of their vehicles, they are offering what they call Dynamic all-wheel steering as an option.
Audi’s system combines a pair of steering technologies. The first is dynamic steering which relies on strain wave gearing. This is the steering ratio’s ability to change or vary depending on speed. The rear wheels rotate slightly thanks to a spindle drive and two track rods. Picture tie rods as we know them however without adjustments or joints on the ends.
The impact of four-wheel steering is especially noticeable at lower speeds. Up to about 30km/h, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels, up to about 8 degrees. Speed and angles vary mildly between carmakers but the immediate sensation at lower speeds is that of a quicker and easier turn-in. The vehicle feels smaller if mostly because the overall turning circle, or radius, can be reduced by an entire meter. This transforms a larger vehicle such as the Audi Q7 or Porsche Cayenne into a more compact Audi Q5 or Porsche Macan.
At highway speeds, the rear wheels will turn up to about 2 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels. Although less noticeable from the driver’s seat, the associated and enhanced stability do improve the driving experience. Essentially, the vehicle feels far more stable and confidence inspiring.
The application also does wonders in sports cars such a Porsche 911. On the road and on a track, the 911’s inherent handling abilities are further enhanced. The all-wheel steering increases the chassis’ responsiveness enabling more speed to be carried through an apex.
Of the many improvements involving the driving experience brought forth in recent years, all-wheel steering is one of the most impactful. If the option is available with the vehicle you are considering, be sure to select. You won’t regret it.