Car enthusiasts often believe that weight is the enemy of performance, and for the most part they’re right. Lighter cars tend to get better fuel economy, are usually quicker in a straight line and on a racetrack, etc. However, there are certain aspects of car performance that can actually benefit from a little extra weight.
One: More Traction
If you’ve ever driven a rear wheel drive car in the winter, this should be pretty obvious to you. It’s a common practice to put extra weight over the driven wheels of rear wheel drive cars to get more traction in slippery conditions. With that in mind, imagine two cars at a drag strip. They both have identical weight distribution, the same tires and the same engine with the same power; the kicker is that one car is 400 pounds heavier than the other one. In theory, the heavier car should launch better because it has more weight pressing down on the tires. However, in that situation the lighter car would accelerate better once it can get it’s engine power down to the ground effectively.
Regarding track racing, the same should apply. A lighter car may be able to change directions more quickly and brake better, but a heavier car should have more tire grip. I think that light cars are great for tight roads and tracks with a lot of changing direction but heavy cars might actually be faster in sweepers and tracks with a lot of high speed corners.
Two: Added Crash Safety
This is simple physics. If you have two cars approaching each other head on at the same speed, and one car is heavier than the other, the heavier car wins; it’s a scientific fact. That’s why some parents will give their kids big and heavy vehicles like SUV’s and trucks for their first car. When and not if they wreck the car, they should be safer.
Three: Better Ride Quality
Rolls Royce’s ride better than Miatas. “Of course they do, the Rolls Royce is a luxury car that costs five times as much.” That’s true, but there’s more to it than that. Some people have discovered that putting weight into an empty pickup bed makes a difference in ride quality, whether it’s a percieved or real difference. When a car goes over a bump, additional weight can help absorb the impact. That might explain why luxury cars are often pretty heavy.
Four: Comfort and Luxury
Many people find things like cushy heated and cooled leather seats, ample sound deadening and wood paneling great for cars. With those luxury items comes additional weight. On the other hand there are light car related things like race seats, polycarbonate windows and lightweight body panels. These things may make a faster car, but they also make for a car that would not be ideal for long road trips. Want comfort and luxury? Stay away from lightweight materials and cars. Lightweight, fast and uncomfortable or heavy comfy and slow, those are your choices. That, or you can compromise and go somewhere in between.
If someone wants the argue bout the ride, they can come jump in the Rodeo. It has bugger all Weight on the rear. The tray you can pick up with ease if you unbolt it.. you bounce down the road. But if I put weight on the back (not over a ton cause then it’s hitting the wheels on the tray and isn’t very smooth.. or nice to hear) then the ride improves big time. It doesn’t take much weight either.
U forgot about that sometimes heavier cars can feel more “planted”
Heavy doesn’t always equal safety… it was ranked last out of the 3 muscle cars.
True. Another factor is crumple zones and ride height.
Heavier cars are less planted in corners, because they have more inertia. I’m not sure how it works out, but wouldn’t the grip advantage be lost because of the extra inertia to overcome?
If you go too fast, yes. Even light cars can lose control if they go into a corner faster than they control.
It’s the same reason that heavy weight doesn’t actually help acceleration, trust me, I’m. An engineering student.
Nice blogpost, but I may have to disagree with you on the comfort part.
School buses weigh waaay over two tons, and they have such an uncomfortable ride.
In my point of view, it depends on the manufacturer on that one.
That’s probably because the springs are about as stiff as on a slammed S13
the classiest example that bigger is sometimes better
I’m sorry but more weight doesn’t equal more grip when cornering. Well yes it kind of does, you have more friction force on a tire with more load. But with more load the efficiency of the tire goes down, which means that coefficient of friction goes down. This means that with more weight increases grip but the grip increases less than the required force to turn the car goes up.
Heavy is nice, but it makes cornering a little more difficult. Plus efficiency goes down unless you have better aerodynamics.
Very informative I never thought about weight that way. It was always weight reduction or nothing,but now I see things in a new light. Puts the Nissan GTR into perspective as well.
Also there is less roll from my experience….driving newer Suburbans I discovered mine rolls less ‘cause…well its heavier if Im mistaken anyone can correct me pls