When it comes to automotive suspension systems, double wishbone and MacPherson suspension are two of the most common suspension architectures. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages.
Understanding the pros and cons of each can help consumers and car enthusiasts make informed decisions when they purchase a vehicle, depending on their use case.
Double Wishbone Suspension Pros
1) Better Handling
Double wishbone suspension provides excellent handling and stability, particularly during cornering. Its design allows for dynamic camber changes mid corner that maximize tire contact with the road. This results in improved traction and superior control, especially on uneven or challenging terrains.
Many double wishbone designs allow the rear outside wheel to toe in under compression. This helps the car turn in to the corner more quickly. This results in a vehicle that feels more agile and responsive.
2) Adjustable Geometry
Double wishbone suspensions typically offer far more alignment adjustability, giving more options for camber, caster, and toe settings. This adjustability allows fine-tuning of the suspension geometry to suit specific driving preferences or performance requirements.
Finer control over the car’s alignment is particularly advantageous for car enthusiasts who autocross or take their car to the track.
Double Wishbone Suspension Cons
1) Complexity and Cost
Double wishbone suspensions are more complex and intricate in design compared to MacPherson struts. They require additional components, such as upper control arms, upper ball joints, and additional bushings, which can increase development time and manufacturing costs.
The complexity of the system can also make repairs and replacements more time consuming and expensive.
2) Increased Weight
The additional components of double wishbone suspensions can contribute to increased weight, leading to higher unsprung mass. This additional weight can have a slight impact on fuel efficiency and overall vehicle performance.
However, advancements in lightweight materials and engineering techniques have minimized this drawback in modern designs.
MacPherson Strut Suspension Pros
1) Simple and Cost Effective
MacPherson strut suspensions are simpler in design, with fewer components compared to double wishbone systems. Their compact design makes them easier to install and maintain, leading to reduced manufacturing costs. This simplicity also translates into faster and more affordable repairs or replacements.
2) Space Efficient
MacPherson struts are space-efficient, occupying less room within the vehicle’s engine compartment. This allows for more efficient packaging, leaving more space for other components or passenger accommodations. It is particularly beneficial in vehicles with limited engine bay space.
3) Good Balance of Comfort and Handling
MacPherson struts provide a balanced combination of ride comfort and handling. Their design offers adequate shock absorption and stability, resulting in a smooth and controlled ride quality.
While MacPherson strut suspension systems may not match the handling performance of double wishbone suspensions, they strike a good balance for everyday driving, economy cars, and even some light duty trucks.
MacPherson Strut Suspension Cons
1) Limited Adjustability
Unlike double wishbone suspensions, MacPherson struts have limited adjustability options. This lack of adjustability may limit fine-tuning of suspension characteristics to suit specific driving preferences or performance requirements. Enthusiasts seeking a highly customized suspension setup may find this restrictive.
However, there are often aftermarket solutions for enthusiasts who own vehicles with MacPherson strut suspension. Camber plates and aftermarket control arms offer additional camber adjustments, for instance. Some aftermarket suspension components may also offer additional caster settings.
2) Increased Body Roll
MacPherson struts have a tendency to induce more body roll during cornering compared to double wishbone suspensions. The interconnected nature of the system means that changes in one wheel affect the other, potentially reducing overall handling precision and responsiveness.
However, this drawback can be mitigated with proper suspension tuning and the addition of anti-roll bars. Anti-roll bars are also known as sway bars or stabilizer bars.
Cars with Double Wishbone Suspension
Many well known sports cars use double wishbone suspension. Here is a short list of cars that are known for having double wishbone suspension.
1) Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda Miata is known as one of the greatest affordable sports cars of all time, partly due to its phenomenal handling. Mazda Miatas have a bespoke double wishbone suspension system that is not used on any other Mazda model.
All Teslas have double wishbone suspension. Since electric vehicles don’t have the same powertrain constraints as a combustion engine vehicle with a large engine at the front, it is much easier to fit double wishbone suspension systems on electric vehicles.
Cars with MacPherson Strut Suspension
1) Porsche 911 (except GT3)
Surprisingly, the Porsche 911 uses MacPherson strut suspension on most of its models. This is due to packaging constraints rather than cost. Porsche’s GT lineup is designed with the race track in mind, and therefore sacrifices a bit of space for a more precise double wishbone setup.
2) Subaru WRX STI (and many other sport sedans)
Sport sedans are designed to be fun and quick without sacrificing daily drivability. They typically have a front engine configuration. The Subaru WRX STI is an affordable rally-inspired car that uses MacPherson strut suspension on the front, double wishbone on the rear.
Both double wishbone and MacPherson strut suspensions have their strengths and weaknesses. Double wishbone suspensions excel in handling and adjustability, while MacPherson are superior when it comes to cost and space efficiency.
Ultimately, which suspension setup is best for you will depend on your individual use case. Keep in mind what you want to use your vehicle for, what your budget is, and personal preferences.
Manufacturers carefully evaluate these factors to select the suspension system that best suits their specific vehicle models, striking a balance between performance, cost, and overall customer satisfaction.
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