Driving dynamics: chassis, steering and brakes

Driving dynamics: chassis, steering and brakes  - Overview - Volvo C30

The new Volvo C30 is a compact and light car. Light weight gives a car extra agility and reduces fuel consumption. 'This light weight was one of the goals for the Volvo C30,' says Mr Abrahamsson. 'It would have been very easy to pile on the pounds. A heavy car is often better in a collision, so that would also have enabled us to meet our stringent safety goals. We resisted. The light weight was a crucial ingredient in the agility and sporty behaviour of the C30. Thanks to the extremely stiff body, we have also launched what I believe is the world's safest compact car - quite an achievement.'

The fully independent suspension is firmer than on other Volvos to aid agility, and the electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering has a sportier feel to improve the car's driver feedback.

'We spent a lot time getting the steering feel just right,' says Mr Abrahamsson. 'The lowness of the car, and its wide stance, further boosts nimbleness. The wheels are "pulled" to the very extremities of the car. The wide track improves the car's balance and road holding and reduces roll. The long wheelbase contributes to the car's composure on both winding and fast roads, and improves handling predictability.

'It feels small and nimble,' says Mr Abrahamsson. 'Yet on the motorway, the Volvo C30 has great composure. It has a big car feel on long journeys. Though nimble, the C30 is in no way frenzied. That was one aspect of a sports car we did not want.'

It's comfortable, too. 'The compact format has not prevented us from integrating much of what is best in the larger Volvo cars,' says Mr Abrahamsson. 'Even the smallest Volvo should provide the right premium feel - in all respects. This applies not only to the appearance and the impression of quality, but just as much how it is to drive and use. Our intention is that the Volvo C30 should attract people who love driving.'

The fully independent suspension boosts handling but also aids ride comfort. The Volvo C30 uses spring MacPherson struts at the front, the geometry designed to provide quick and precise steering. The rear suspension is sophisticated multi-link. This fully independent set-up allows for a small degree of passive rear-wheel steer when cornering to boost stability and control. Anti-roll bars, to ensure flat and composed handling, are fitted front and rear.

New Sports chassis

Introduced to compliment the Volvo C30's dynamic style, a Sports chassis is available to give a significantly sharper ride. The chassis has been modified in several key areas to make a better balanced and more agile car. Firstly the chassis lowers the car by 10mm, resulting in a lower centre of gravity to enhance the driving characteristics. The steering is also more precise owing to the installation of stiffer brushings. The steering ratio is lower, giving a 10 per cent faster response to steering wheel input. Spring stiffness has been increased by 30 per cent to deliver a more dynamic ride. The dampers too are stiffer and are designed to build up pressure more quickly. The roll stabilizers are also stiffer to reduce any leaning tendency when cornering. The Sport Chassis is available as standard on all R-DESIGN models and a L400 option on SE and SE Lux (not available on D2 or DRIVe engine variants).

Volvo has put the new Sport Chassis through a regime of tests throughout Europe to ensure the new C30 performs, including on narrow, twisting lanes in England, at high speed on the German autobahn and on icy winter roads in the very north of Scandinavia.

Electronic controls improve safety and on-road dynamics

A range of electronic controls supplement the finely honed mechanical set-up. DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) is standard on every Volvo C30, preventing wheel spin or skidding by either braking the wheel that has lost traction (up to 25mph) or, above 25mph, by reducing engine power. Sensors detect the onset of a skid. The appropriate wheel is then slowed to restore control. In every case, the driven front wheels get no more power than they can safely transfer to the road.

ABS (Anti-lock brakes) are standard on all Volvo C30s with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and EBA (Electronic Brake Assist) to further ensure that the car has maximum composure in an emergency stop and comes to a halt in as short a distance as possible.

All Volvo C30s get front ventilated disc brakes and solid rear discs. The ventilation helps brake cooling, and improves braking performance at high-speed or during repeated stops. The higher performance T5 gets 300mm front ventilated discs, while the other versions get 278mm ventilated front discs.

Excellent torsional rigidity improves handling and safety

The monocoque steel body of the Volvo C30 offers excellent torsional rigidity, crucial to good handling, agility, safety and longevity. This lack of 'flex' allows the car's advanced suspension to do its job properly and is a crucial factor in the car's precise handling and high-speed stability. The advanced body design includes the use of high-strength materials, including Ultra High Strength Boron steel. These not only improve rigidity, to the benefit of handling, they improve the strength of the car, with its associated safety and longevity benefits.

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