Is Four-Wheel Steering Making A Comeback?

Illustration for article titled Is Four-Wheel Steering Making A Comeback?

I’m positive that if we keep writing about sweet European wagons, Americans will turn and the crossover mania will finally be toned down for good. But for now, let’s focus on four-wheel steering, because surprisingly enough, this affordable Renault family car has it.

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This is the Renault Megane Sport Tourer GT. That’s French for sporty midsize grocery getter. This GT version packs a 2.0-liter turbo with 265 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, with a body that sits 0.47 inches closer to the ground. It tops out at 157 mph, but more importantly, it also comes with electric four-wheel steering.

Renault’s sportier cars had that for a few years now, but it’s the first time they put it in one of their smaller models.

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Illustration for article titled Is Four-Wheel Steering Making A Comeback?

Four-wheel steering might have been around for ages, but so far, it could only make it into a few luxury cars here and there. Plus General Motors’ Sierra pickups.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japanese manufacturers including Mitsubishi, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru all offered various active four-wheel drive steering systems on their top-of-the-line models. Be those mechanical, hydraulic or electric units, the idea was to make the cars safer at sudden direction changes, faster in the corners and at the end of the day, easier to park.

At the same time, the idea never really caught on with mainstream vehicles, remaining a costly option on a handful of models.

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Maybe it’s making a comeback. Today, cars like the Audi Q7, BMWs like the 5 Series and above, the new Cadillac CT6, a few Acuras, all new Porsches and the latest Ferraris all have some sort of active rear-wheel steering—but none of them cost as little as Renault’s Megane wagon.

The GT’s four-wheel steer control unit is located behind the rear axle. The system was developed by Renaultsport, and it works by monitoring vehicle speed and steering wheel movements, activating an electric actuator on the rear axle if necessary. At low speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions, while above 38 mph, they move simultaneously.

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The system recognizes asymmetrical braking situations as well, adjusting the wheels without any interaction so that the car stays stable. In an emergency situation, the rear-wheel angle can rise to 3.5 degrees.

The system at low speeds in the Renault Talisman. Photo credit: Renault
The system at low speeds in the Renault Talisman. Photo credit: Renault
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One size up, Renault has the even tastier Talisman Grandtour with the same tech, but since America is not getting either of these French wonders, let’s just look at the stunning Volvo V90 again.

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Remember: wagons are more aerodynamic to start with, and what you should be aiming for is a low center of gravity. As in: your butt closer to the ground.

As for the four-wheel steering: if Renault can make it affordable, so will others, because it’s a pretty effective way of making cars both faster and safer. Why can’t more cars let the rear wheels steer too?

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Photo credit: Renault

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Contact the author at mate@jalopnik.com.

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DISCUSSION

reverenddexter
Ratchet when he's all hopped up on synthetic energon

4-wheel steering is something that I think is interesting, but it’s not something I would ever go out of my way to purchase. Seems like it’d be nice to have an override on the direction the rear wheels go, too. I know this isn’t a track day car, but I imagine on a track day you always want the rear wheels turning opposite the fronts, and I’m sure there are situations where it’d be handy at low speeds to have the rears turn same direction as the fronts (backing out of a spot where some asshat parked WAY too close comes to mind).