Torque vectoring improves handling, but to explain it, we need to get a little technical. In this blog post, we’ll explain torque vectoring, describe a few car parts, dig into mechanics (the physical kind, not the experts who fix your car), and by the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how this feature improves the driving experience.
A Quick Intro to Physics: What Is Torque?
To open a door in your house, you use two forces: rotational and linear. You use rotational force to twist the doorknob, then linear force to push or pull the door open. Another name for that rotational force is torque.
Technically speaking, torque is defined as the force that acts on a pivot point with the help of a lever. Think of a wrench twisting loose a nut. The force you apply to that wrench with your arm is torque.
Torque is measured in pounds feet because you have two ways of adding more torque: by increasing the weight of what’s applying the force, or by increasing the distance of that force. (In the illustration with the wrench, the strength you use to twist that wrench would be given a weight equivalent.)
What Does Torque Do for an Engine?
Torque is one of two ways we measure the effectiveness of an engine. The other is horsepower (HP). Torque measures strength, but HP measures peak performance. An engine with high torque means you’ll experience a shorter delay between pressing the gas pedal and the engine responding.
Electric vehicles actually provide full torque without delay. Drivers hitting the gas for the first time in an EV are usually surprised at how fast the car accelerates.
Now that we’ve explained torque, we’ll move on to the mechanical part of torque vectoring: differentials.
The Reason for Differentials
Let’s start with a mode of transportation much more basic than a car: a wagon.
The wheels on a wagon are connected by an axle: the front wheels by the front axle, the rear by the rear one. When a wagon turns a corner, handling is difficult, and the chance for tipping great. Why? Because all wheels will continue turning at the same speed, even though the inner wheels need only travel a short distance compared to the outer wheels.
To help solve this problem in cars, differentials were installed. If all wheels rotated at the same rate during a turn, the friction from the tires would damage the tires and road more. The increased strain on the car would also increase the potential for damage to the drivetrain.
Enter differentials. A differential is a gearbox that allows the two wheels attached to it to turn at different speeds, thus improve handling when you turn a corner.
What Is Torque Vectoring?
Which brings us to the actual question we’re answering. Simply put, torque vectoring is an electronic system with special differentials that adjusts the torque to each wheel and further improves handling.
Whereas the differentials in a vehicle without torque vectoring simply react, i.e., they allow the wheels to rotate more or less as needed, a vehicle with torque vectoring differentials predicts how much torque—how much strength—is needed to rotate each wheel.
But torque vectoring differentials have more applications than just turning corners. They can help you through rough roads, applying the right amount of torque to each wheel to push you loose. Torque vectoring differentials can also adjust torque depending on weather, applying less torque if roads are wet, for example.
Does Torque Vectoring Come on All New Cars?
No, you won’t find torque vectoring differentials on all new cars or recent used cars. Torque vectoring is still considered a high-end, performance feature, more useful for race track driving than city driving. But drivers who purchase a car with it like the improved handling. Check the specs of any car you’re considering purchasing to confirm if it has torque vectoring. Just don’t confuse a car’s torque rating for torque vectoring.