What makes for good steering feels (or feedback)?

I have been chasing this question for some time now. Maybe even before I realized I was doing so. Obviously at some point this becomes more of a personal preference answer and thus an experiment in trial and error.

More mods? I’m in! 😀

A quick google search will point you in more directions than you came in, many of which are loose ends. Asking the google machine what cars have great steering feels (and/or feedback) makes it even worse. Although a few cars do keep popping up on from time to time. BMWs, 911s, Elises, and of course – the Miata. Or at least that seems to be the consensus prior to the adoption of ESP for their perspective lines. Or worse yet, steer by wire.

Now most people will yell out that manual steering is the only way to achieve great steering feel. I have only driven a single car with deleted power assist and all I remember from that very temporary setup is that I need to keep these wheels moving – forever.

I do feel a quicker rack is in order though. If not just to limit how often I need to adjust my hands on the steering wheel at say the Tail of the Dragon. A 15:1 rack from a 2004 STi is cheap and easy fix. I did come across a 13:1 rack on eBay and it took all of my willpower not to impulse buy it. Thankfully it sold a day or so later to restore order in the universe.

However one thing that does keep popping up in my searches is weight. Or more specifically weight over the front wheels. I find this interesting and somewhat encouraging/discouraging. BWMs and Miatas in question have around 50/50% weight distribution. Elises and 911s seem to be in the 40/60% range. And of those FWD cars that have great steering feel seem to be in the 3,000-lbs and under club. This is good news for Project +Lightness and also bad news. There’s just no way to get to 50/50% without adding weight to the rear. Even 55/45% might be a pipe dream but that is my current goal.

Obviously this is all anecdotal evidence and perhaps all filtered through my own confirmation bias. And much of this chassis balance in the name of steering feel can be undone with an over-assisted power steering system and/or compliant suspension tuning. It is very hard to get a gauge on what “good” steering feel is without actually driving the cars in question like they are my own. Hell, I don’t even know anyone with a Miata. 😆

I very much want to run a wide wheel and tire setup, with flares no less, however the grip from such a setup may come at the expense of feel. Right now I want to stick to feels over grip. At some point after I have chased this path to it’s conclusion or probably more likely, it gets too damn expensive to go any further, I will probably go back to my beloved path of grip.

With that said, I have a lightweight battery and a few other things en route. So stay tuned for write-ups on those items!

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