September 15, 2014 @ 06:16 PM

Peugeot Driving Performance

Tyre burning and learning, Report by Arvind Kumar

Tyre burning and learning, Report by Arvind Kumar

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin.

Ever looked through manufacturer brochures and see those graphics which illustrate how ABS and ESP work? The images normally consist of the car you are interested in, staying firmly planted while the other unequipped car veers into a nearby tree. I hope you’ve never had to experience the aforementioned, but if you are reading this, good on you for staying away from said tree.

So, when Peugeot Malaysia invited me to thrash their beloved beauties, in the name of science and education, I gleefully accepted. The Peugeot Driving Performance campaign was held from the 14th and 15th June. It was essentially a defensive driving course and hands-on program to educate Peugeot owners on the safety aspects and capabilities of their chosen rides.
Interesting to know, it’s the first time ever Peugeot has embarked on such a project… globally. Peugeot have now joined the likes of Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Porsche to coordinate and teach customers, and journo types alike, all the stuff you did not learn in driving school.

For instance, have you caught someone seated three inches from the steering wheel with their hands firmly clamped, as if hanging on for dear life? Or, the driver slouched in a semi-sleeping position with one hand atop the wheel thinking they’re in a rap music video. The common denominator for a calamity is normally ignorance and irrelevance, so read on as we burn tyres and brake pads in the quest for knowledge.

First and foremost, the driving position. Try this, fully extend your arm outwards, imagine you’re grabbing the steering wheel, and turn clockwise as much as you can before your arms cross each other. Done? You’ll find around 180-degrees is the maximum steering lock you may input.

Now, same exercise, slightly bend your arms inwards, you’ll find that you can rotate up to 230-degrees or more. The extra steering input might make the difference between evading the tree or getting intimate with it.
Finding your proper driving position is simple; make sure your right leg has enough reach to fully depress the brake pedal. Then, make sure your back is as upright as possible, the rule of thumb is to have four or five fingers gap between the top of your head and the roof liner.

This may not prevail in an SUV or MPV but always make sure your eye level is adequately above the top of the steering wheel. Lastly, if your wrist can rest on the 12 o’clock position of the steering wheel, it means your arms now have adequate reach. This is your ideal driving position. All Peugeot vehicles come with steering reach and rake, and seat height adjustability to make this an easy task.

Secondly, is your steering style. Driving schools would have taught you to have your hands grab the ten and two o’clock position and steer with a push and pull motion along the side of the steering wheel.
So let’s learn something new: the cross-steer method. This will allow you to generate quicker steering inputs. So, grab the steering wheel at the nine-three positions and as per the earlier exercise, you’re ready to steer and go.

In motorsport, a racing driver at turn one, will already be eyeing turns two and three. As such, having good vision and making a habit of looking further up the road allows you to better judge your surroundings and plan ahead. It might also help to spot a pothole before rampaging over it and damaging your precious wheels. Peugeot’s heads up display (HUD), as found in the 508 allows you to keep your concentration on the road ahead instead of glancing at the dials for your vital information.

Now let’s shred some tyres. First task: understanding understeer and oversteer. The weapon of choice: the Peugeot 408 Turbo. With 163bhp @ 6,000rpm and 240Nm on tap from as early as 1,400rpm, even a short burst allowed me to get up to 50kph before blasting through the cones and nailing a sharp left. The blue unit had its ESP module plugged out to allow for efficient hooning and the white one with its ESP in place will curtail all shenanigans when the car loses control.

As Walter Rohrl said “If you can see the tree you’re going to hit, that’s called understeer, if you can only hear and feel it, that’s oversteer”. To correct understeer, the idea is to regain or improve traction at the front as fast as possible. Getting off the throttle will slow down the car, enough for the front tyres to regain grip and make the turn.

In an oversteer situation, again, cut off the power, subtle steering corrections in the opposite direction should get the car pointing true again. The trick here is to keep looking where you want to go, as your muscle movements always react to your sight. Although, if equipped with the 408’s ESP and ABS, you will be able to safely bring the car to a halt without fuss.

Next, I take on the slalom challenge with the nimble Peugeot 208, pushing out 122bhp @ 6000rpm and a peak torque of 160Nm allowed me to zip through the maze of cones with zest. The 208 does understeer under load, but steering is light and quick. Also, the well-honed chassis and damping coefficients make it a fun-loving go-kart.

The slalom challenges you to speed-up steering input and this is where the cross-steer system comes into its own; the push pull system will be too slow-reacting and not cut it here. Again, we were advised to eyeball the upcoming apex or cone so we may register sharper and crisper steering inputs.

Lastly, I had a go in the handsome Peugeot 508, churning a healthy 156bhp and 240Nm of torque right from the get-go, letting you enjoy the HUD speedometer piling on as you get ever closer to the coned obstacles. The 508’s tractable throttle response, coupled to six-speed gearbox makes acceleration a silky smooth operation.  The 508 also hides its heft very well and manages quick direction changes with composure. The steering is rather feelsome too.

The instructors from Peugeot were quick to point out the three critical steps one must make to avoid an impending pile-up. First, to steer clear and evade. Second, to slam as hard as you can on the brakes. Last, to steer clear while stopping. In all cases the ESP will work its magic to keep pointing where you want to go.

The skill here, as yours truly discovered, “step on the brake” meant literally stomping on the brakes. Another myth we can rubbish here is that ABS in cars makes the brakes more potent. Correction: ABS allows you to steer while you brake.

So, for the final avoidance option, we had to steer while braking. Crucial to this exercise is to maintain smooth directional input. Fidgeting and floundering at the wheel will only upset the cars weight balance while perplexing the ESP system. I found this out the hard way when I fumbled and my 508 gobbled up a cone.

After the tyre-smoke settled and the fun times ended, the real prizes are these three principles: to know your limits, the car’s limits and the tyres’ limits.

Peugeot Malaysia has exhibited great commitment towards their customers to safely enjoy their chosen pride and joy, and if your next carriage of choice is a Peugeot, rest assured those safety systems in the brochures work…and work well.

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