Mazda is a driver’s car company – that’s common knowledge. Across their lineup, Mazda consistently offers the best-handling cars in their classes. The company slogan is “Driving Matters,” and the people at Mazda walk their talk. Nowhere else in the industry will you find active amateur racers in key executive and engineering positions the way you see at Mazda.
So when an invitation comes in to visit Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for some up-close time with both American and Japanese Mazda engineers, some track time, and some serious technical geekery, they don’t have to ask me twice.
This event was called the SKYACTIV Driving Academy, but the name is a bit misleading. We weren’t really there to hone our track chops, although we did get schooled by a couple of Mazda execs during the hot laps. We came to Monterey to learn about G-Vectoring Control, the latest improvement to the Mazda driving experience.
Using Data Wisely
Any modern car generates a tremendous amount of data. Sensors are everywhere, all feeding into the car’s central data channel. The car uses all this data to manage functions like stability and traction control, adaptive cruise control, and of course the engine and transmission.
What G-Vectoring Control will do is make the basic maneuvers of driving more confident.
What Mazda has been doing lately is figuring out how to use all that data to make their cars more responsive to driver input. It’s not obvious, but there are a few good examples.
Mazda’s predictive all-wheel-drive on its SUVs takes a lot of factors into account, such as steering angle, the beginnings of wheel slip, throttle position, and even the outside temperature and windshield wiper status. With all that data, the system can make a fast decision about how much power to send to front and rear wheels. All that data was already there, Mazda just uses it differently than other automakers.
Similarly, Mazda engineers started looking at how people steer their cars, and found that just a tiny change in the way their cars respond to steering inputs could make a key difference in stability, predictability, and overall driving dynamics.
How Your Car Turns Corners
Think about what happens when you turn your car’s steering wheel and head into a corner. What you notice is that the side of the car on the inside of the corner tends to rise, and the outside tends to dip. Body roll happens because as you turn the wheel, the car’s inertia still wants to go forward, so much of the car’s body weight transfers to the outside tires. Similarly, when you apply the brakes, the car’s front end tends to dive a bit as body weight transfers to the front tires. Simple enough, right?
Forward weight transfer is a really good thing when you’re about to turn a corner, because it puts more weight and grip on your front tires at the moment they need to work to turn the car.
What Mazda has done is to look at driver steering inputs and use that data to make subtle changes that increase front wheel grip, keeping the car more stable and predictable, while at the same time protecting the car from jerky motions.
Mazda calls its new system G-Vectoring Control, and here’s how it works. The sensors on the steering system can detect when you move the wheel as little as 1/10th of one degree. Mazda’s new system takes that data and tells the engine to instantly reduce its torque output very slightly as you start to turn the wheel.
The amount of torque reduction is very small – about 0.05 percent of one G. For comparison, a typical street braking maneuver from 35 mph to a stop is about 50 percent of one G and a full-on panic stop can be up to 90 percent of a G or even higher, depending on the car you drive.
The effect of that small torque reduction is a forward weight transfer that puts just a few extra pounds of weight on the front tires. But even that tiny weight transfer is enough to make the car feel more planted and confident as you drive, especially on wet or icy pavement.
You Can Only Feel It If You Don’t Look For It
Let’s get one thing out of the way – G-Vectoring Control won’t save you if you charge into a hairpin corner at 80 mph and spin the wheel. If you do that, you’re going to be Isaac Newton’s bitch. What G-Vectoring Control will do is make the basic maneuvers of driving more confident. If you go jerking the wheel trying to feel the system working, you’ll miss it entirely.
Here’s how to see G-Vectoring Control at work: Get in a car that doesn’t have it and have a friend drive normally. Watch how many small steering adjustments the driver makes just to drive down a slightly curvy stretch of road. It happens more than you expect. When we all learn to drive, we also learn to make those adjustments automatically, so we ignore them.
Then head over to your Mazda dealer and ask for a test drive in a 2017 Mazda6. The G-Vectoring Control system is coming to the entire Mazda fleet, but the Mazda6 is the first model to have it. Have your friend drive the same road at the same speed, and you’ll see far fewer adjustment motions. That’s the G-Vectoring Control system keeping the car pointed where you want it to go.
That may not sound like much, but it’s important. When the car responds to your steering inputs without drama, it’s easier to drive well. It’s easier to feel what the tires are doing, and it’s easier to drive the way you want to. That’s the real benefit.
How To Get G-Vectoring Control
Digest this info now because once you have a car with G-Vectoring Control, you don’t have to think about it. Mazda made this tech standard equipment, so you don’t have to pay extra for it, and there’s no on/off switch for it. The system just does its thing silently and invisibly under all conditions.
What you care about is that the Mazda6 (and all other Mazdas, eventually) will simply feel more connected to the road, more confident in slippery conditions, and smoother in turning. If good driving matters to you as much as it does to Mazda’s engineers, you’re going to love this feature.