Just How Important Is the Traction Control?

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Vlad Soare

Vlad Soare

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Yesterday I went to a track that's close to my home to play around with the different modes and to learn how to control the car when it runs out of grip. Luckily it had also snowed a bit, so there was a combination of snow, ice, dry tarmac, and moist tarmac. Marvellous.
It was an awesome experience.
Now I have the answer to all my questions.
I tried to unsettle its tail with the TC+ESC on, then with the TC off and ESC on, then with both off, under a variety of circumstances.

With both on I couldn't throw its tail around at all. Every time I accelerated a bit harder than the rear wheels could handle, the TC instantly cut off the gas and that was the end of it.
With the TC off and the ESC on, things were much more interesting and exciting. The tail would slide sideways, but the car would remain perfectly controllable. As long as the slide was within reasonable limits the ESC wouldn't intervene, but if I overdid it it would step in and keep me on track.
With both the TC and ESC off it was really fun, but also trickier. The car is still quite easily controllable if you know what you're doing. Despite my lack of drifting experience I still managed to get it right several times, though I also spun twice. With a bit of practice I'm sure I could learn how to control it every time.

Both the instructor and I were very impressed by the nice and predictable way the car handled.

Ever since I joined this forum almost a year ago, I kept reading that the Mustang is a tricky beast, that it can be overhelming if you don't treat it with the utmost respect, that the rear wheels always want to get in front, etc. And I'm just not seeing that. All I can see is that:
1. You need to do a conscious effort to unsettle the rear end. Not only does it ordinarily not want to get in front, but quite the contrary, it takes a definite, intentional action to make it do that.
2. Once the rear end loses grip, regaining it with the ESC on is a piece of cake.
3. If the rear end slides while the ESC is off, it's still quite easy to control as long as you don't panic and know what to do. It will only spin if you mess something up.

So why does the Mustang have such a scary reputation? There's nothing scary about it all. It's incredibly docile. I feel more confident now in the Mustang than I have ever felt in any other car.





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Vlad Soare

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One thing I particularly liked was the recovery from an understeer situation. One of the most common mistakes people make in real-life traffic is entering a corner too fast. In that case the car will understeer. The standard way of recovering from understeer not only goes against all of your instincts, but it also requires space you often don't have. So I tried to see if I could recover by throwing the tail around - either by accelerating hard (with the TC off, but ESC on), or by pulling the handbrake.
Both methods worked like a treat.
I love this car.
 

bnightstar

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One thing I particularly liked was the recovery from an understeer situation. One of the most common mistakes people make in real-life traffic is entering a corner too fast. In that case the car will understeer. The standard way of recovering from understeer not only goes against all of your instincts, but it also requires space you often don't have. So I tried to see if I could recover by throwing the tail around - either by accelerating hard (with the TC off, but ESC on), or by pulling the handbrake.
Both methods worked like a treat.
I love this car.
That's how you will end up in the sidewalk though :). The MP4S maybe make a difference but the car is dangerous for a number of reason both a lot of power to real wheels and not that much restricted TC. Sure the TC help but try doing a 90 degree turn and step on the gas while the wheel is still turning you will find out what all people here are talking about. Accelerating straight is not a problem doing it sideways is what get you.
 
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Yes, I know the theory, but I just can't see it. I guess this theory was coined by people whose throttle pedal has only two possible positions - off and flat out.
What I'm actually seeing is that, as long as you're smooth with the throttle, the car is perfectly fine under all normal driving conditions, that it takes a conscious action to make it lose grip, and that when it does lose grip, it does it in a progressive and easily controllable way.
 
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dx2

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I found my 2020 very much controllable as well although I did not have the chance to get on a track yet. I read that the Pirelli P Zero which were used from factory in earlier MYs were not so great. So I suppose thr later MYs (2018+?) which are equipped with the Michelin P4S have an advantage at least regarding handling the car.

Right now the outside temperatures are less than optimal and getting the car loose grip is very easy even when only accelerating into a corner with even just a little bit of throttle in normal mode.
 

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Yes, I know the theory, but I just can't see it. I guess this theory was coined by people whose throttle pedal has only two possible positions - off and flat out.
This ^^^.

We need to remember that the car hobby is mostly populated by those who don't think much past things like power, exhaust sound, and wide-open-throttle acceleration. I also think we can throw some blame at all those tunes that exaggerate initial throttle response and impress the driver into thinking his car has more power than it actually does. Those are a couple of the things that make it easy for less experienced drivers to get out past what their skill set can cope with.


What I'm actually seeing is that, as long as you're smooth with the throttle, the car is perfectly fine under all normal driving conditions, that it takes a conscious action to make it lose grip, and that when it does lose grip, it does it in a progressive and easily controllable way.
"Conscious" is a good word here. As in conscious awareness of tire grip and/or slip angles as well as being consciously smooth with your throttle modulation. Consciously smooth with all of your control inputs, actually.


Norm
 
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kz

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And I'm just not seeing that. All I can see is that:
1. You need to do a conscious effort to unsettle the rear end. Not only does it ordinarily not want to get in front, but quite the contrary, it takes a definite, intentional action to make it do that.
2. Once the rear end loses grip, regaining it with the ESC on is a piece of cake.
3. If the rear end slides while the ESC is off, it's still quite easy to control as long as you don't panic and know what to do. It will only spin if you mess something up.

So why does the Mustang have such a scary reputation? There's nothing scary about it all. It's incredibly docile. I feel more confident now in the Mustang than I have ever felt in any other car.
"I told you so"

Glad you got the experience to figure it out yourself. This car is incredibly easy to drive and set up in a safe manner (of course it is, it is sold in tens of thousands). But if you do stupid things, you end up with stupid results. All the things you've read about how dangerous this car is are excuses.
 

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I played in a parking lot and could not get the car to spin. 70 Mph and turn the wheel hard left while flooring the throttle resulted in a controlled turn. The ABS was going nuts, but kept me from spinning. All nannies on.

Following a garbage truck on a busy two lane I found a large enough gap I figured I could pass. I turned into the passing lane and floored the car, about the time I got to the front of the truck the car went sideways, it was all I could do to keep it under control. If it were not for my dirt track racing experience I believe I would have been in the trees. All nannies on.

DO NOT TRUST the nannies.
 

Rick#7

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I played in a parking lot and could not get the car to spin. 70 Mph and turn the wheel hard left while flooring the throttle resulted in a controlled turn. The ABS was going nuts, but kept me from spinning. All nannies on.

Following a garbage truck on a busy two lane I found a large enough gap I figured I could pass. I turned into the passing lane and floored the car, about the time I got to the front of the truck the car went sideways, it was all I could do to keep it under control. If it were not for my dirt track racing experience I believe I would have been in the trees. All nannies on.

DO NOT TRUST the nannies.
Very similar experience, I was running late for work 1 day, and stuck behind a lifted 4x4 doing 10 mph down the middle of the road. I had a few attempts to spin the tires in the past just playing around, but the nannies always kept the tires planted, so I wasn't too concerned about losing traction in the following situation. In a moment of frustration and poor judgement, I gave it some gas (not even to the floor) and pulled to left to go around the road hog. The issue was that my left tires were in the grass shoulder in order to get far enough over to go around. About the time I was getting ahead of the guy I felt the rear coming loose. My 1st thought was simply to hit the brakes, but then panic set in and I didn't want to stop dead in front of a big pickup coming at me, so I eased back on the throttle but by this time I was already pointed sideways and ended up trenching someone's front yard and scratching my trunk lid on low hanging branches before getting back on the road.

When I finally had a minute to catch my breath, my 1st thought was "traction control? What traction control?!!" It was in that moment I realized how unpredictable the nannies can be, and the stories of losing control in these cars are probably accurate.

The moral of the story, poor judgement and panic make for scary situations, and relying on the nannies to save your butt if things get tricky is not a good plan.
 

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I find my car nose kicks to the right every time I do a very aggressive 1-2, usually giving someone a first time ride. If you have ever raced off-road, driven in the mud at high speeds, the muscle memory should be there, and with all the features the car recovers well.

I've always felt something as simple as a fast go-cart on a dirt track is great training for real-world driving. When the nose goes one way, you shouldn't even have to think about what to do.
As a 16 year old kid, we had some pretty good sized parking lots around our valley. When we'd get a good rainstorm, I'd go out late at night to one those lots. What with the oil drips from parked cars and the rain, it was a great skid pad. Course this was before they decided they needed all those concrete tire stops. Lot was wide open and it was a blast. Learned a lot about that point when the car decides to break free. You get the feel of it and learn how to control it. Think that before they give someone a license they could all use a little time on a skid pad.
 

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Exactly.
 

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So why does the Mustang have such a scary reputation? There's nothing scary about it all. It's incredibly docile. I feel more confident now in the Mustang than I have ever felt in any other car.
The Mustang is a very well-engineered car and I think you are somewhat right using the word docile, but also somewhat wrong. Any Mustang built currently has plenty enough power to get anyone in trouble.

Consistent grip whether low or high, is relatively easy for both you and the car's nannies to handle. It's when you go from high grip to low grip when you can really get into trouble quickly. Especially if you are traveling faster than 40-50 mph and are up in the engine's power band. And pavement irregularities can make the car get sideways so fast that the nannies can't react in time.

I think the Mustang has a reputation because the people that drive Mustangs tend to push the limits of the car and themselves. If you do that often enough - you will learn and improve - but you also have a real chance of making a mistake and pushing things a little too far and losing control of the car.
 

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I have done 1/4miles times using a dragy device sports plus mode vrs track mode you gain 0.2sec -0.3sec in the 1/4mile but if you are on street tires car and on the street car will loose control and you neee to back off in track mode. In sports plus its a more control beast but will be slower.
Better to be slower then sorry.

I have never tested the car shutting down advance track will never do unless iam at a prep track and a really good tire as in a dragtire but never in a street tire.
 
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Vlad Soare

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Consistent grip whether low or high, is relatively easy for both you and the car's nannies to handle. It's when you go from high grip to low grip when you can really get into trouble quickly.
That's a very good point.
Actually, I think it's not so much about how sudden the loss of grip is, but rather about how unexpected it is.
On the track there was a patch of ice in a corner, immediately after a stretch of dry tarmac. Typical case of going from high grip to low grip in a blink of an eye. Every time one rear wheel touched that ice, the car would try to go sideways. I drove over it several times, with and without TC, with and without ESC, and never lost it. This is probably because I knew it was there and knew exactly what was going to happen. I was expecting it.
I think the key is being permanently aware of what might happen at any given moment. Whenever you accelerate briskly, expect the rear end to play up. Don't expect it to grip, only to be taken by surprise when it doesn't. Do it the other way around - expect it to slide, and be surprised if it doesn't.
 

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I have done 1/4miles times using a dragy device sports plus mode vrs track mode you gain 0.2sec -0.3sec in the 1/4mile but if you are on street tires car and on the street car will loose control and you neee to back off in track mode. In sports plus its a more control beast but will be slower.
Better to be slower then sorry.

I have never tested the car shutting down advance track will never do unless iam at a prep track and a really good tire as in a dragtire but never in a street tire.
One thing to keep in mind is that a little bit of moisture on VHT or a prepped drag strip surface is extremely slippery. One of the road courses I go to has a drag strip as one of the longer straights. I was in the middle of the 1/4 mile on one of the prepped areas during the first session of the morning when I hit a bit of moisture. At 100 mph roughly with my foot to the floor and the car went sideways so fast it was a cold sweat moment. I didn't have the nannies off. I might have been in sport mode, but everything was on. The rest of the day I stayed off the prepped surfaces. It was not slippery at all anywhere else on the road course (non-prepped areas). And it was a miniscule amount of water. There was no standing water anywhere. It hadn't been raining. It was probably just slight condensation from overnight cool temperatures.

I agree with what Vlad said - expect it to slide - at least when you are driving hard. Because on a road course typically a longer straight is the place where I am the most relaxed. And so the loss of traction freaked me out more than if I had been ready for it. I realize though that we are all human and so we can't go around 100% alert all the time. But we should be a little on edge when the gas pedal is pinned to the floor.
 

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