It would be idiotic to argue that the dual reservoir master cylinder is a bad idea; that it was better to have a simpler, single reservoir master cylinder – as most new cars had until the early-mid ‘60s – when the dual reservoir master cylinder began to become a standard feature in most new cars. The dual reservoir master cylinder prevents the total loss of braking power by isolating the front and rear brakes. If the front brakes fail because a line breaks – and hydraulic pressure is lost – the rear brakes will still work.
But how about 19, 20-plus-inch aluminum wheels? Wheels this big – this tall – are now very common.
Are they a good idea?
Well, maybe – if you are driving a high-performance car and drive it in a high-performance manner. Those stiff, short sidewall tires impart quick steering feel and limit roll during cornering. But if you don’t drive that way, they are analogous to a person who doesn’t even jog buying – and wearing – a pair of $220 trail-running shoes. They serve little functional purpose and they waste much money – unless, of course, you don’t think it’s wasteful to spend money on something you don’t really need or use.
Because you like the style.
There’s nothing wrong – morally – with buying something because you like the way it looks, of course – and that is why so many new cars (even some “economy” cars) wear wheels that are at least 17 or 18 inches tall – along with a set of short sidewall tires, which come along for the ride because there’s no longer much room for a taller sidewall tire in the wheelwell.
But it doesn’t serve much purpose – beyond the “look” – and it adds to the weight (and cost) of the vehicle, as well as the cost of tire replacement, which will generally be necessary more often – because short-sidewall tires tend to wear faster – and cost more, because of their larger size. Ride quality is often negatively affected, too – because short sidewall tires have less give than the taller sidewall tires that used to be typically installed on cars that weren’t high-performance cars.
The alloy wheels are also easier to damage – as by striking a curb – than steel wheels, which are very hard to seriously damage.
Of course, alloy wheels would be a better idea if they were not as wide – and tall. Because they would then reduce the curb weight of the same car otherwise equipped with comparably sized steel wheels and that would result in higher fuel economy, as well as less wear and tear on suspension parts. But the potential benefits of alloy wheels – in a general-use context – are lost when the wheels are sized such that they weigh more than smaller steel wheels and increase the unsprung mass of the car.
Another not-great-idea is the turbocharging of general use engines.
In the past, turbocharging was used to increase the power of an already powerful engine, in a high-performance application – as for example a Porsche 911 turbo. Which was even faster than the already-fast 911, sans the turbo.
Today, turbochargers are used to make up for lost power – as a way to supplement the output of downsized engines that would otherwise be too small – and too underpowered – for the purpose of propelling the vehicle adequately. This is why two-thirds of new cars – including economy and family cars – have turbocharged engines. Typically, they are small four cylinder engines in place of appropriately sized six cylinder engines.
Well, firstly, because these engines aren’t especially fuel efficient – the touted reason for replacing bigger sixes with smaller (and turbocharged) fours – because in order to replicate the power (and performance) of the bigger sixes they have replaced, they are often on boost – which amounts to the same thing as being larger, since the turbo increases cylinder capacity by forcing in more air than the engine could otherwise breath in. That – plus additional fuel sprayed into the cylinders – is how a turbocharger increases power. But there is no making more power without burning more fuel, which means that if you use the boost (as by pressing on the accelerator gas pedal) you will burn more fuel.
In real-world driving, the actual mileage difference between a smaller turbocharged four and the six it replaced is rarely more than 2-3 MPG, a difference arguably not worth the higher cost of the turbocharged engine or the probable shorter service life of the turbocharged engine. Which – remember – is under pressure (i.e., boost) and that imparts additional mechanical force to all of the engine’s internals, including such things as bearings. Which – in a small engine – are also smaller-sized than in a larger engine. They therefore have less surface area to absorb the additional mechanical force and that often leads to faster wear and tear.
No such a great idea.
A really good idea would be simpler, lighter, more durable (less disposable) cars – as opposed to needlessly complex (and therefore more disposable and less durable) heavier cars that are now not just common but unavoidable. If you want a new car.
There are probably a lot of people who would love to be able to buy a mid-sized family car that got 50 miles to the gallon, powered by a sufficiently powerful, non-turbocharged engine that had a simple fuel injection system anyone could work on. That rode on 15 or 16 inch steel wheels and had all season tires that cost $70 each, lasted 40,000 miles and delivered a comfortable, quiet ride.
Such cars used to be available. But that was before someone decided it was a good idea to empower the government to dictate car design.
And that was possibly the worst idea, ever.
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