Over the long life of the automobile, technologies have come and gone. While nobody is using in-dash record players or Liquid Tire Chain, other advancements, like steering with all four wheels, evolved and improved with the times. Depending on the application, it’s a technology that some enthusiasts specifically seek out, while others avoid it or take pains to disable such systems. Once purely practical, four-wheel steering is a largely now a performance feature to improve handling on sports cars. Let’s dig into how it works, how it came to be, and why it’s made a comeback in recent years.
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People sure seem to be obsessed with gadgets, especially electronic. I suppose this is nice if you don't have to fix it yourself because you know it is going to break. You have people to do that" and can afford to pay for it. And why one wants this for their street car, I don't know unless it's bragging the rights of, "See what I have." You can't use it to it's fullest potential but you have it. But If one likes and wants this technology that's fine, it's their business and their money. Me, I'll stay old school when it comes to steering. I don't even trust electric power assist.
What I am seeing is that once your vehicle is expensive enough, the cost of complicated systems that add minor benefits will be accepted by the wealthy enthusiast owners of these vehicles. The Honda Prelude and GM Quadrasteer trucks demonstrate that the benefits are not great enough for more practical buyers.
Once you have driven the GMC Quadrasteer, you will understand. It’s built over a Dana 60 axle and has had little issues besides submerging the electronics in water during ramp launching boats. A much safer drive at high speed during collision avoidance vs a std crew cab 2500, I can attest to that on a few occasions. Towing is night and day.
The high mileage resale value also attests to the reliably. Sadly GM did not market it well, as well, the vehicle base has rocker panel rust issues. I’d offer you to test drive one and ask a current Quadrasteer owner it’s value.
I have driven the GMC 2500 crew cab Quadrasteer for 240,000 miles (300,000on odometer) with no issues on the steering components (knock on wood!). Driving a large truck with such a turning radius of 37’ vs 51’ on a std 2500, makes it safer, more stable trailering and easier, a win-win all around. Just wish GM had marketed this option better. I’m a ready buyer and just waiting for someone to come up with a new version. Must have if you have ever driven one.
It's true, GM marketed Quadrasteer poorly. I remember seeing the exact commercial above back then, and thinking that it really just looked like a gimmick, and an expensive one at that. And also, if you needed a Quadrasteer's tighter turn radius to get that horse trailer into the narrow alleyway, how would another truck ever be able to get it back *out* again? The way they pitched it just kind of landed with a clang. I had completely forgotten about the Quadrasteer until today.
I did briefly drive a Prelude from that era. I was thinking about buying one and had a loaner. The main reason I went with the comparable Nissan was that the Prelude was significantly more expensive, perhaps in part due to the 4 wheel steering, the Prelude and a rather crude variable steering assist that you could feel adjusting that was very distracting, and the four wheel steering, which created some odd feedback into the steering wheel. In the end, I found these 'developments' at least in their then stage of development, detrimental rather than positive. The salesman assured me I would get used to it. But why?
I vividly remember storming out of pit road at Indy staring at the wall in turn one when the rear steer on the Dodge Stealth yellow Pace Car took a set. Almost had to clean out my pants because all that I could imagine was the yellow smear on their nice white wall. Turn two wasn't as bad and by the third lap I was comfortable. We were testing Goodyear tires for the race and Shelby was tired. He'd had the heart transplant less than a year before. I got to drive over 50 laps in two or three laps busts while they checked tire temperatures. You don't forget four-wheel steer after that. That was March, 1991 before they substituted the Viper as Pace Car. Roger Penske and the Speedway each have one of those cars that I got to drive.
Like any new(er) tech, the key is engineering to increase reliability and reduce cost. If done right, complexity isn't an issue. Finding ways to re-use existing components, (CPUs, wiring, sensors, activators, etc) and spreading the cost over thousands of units will allow adopting 4WS to less expensive cars.
Both Crosley and Chrysler tried disc brakes around 1950, but the cost and complexity kept this option out of reach of most US consumers for another 15-20 years. I suspect the same will happen with 4WS tech. Old-school guys like me still drive on drum brakes... but my '55 Beetle won't ever be a daily-driver!
The Quadrasteer setup was tested by magazines at the time, and they really liked the trailer-towing stability, and tighter turning radius - as other commenters have noted hereon from their own experiences. Kind of like GM's apparently excellently-functioning hybrid Tahoe, it did not catch on - possibly due to weak marketing. It was later said that modern electronics have allowed the stability control to be programmed to reduce trailer sway as well as the Quadrasteer; however, they do nothing for tightening the turning radius.
I have always felt that four-wheel steering on passenger cars is unnecessary complexity, unless one frequently does track days, or is a very high-performance road driver.
On the other hand, I have a John Deere lawn tractor with four-wheel steering, and it is outstanding in its ability to trim close to trees and obstacles, without the hilly-yard issues often experienced by the faddishly-popular zero-turn mowers.
In 1991 Mitsubishi introduced the 300 HP, 3000 GT VR-4. It was a great handling AWD, 4 wheel steering Twin turbo sports car that was a pleasure to drive. Glad to see that technology coming back.
Ha! Good informative article about steering and old ideas coming back but it hit me in the last paragraph about self-driving cars...horses often knew the way home unaided!
As mentioned in a previous comment, a lot of complexity for minimal benefit. No doubt, if the system were to fail in some manner, it would happen with the rear wheels angled, making the vehicle undrivable. And it'd be an expensive repair, one that few owners would attempt on their own. So, no thanks. My car already has a lot of "gee whiz" stuff on it that I don't want or need.
Always sounded like a “widow-maker” to me; if/when something goes amiss. Of course, there are plenty of such items on cars.
Every time some new bell or whistle was added to vehicles; my dad would say “That’s just one more thing that can go wrong.”
Overall, it’s pretty amazing how reliable cars have become.
The only folks who can't drive a forklift in a straight line either haven't been trained properly or they are driving one with worn out axles and steering gear (which is pretty common condition on older trucks). Former lift truck operator trainer and high bay (20 ft high racks) warehouse manager
My 1992 Nissan 300 ZX TT came with HICAS 4 wheel steering which was hyped as a big deal at the time.
28 yrs later, never had a problem with it, car still fast as stink, and a joy on the twisties with 90,000 km on it.
I also have a 1990 300ZX TwinTurbo with HICAS.
Same as you, have never had any problems with it. I still anticipate some future problems (as I've heard rumored) but with only 20,000 miles on it, could be a long while. Till then I will enjoy the way this car handles. I absolutely love to drive this car. Pure bliss on the country roads in this neck of the woods.
"The cutoff was 240 degrees, at which point the rear wheels would counter steer." 240 degree of what from what? That explanation within the article makes no sense to me.
Does anyone proof read these articles before putting them out there for others to read? Enough typos in this article. Maybe the proof reader is on lock down at home because of the Corona and unable to do their job.
I seem to recall Quadrasteer was part of a package when it was first offered. That’s why it was so expensive and had few takers. Once they started to offer it as a standalone, interest had waned. They also had a new version ready that was no wider than the standard axle. In true GM fashion, they killed it once they got it right.
The $5600 option price is probably what killed it. Good ole greed at it's finest. Who knows, had it been priced properly it might have caught on and forced change with the other truck manufacturers.
GM eventually got what they deserved..........bankruptcy!
Interesting article. For the record, the idea for 4-wheel steering has been around since at least the mid-1870s and was far from being limited to farm equipment. The feature was patented on a wagon shown at the Centennial Exposition (1st World's Fair) in 1876 and was used on a number of small carriages/buggies as well. More info can be found on the 'Wheels That Won The West' website and blog...
My problem with 4 wheel steering comes from my experience with driving forklifts (which steer from the rear). Since the day we started driving, our brain has been programmed with how a car moves when steered from the front. Sure, you can learn how to adjust to a car that doesn't move the way you think it should move, but I prefer to using my collective driving experience to maneuver a car the way a car should maneuver and not start from scratch. This being said, I never have driven a 4-wheel steered vehicle.
This might be an example of "compliance steering", but anyone who has taken an MGB at speed through a fast corner will notice a "hand of an angel" making the turn tighter and more stable. I believe this was due to a subtle angling of the "ancient oxcart leaf springs" but whatever it is, it is marvelous.
IMHO: Kind of hard to believe a story on 4 wheel steering didn't bother to even mention the Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4 by name. Not only 4 wheel steering but also tunable suspension & speed active aerodynamics is something I would definitely address in the conversation.
My neighbor had one of these growing up, he was about 16 when he got it used and he never quite got it working right. I think it had some issues from the get-go when he picked it up, and I always wished he managed to nurse it back to health because it hurt to see such a cool car always parked in the same spot!
What we need is steerable trailers to make backing up trailers easier. And how about steerable trailers for 18 wheelers so they don't have to swing so wide when making a turn?