REMEMBER the Energy Polariser, a collection of crystals in an engine-bay box that did a bunch of ‘stuff’ to Brocky’s HDT VL SS Group A and VL Director back in 1986/87, without the actual hard evidence to prove it?
Well, you could be forgiven for thinking that Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control (or GVC) – a purely software-driven device that aims to enhance on-centre steering connection and turn-in response (see p24) – somehow fits into the same category. But this time the Japanese have the data to back up this intriguing, almost subversively effective technology.
Our test car is a current Mazda 6 Atenza auto petrol sedan, re-jigged with a dashboard button to allow GVC to be turned on and off, enabling a direct comparison.
Traversing a course outlined by witch’s hats, with a straight on either side and a wet corner at one end, we set the cruise control FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE to 29km/h and start lapping.
Sticking tight to the orange hats, we perform two laps with GVC turned off, and another two with it switched on. And then repeat the process, swapping between each mode with greater frequency.
Guiding the wheel with my fingertips, the difference is immediately, if subtly, obvious.
Where the standard mode transmits little connection through the wheel at straight-ahead and through the first phase of turn-in, GVC sparks a connection, enabling easier, crisper placement, and less understeer through the wet corner.
Given there are no hardware changes, how can GVC possibly reduce understeer? Simply by removing the guesswork. Without any real feedback until you’re already in a corner – a criticism by Wheels of Mazda’s current SkyActiv product – the driver tends to apply more steering lock than required, which promotes understeer, even though the difference between each arc (GVC on and off) isn’t huge.
We perform a similar exercise on gravel, where the difference is even more marked. Without GVC, my line is messier, no matter how precisely I try to drive the 6.
What I wasn’t expecting was to notice a difference on faster, relatively straight roads. The deadness of the standard electric system, and the driver’s ability to ‘chase’ the steering either side of straight ahead, vanishes when GVC is operating. Wheel movements become smoother and you feel more in tune with the car.
There will definitely be sceptics.
Some colleagues claim they can’t tell the difference, but Mazda has the data to prove it – smoother inputs, less wheel movement, and the resulting tighter cornering line on slippery surfaces and less passenger body movement.
Come next month’s updated 3, we’ll soon know for sure.
The US-spec 6 we drove was deemed the only current Mazda whose chassis set-up was good enough to work effectively with G-Vectoring Control. When GVC begins rolling out across Mazda’s global SkyActiv range next month (in the updated 3), it will be accompanied by a comprehensive chassis re-tune. The system will be standard across the board, without the switchable arrangement of the preproduction cars we drove.
And it may arrive during model-year updates, so expect the MY17 Mazda 2 and Mazda 6 to follow.
Not everyone can appreciate GVC’s virtues, or even feel the difference Subtly improved, and of greater worth the further and harder you drive