Jim Holder’s recent blog outlining Jaguar’s switch to electrically assisted power steering for next year’s F-type will inspire among keen drivers the same fears they felt when Porsche went down the same route.
It’s thought that an electrically assisted system can’t offer the same level of steering feel as one with hydraulic assistance, as it smothers those important frequencies and sensations that are communicated from the tyres to the palms of the driver’s hands. A good system should allow us to sense what our tyres are up to on the road surface.
By coincidence, I’ve been driving a Jaguar F-type and a Porsche Cayman. Now, the F-type has pretty good steering. To me, the rest of the car might be a little dubious, but you can’t deny the response and accuracy of the Jag’s meaty hydraulic set-up.
However, the Cayman’s (admittedly a GTS, but let’s not quibble) is better, despite its electric assistance, being more responsive and more accurate. It also requires less effort, thanks to its intelligent weighting and clever damping.
Purists will argue, though, that the Porsche lacks the level of feedback of earlier hydraulic Porsches, and that what you feel is artificially dialled in. That may be so, but is not the feedback to the driver through an hydraulically assisted rack corrupted too? How many meshing teeth and rubber joints and turns do the tyres’ messages have to go through, and how diluted are they by friction and damping before they reach the driver?