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Driving lingo explained

Don’t know your oversteer from your understeer? Here’s everything you need to know.

When we’re learning to drive we get all the basics down to a fine art – three-point turns, parallel parking and changing gear are easy concepts to pick up.

However, driving is a very complex act and there are countless terms that most drivers will never have the need to know. Despite this, some terms might crop up and leave you wondering what they mean, so we’ve brought together a list of some of the more common advanced driving terms with a brief explanation…

Rear-wheel-drive/front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive

These terms relate to which wheels the vehicle’s engine sends power to. Most mainstream cars are front-wheel-drive, which means the two front wheels get the power. This has advantages for packaging, giving more space in the cabin, but means the front tyres must put down power as well as steer – not usually an issue in less powerful cars.

Rear-wheel-drive cars send the engine’s power to the rear wheels, which is more optimal for performance cars. Meanwhile, all-wheel-drive distributes power to all four wheels, which is usually most appropriate for off-road vehicles.

Photos: PA Media

Oversteer

This is a term that’s common to motorsport and performance driving. When steering, you want the front of the car and the rear of the car to turn equal amounts. However, oversteer is when the rear rotates too much, which can cause a spin.

This can be caused by braking too hard while turning, as the vehicle’s weight shifts forward so the rear wheels lose grip, or by accelerating too hard in a rear-wheel-drive car while applying steering lock.

In performance driving, controlled oversteer can be used to rotate a car more quickly in a turn. Meanwhile ‘drifting’ is the act of inducing oversteer deliberately, then holding the car in a controlled slide.

Understeer

Understeer is essentially the opposite problem to oversteer. This relates to the front wheels ‘washing out’ and not turning the car as intended.

This happens when the amount of grip required to turn the car is higher than what is available. It is usually caused by drivers turning into a turn too quickly, which overloads the tyres, making them lose grip. Meanwhile, accelerating too hard in a front-wheel-drive car can also cause understeer if the power overloads the amount of grip available.

Hypermiling

Fuel is expensive these days, so motorists concerned about saving fuel costs and reducing their impact on the environment have come up with some advanced driving techniques to use as little fuel as possible on a journey – known as hypermiling.

    This starts before you even turn the engine on, by making sure the car is regularly serviced, making sure that the tyres are properly inflated to reduce rolling resistance, and remove any unnecessary items from the car to reduce weight. You should also drive as slowly as it is safe to do so – for example, going around 56mph on motorways to match the speed of lorries – and use the correct gear at all times. And because accelerating uses the most fuel, it’s important to look far ahead to see anything that might slow you down so you can plan ahead and ease off the throttle before slowly getting back up to speed.

Defensive driving

Advanced driving schools teach defensive driving as the most effective way of being safe on the roads. It essentially means that drivers should always be alert and expect the unexpected.

Defensive driving requires drivers to look far ahead to anticipate the actions of others, maintain a safe speed, and generally be prepared for any eventuality.

Aerodynamics

This relates to the way air flows over a car, and can have a major effect on everything from cornering ability to how much fuel is used. It’s most commonly referred to on performance cars, because the bodywork can be adapted so that it forces the car into the road, improving grip. However, this increases drag, which can affect fuel economy and top speed.

That’s why it’s becoming a more common subject in economy cars, because they’re attempting the opposite of performance cars – the ‘slipperier’ a car is, the less drag it creates as it drives through the air, which uses less fuel.

You’ll see this ‘drag coefficient’ written as a number, followed by Cd – for example, the Porsche Taycan Turbo S is 0.25Cd, with the lower the number meaning the less drag is created.

Heel and toe

Although this skill is becoming less common in modern cars as automatic transmissions have become more popular, it’s a great skill for those driving manual transmissions.

When slowing and changing down a gear, it’s best to match the engine revs between gears to extend the life of the transmission. At normal speeds this isn’t so important, but in performance driving, aggressively downshifting can cause increased wear and lead to failures.

Heel and toe is a technique that ‘blips’ the revs so they’re better matched to the next gear, as well as keeping the engine in its optimal performance band. This is achieved by using the toes on your right foot to brake, pressing the clutch with your left foot, then as you go to neutral, use the heel of your right foot to blip the throttle to build the engine revs, then enter the next gear.

It’s a complicated process to explain, but once practiced, experienced drivers can perform this move in less than a second.

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Listen: Mercedes fire up 2021 Formula 1 engine

Defending champions Mercedes have teased the engine of their 2021 W12 – which will power Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’s machines this season, as well as three other teams’ cars: Williams, Aston Martin and McLaren.

Mercedes are to launch their latest title contender, the Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance, on March 2.

Photo: Steve Etherington

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Scuderia AlphaTauri launches 2021 challenger

On Thursday, February 18, Scuderia AlphaTauri unveiled its 2021 car – the AT02 – in an all-new matte blue and white livery, alongside its drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.

The launch – held at AlphaTauri’s new showroom in Salzburg, Austria, and presented digitally – saw Red Bull’s premium fashion brand model its Autumn/Winter 2021 collection together with the team’s new-look for the upcoming 2021 Formula 1 season.

Photos: Red Bull Content Pool

After a successful first season racing in the AlphaTauri colours, the Italian outfit is looking to challenge the top of the ultra-competitive midfield in 2021, putting its faith in the new pairing. Since debuting with the team in 2017, Gasly has earned two F1 podiums – including a spectacular maiden win at Monza in 2020 – meaning his experience with the team will allow him to step-up to a team leader role. Joining the Frenchman will be 20-year-old Tsunoda, the first Japanese driver to race in F1 since 2014. 

“The decision to go for Pierre and Yuki in 2021 was taken because Scuderia AlphaTauri’s philosophy is still to give talented young drivers from the Red Bull Junior Program the opportunity to step up to F1 and to educate them – this is why Yuki now gets his chance,” explained team principal, Franz Tost.

“With Pierre on Yuki’s side we have an experienced driver, who can help our Japanese rookie to develop faster, but at the same time we can aim for good results. I think this pair is the best possible scenario to achieve both our targets, and I’m also confident this will be a successful one.”

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McLaren unveil F1 challenger

Watch: Team ready to challenge for podium finishes

McLaren are aiming to “close the gap” to Mercedes when the new Formula 1 season begins with new driver Daniel Ricciardo looking to get back on the podium, the team announced at its 2021 presentation this week.

The Australian, 31, who has joined the outfit from Renault, will line up alongside 21-year-old Briton Lando Norris who scored a third-placed finish in last season’s Austrian Grand Prix which helped McLaren to finish third in the constructors’ championship.

“As I see it, most teams have a chance for a podium,” said Ricciardo at the digital launch. “Hopefully my experience and my motivation come out on top in whatever battle I am in. I certainly have ambition to be on the podium.

“McLaren has been on an awesome journey over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to helping the team maintain this positive momentum.”

Norris finished ninth in the 2020 drivers’ championship but his preparations for the new season were hampered in January by a spell of quarantine in Dubai after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I felt drained, tired for a couple of weeks, but I am now fully recovered,” he said. “I am altogether confident I can come into the season knowing what I really want.”

McLaren, entering their 54th season in Formula 1, finished last season well behind Mercedes, the seven-time defending champions for drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but hope that their new engines, supplied by Mercedes, will help them to fight for the titles. 

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Sebastian Job’s mission to become world champion captured in three-part documentary

Red Bull Racing Esports has launched a three-part documentary series following Sebastian Job’s journey to become the 2020 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Champion.

The documentary provides a complete insight into Job’s most pivotal moments of 2020, including intimate interviews with his family, a trip to Red Bull Racing’s Headquarters to test the Team’s simulator and his first impressions of a Red Bull Racing Esports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

The documentary also highlights the hard work, commitment and dedication Job had to go through to achieve his dreams as it goes behind the scenes of his personal training program, including an in-depth health performance review with Loughborough University.

Video: Red Bull Racing

Crowned Autosport’s Esports Driver of the Year in 2020, Job commented: “I’m super excited for the release of the documentary and hopefully it can give people an insight into who I am and show people that hard work and dedication really does help you achieve your dreams. We had a lot of fun filming this, and for me, seeing my championship winning livery in real life was quite amazing and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Red Bull Racing Esports Team. I hope everyone enjoys it!”

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Sound to the ground

Ford GT upgraded with more power and tweaked vocal cords

Ford has introduced a raft of upgrades for its GT hypercar, with headline changes including more power and a new standard-fit exhaust system.

Its 3.5-litre V6 engine has seen power upped to 660bhp from 647bhp thanks to a number of mechanical changes directly derived from the track-only GT Mk II, while Ford says the car’s torque band has also been widened.

Cooling of the engine has also said to have been improved thanks to new ducts that apparently increase air flow by 50 per cent, while suspension tweaks in track mode have been made in a bid to improve high-speed control.

Linked up to the revised engine is a new standard-fit Akrapovic exhaust system said to bring an ‘unmistakable’ sound to the car.

Alongside mechanical upgrades, Ford has also introduced two new paint schemes for the GT. First up is Liquid Carbon which sees the car’s carbon fibre bodywork exposed, save for a layer of clear coat to keep it protected from damage.

Carbon fibre wheels come as standard for this configuration, while coloured centre stripes can be added as an optional extra.

There’s also a new take on the Gulf heritage livery available for the previous model. Though retaining the iconic blue and orange colour scheme, it takes on a more modern-looking number design — now a ‘6’ as well instead of ‘9’ — and standard-fit carbon fibre wheels. There’s no word on pricing for the updated Ford GT. You also can’t just waltz into a Ford dealer asking for one either, with the firm notorious for being incredibly selective in who can buy one — meaning you’re unlikely to get on the list if you’re not already there.

Ford GT Mk II. Photos: PA Media

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Peak celebration

Bentley celebrates Pikes Peak record with limited-edition Continental GT

Bentley has revealed a special edition Continental GT built in commemoration of its Pike Peak record.

The Continental GT, limited to just 15 units, honours the Crewe-based firm’s success at the International Hill Climb Event which took place in the US in June.

A Continental GT shaved 8.4 seconds off the previous time set over the 12.42-mile course in Colorado, driven by three-time champion Rhys Millen. Despite having to drive through 5,000 metres of elevation, the Continental GT managed to finish the course in just ten minutes, 18.4 seconds.

The celebratory model, which is available to order now, receives a unique carbon fibre body kit and Radium by Mulliner paintwork. It has been designed to mirror the colour combination used on the record-beating car.

Photos: PA Media


The car also gets acid green brake calipers, Pirelli P Zero Colour Edition tyres and a Pikes Peak decal on the front bumper. An optional ‘100’ front grille can also be fitted, where it sits as a reminder that the challenge took place during Bentley’s centenary year.

“A Continental GT shaved 8.4 seconds off the previous time”

Chris Craft, member of the board for sales, marketing and aftersales at Bentley Motors, said: “The new Limited Edition Continental GT is distinguished by a number of carefully curated features to honour that outstanding record run. It reflects Bentley’s spirit of endeavour, one that has been a constant throughout the last 100 years and remains at the beating heart of the company.”

Inside, there’s Alcantara with contrasting thread, a steering wheel with honeycomb stitching and carbon fibre fascia. There’s even a graphic on the passenger side of the car which shows a section of the Pikes Peak track.

Video: YouTube

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Taking it to extremes

Porsche unveils extreme 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4 models

Porsche has revealed two high-performance models – the 718 Spyder and Cayman GT4.

Both cars utilise the same naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine, and send power to the road through a six-speed manual gearbox.

The new 4.0-litre flat-six unit produces 414bhp – 44bhp and 35bhp more than the previous-generation Spyder and GT4 respectively – as well as 420Nm of torque.

It allows both cars to crack the 0-60mph sprint in 4.2 seconds. Top speed-wise, the Spyder will top out at 187mph, with the GT4 eclipsing it slightly at 188mph.

Despite the performance, Porsche has worked hard to increase the efficiency of the engine. That’s why a particulate filter has been fitted to reduce NOx emissions, while a new adaptive cylinder control system can allow the engine to shut down two cylinders under light throttle, improving consumption.

Photos: PA Media


Porsche says that both the 718 Cayman GT4 and Spyder will return 26mpg under the old NEDC test cycle – which would put it at around 22mpg under the latest WLTP tests. CO2 emissions are set at 249g/km.

The GT4 has been dealt a wealth of aerodynamic features, which is why Porsche says that it’ll generate up to 50 per cent more downforce than the car it replaces. It has a functional rear diffuser, as well as a fixed rear wing which is now 20 per cent more efficient than the one fitted to the older car. The Spyder benefits from a new rear spoiler which automatically rises at 74mph. In keeping with the car it replaces, it still utilises a manually-operated hood.

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Taking it to extremes

McLaren reveals the most extreme version of the Senna GTR

McLaren has revealed its Senna GTR in production-ready form.

The Senna GTR has been developed to be as capable as possible around a circuit and represents the most extreme version of the firm’s Ultimate Series car.

Limited to just 75 units – all of which are now sold – the Senna GTR utilises a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 814bhp. Thanks to a low dry weight of 1,188kg, it’s able to exceed the power-to-weight ratio of the regular Senna.

Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer at McLaren Automotive, said: “The McLaren Senna GTR is a perfect example of our determination to bring our customers the ultimate expression of track driving performance and excitement.

“The McLaren Senna was designed from the outset to be an extreme track car, but the 2018 McLaren Senna GTR Concept suggested how much more further we could go and now, free from the constraints of road car legislation and motorsport competition rules, we have pushed the limits of what is technically possible to advance circuit driving capability to another level entirely.”

McLaren says that the GTR develops the same amount of downforce as the regular car, but now at lower speeds. Peak downforce, meanwhile, is claimed to exceed 1,000kg.

“Pushed the limits of what is technically possible”

Each car will be built to the owner’s specific requirements, with a vast amount of customisation options available through McLaren’s Special Operations Options programme.

The GTR has been created by combining the performance of the road-legal car with the downforce and track capability of McLaren’s GT3 racers. However, the Woking-based firm wanted to ensure that the GTR was still usable by ‘normal’ drivers, stating that engineers wanted to make sure that “95 per cent of the performance of the car could be accessed by 95 per cent of drivers.”

McLaren Senna GTR. Photos: PA Media

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