Last post on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM
You are in the Sedans
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Lexus GS 430, Acura RL, BMW 5 Series, Volvo S80, Audi A6, Infiniti M35, Infiniti M45, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac STS, Sedan
Jan 06, 2007 (6:15 am)
I read the line "single mode 'old lady' Servotronic steering kills the entire otherwise great car" with keen interest.
You see, in 2005, after months of test driving cars from Europe, Japan and the US, we came to find that both BMW and Audi had some vehicles we could really enjoy. The BMW sub-venting machine was offering a $47K vehicle for $581 per month for 36 months 45K miles with no upfront money essentially. Audi for a less than $45K vehicle was about $100 more, same deal.
We liked the BMW just fine and, well, the $100 was enough motivation.
A series of back to back test drives in BMW's without Servotronic led us to configure and order a new BMW EXACTLY as we wanted it. We did not, however, order the car with Servotronic.
A friend of ours who worked as an intern at the local BMW dealership told us we should have ordered the car with Servotronic which would "transform" the car from good to great. A further google of Servotronic, BMW+Servotronic, etc, led us to specific reviews of Servotronic equipped vehicles and specific reviews of the car we had ordered with Servotronic.
For example, "The optional Servotronic steering is flat-out wonderful. It's speed-sensitive, adding more assist at low speeds, and invisibly altering the steering ratio, so the car turns more with less steering input. Parallel-parking is a breeze, as are quick, mid-block U-turns. As speed increases, assistance diminishes and the ratio slows, making for good on-center feel and sure lane changes. Perhaps most telling about the Servotronic steering is its transparency; unless a driver moves directly from the [Servotronic equipped BMW] to another vehicle without the feature and suddenly has to crank in more steering at slow speeds, it'll likely not be noticed at all."
At the time, I had a 2003 Audi allroad that was coming off lease. One of the things the Audi lacked was road speed sensitive steering boost. Indeed, it seemed, in the Audi, that the steering boost was ENGINE speed sensitive. I guess the theory is that when the car is in the first two or three gears (mine was a 6 speed manual) the RPM's are higher hence the boost would be higher at lower speeds.
Sort of true. But the thing is, as the Audi went faster and faster (road speed), the RPM's even with the 6 speed also climbed above 2,000 and the effect was [apparently] the steering boost remained. This, then, might account for an "old lady" personality in any car so equipped.
I cannot verify that this 2003 Audi called this Servotronic. Indeed, Servotronic is typically capitalized because it is a technology that Audi, BMW and other manufacturers purchase and implement on their vehicles.
My experience with our new BMW as of May, 2005 was that "Servotronic" was a major improvement in road feel at speed and a welcome assist at low, slow or no speed. We were able to alter our ordered car to ADD Servotronic steering since our order was less than a week old.
When I then ordered a new Audi A6 3.2, I noted the brochure specified that Servotronic (capitalized and trade marked) steering came standard in US bound versions of this, the latest and newest generation of Audi A6's.
My impression is that BMW charges extra (not much in the case of our 2005 BMW) for Servotronic and that many of the dealer's agents (like our intern friend) know that it is a transforming (in a positive sense) technology that they, for their own personal BMW's, would not forego.
"OLD LADY?" heck, I don't know if there is "BMW Servotronic" and "Volvo Servotronic" and "Audi Servotronic," or not, but I do know that our two 2005 MY German cars both have Servotronic and that a back to back drive with a BMW that has it vs one that does not is eye opening. Drive the Audi A6 with it and a BMW without it and the BMW feels "less nimble."
Now, does this rise to the characterization of "old lady"? I guess this may be in the hands and arms of the individual, but I would urge anyone buying one of these cars to check off the Servotronic option (if such is on an option list), NOT avoid it.
With only these experiences and the reviews of some folks who write about cars for a living as my guide, I return to the question, is there such a thing as "servotronic" and "Servotronic" steering and that one implementation (Audi's apparently) is "old lady" like and others' not so much?
#9020 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [markcincinnati]
Jan 06, 2007 (7:42 am)
Some auto reviewers, like Clarkson, have complained that regular Audis lack road feel. I dont remember seeing comments about Audi steering being too light and over-boosted. The steering didn't feel that way to me in the Audis I've driven. I certainly wouldn't call them the "German Lexus". The Phaeton is the closest thing there is to that.
#9021 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [lexusguy]
Jan 06, 2007 (9:00 am)
The little seat time I've had in the A8/A6, led me to the conclusion that the steering felt a little "over boosted" for my taste. However, the overall traits of the car, more than make up for this IMO.
I've thought that in the Q7 as well. Now the X5  has wonderful steering, but is to "enthusiastic" [nervous] IMO to make it a worthy, long road trip vehicle.
I think Mercedes gets bashed a lot for heavy steering, with no feel, but that's what makes them great touring cars. No need for constant corrections.
All of these are a better alternative to Lexus which is like eating a fine meal, on a paper plate. [with an excellent waiter]
#9022 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [lexusguy]
Jan 06, 2007 (9:11 am)
I have a '03 A6 2.7T coming off lease shortly and fully intended to get another Audi. I'm not, partially because the lease cost is up almost 200 per month and primarily because I can get competitive AWD cars for less money. The 530Xi was app.$50 a month less due to higher residuals. I thought the Audi steering at low speeds was too light and didn't have the road feel of my '03. I didn't have the opportunity to test it at higher speeds. The engine didn't feel as quick as my twin turbo that reached max torque at 1800RPM. The M35X was quick , better technology, better handling, far less money to lease($120 per month less than the Audi) but didn't have the refinement and "planted feeling" of the Quattro. The GS 350 is fast with numb steering, small but very quiet and refined feeling. Frankly, other than the technology, I liked driving my current Audi better than any of them. Leaning towards the M! Cost, handling, steering, tech. I don't mention looks because that is individual preference.
#9023 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [allagaroo]
Jan 06, 2007 (10:28 am)
My situation almost exactly when I plunked down a deposit to order an M35X.
Lower lease payments, MORE technology (don't know about "better," though) and "close enough" to German feel for jazz (at $200 per month less, hell yes!)
Then Audi, for an almost $3K more expensive model came in UNDER the Infiniti price on the lease -- and "all I had to do" was threaten to buy the Infiniti, which I sort of already had done. The phone rang, the dealer said "what will it take and some $200 in monthly payment melted away as if by magic.
That was then, this may be different.
But, I came off a 2003 allroad with a mo pay of about $790 (including tax) and went to a $53,286 A6 for about $640 including tax. The Infiniti was $677 same deal.
The Audi, the German cars generally, have a feel, a taughtness and with Audis expertise in AWD an "edge" that no Infiniti (at this point), no matter how high up the food chain doesn't quite match.
Yet, to be clear, the Infiniti was close to that BMW/Audi feel, so close that for the price diff the Infiniti went from being #2 to #1 and ONLY when Audi dropped the price per mo did my former #1, return to #1.
My Audi A6 3.2 with all options save sport suspension is the best Audi I have ever had in almost every way. My most loved and fun Audi, however, remains my 1995 S6 -- but from a technology, quality and fit and finish standpoint, the C6 A6 is lightyears ahead of the '95. There was just something about that RUSH of power from the 5 cylinder 20v turbo, that causes me to mist up.
In other words, I hear you, I was there, I've been there and done that. If Audi will come down in price for you would you reconsider?
#9024 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [allagaroo]
Jan 06, 2007 (10:56 am)
Leaning towards the M! Cost, handling, steering, tech. I don't mention looks because that is individual preference.
If you can, try and spend a few hours with the M on a highway. The M is a blast on curvy two-lanes, but its highway ride and noise levels are definitely not for everybody.
#9025 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [markcincinnati]
Jan 06, 2007 (11:49 am)
"Servotronic" is Audi name, "Active steering" is BMW, etc. Actually, almost all high end cars have variable assist. However, the difference is in software, i.e. how much assist is there at certain speed. BMW steering gets harder faster than A6. A6 gets good feel at highway speeds, but feels anemic at 25 - 40 mph. On the ather hand, variable assist in S6 is excellent and the only difference, I believe, is in software that defines how much assist you get at which speed.
When you enter turn at a speed in A6 steering has one feel. Speed drops as you turn so when upon the exit you are returning wheel to the neutral position, steering has completely different feel. Quite odd feeling. I didn't feel that say, in Acura RL, which supposedly also has variable assist.
#9026 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [uglybear]
Jan 06, 2007 (1:20 pm)
I've hated every experience I've had with Active Steering. Zero road feel, and the variable ratio kept throwing me off course. No thanks, regular BMW steering is just fine.
#9027 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [uglybear]
Jan 06, 2007 (2:05 pm)
Servotronic is an Audi name? Servotronic is a purchased technology, Audi and BMW purchase it from ZF (and anyone else who wants BRAND NAME Servotronic or Servotronic II does too -- fur instance Cadillac.)
OK, if this is wrong and if your assertion is the proper case, wouldn't you think BMW would avoid using that name or if they did, they would have to give credit where credit is due?
E.g., ESP is a Bosch product (but it was, according to the Mercedes fine print, developed in "cooperation" with Mercedes.)
So, one configures a new BMW X3 and right there pops up Servotronic (not Audi Servotronic) as an optional extra -- $250. Configure a new 3 series and for $1275 you can opt for Active Steering.
Ask the BMW dealer (and I did just an hour ago) what the difference is, and the first quip is, "about $1000."
No, they are not identical, Active Steering does two things, Servotronic does one, Active Steering effectively incorporates Servotronic (not an Audi or BMW invention apparently.) Here is what you gets when you checks the option box for Active Steering: Servotronic which is ROAD SPEED sensitive boost, the lower the road speed the higher the boost and vice versa, with Active Steering you also get ratio variability. As the car changes road speed the speed at which the wheel turns changes. At one speed a 1/4 turn of the steering wheel yields "X" turn of the road wheels, at a different speed, it may take 1/2 a turn of the steering wheel to generate "X" turn of the road wheels, at yet another speed, it may only take 1/8 a turn to generate "X" turn of the road wheels.
Servotronic, according to the BMW sales guy is a HUGE improvement over non Servotronic set ups since it decreases boost as the road speed increases (the opposite of previous generations of "power steering" which generally remained linear or simply changed in step with engine RPM.)
Our BMW rep says Active Steering is an acquired taste and that Servotronic over a non-Servotronic set up feels "just right" (to him, obviously.)
Reading test reports of BMW models that were offered with OPTIONAL Servotronic, one can glean a message, Servotronic is a "wonderful" set up. Test reports praising the Servotronic steering can be found for the X3, X5 and M5. Other reports, less complimentary, can be found, too -- refering here to Active Steering.
Maybe both set ups are an acquired taste. The praise for the new S8's implementation and last year's M5 Servotronic implementation can be googled with ease.
Yet, if you do not drive back to back to back the same model with and without and then again with, you would be hard pressed to notice the boost differences, since the boost declines slowly as road speed rises.
The effect, once you become aware of what it feels like both ways, is better highway response without a rise in effort at low speed or when stopped.
BMW is moving all their vehicles to Active Steering. The interesting thing is, at this point, is that the code to special order Servotronic is one lower than the Active Steering option, making one wonder if the current price of Active Steering isn't the aspect that is over-boosted.
The US Audi A6 comes standard with Servotronic and the software that controls it seems to be quite like the software that controls the BMW implementation of Servotronic.
The Party Line:
Speed-proportional variable ratio steering from ZF
"The best steering feel is always at your fingertips, regardless of the conditions. ZF Servotronic steering incorporates speed-sensitivity to provide agile steering for easier manoeuvrability at low speed and greater feedback and stability at higher speeds."
The full report:
PowerSteering.com and I swear I did not make this up!
#9028 of 10348 Re: Is there a difference? [lexusguy]
Jan 06, 2007 (6:00 pm)
I left my M with a stereo installer who put in a bunch of Dynamat...it is a much nicer ride on the long interstate runs, yet you still hear the engine when you push it. I can hear the stereo better, and the voice recognition at speed is more reliable, too.