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Power steering shifts to electric

Power steering has undergone a fundamental change in the last 10 years, leading to better reliability, and some criticism.

When Porsche implemented electric power steering on the latest 911, it received criticism for a numb steering feel.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

If you buy a car today, it will likely have a major difference in the power steering than cars from 10 or even just 5 years ago: The steering system will rely on an electric motor instead of a hydraulic piston for power boost. The majority of new cars sold today use electric power steering.

I’ve seen — and felt — this change in cars ranging from Toyotas to Porsches over the years. My own car, a 1999 BMW, is firmly in the hydraulic boost camp. But I’ve grown to appreciate the precise response and linear boost in modern sport cars, which has improved dramatically as engineers learn how to program these steering systems.

Not everyone feels this way. The switch to electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) met its detractors among driving enthusiasts, often citing a lack of road-feel in newer cars. Jeremy Clarkson of BBC’s “Top Gear” said, in a review of the Ford Focus ST, that cars with electric power steering tended to understeer, a claim that doesn’t make much sense when you compare the architecture of the competing systems.



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