The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Make Your Volvo Faster Without Adding Parts

2011-03-09 - Tim Werner

At ipd we get a lot of calls from customers who want to make their Volvo faster through the curves.

And for most Volvos there are parts we can supply. Sometimes though, a customer has purchased everything possible for their car. If you’ve got it all, and still want more, there is one part you can change or improve to drive faster and safer. The part we’re speaking of is the driver. We’re not starting a learn-at-home driving course, but here are some tips to allow you to get more from your car and be a safer driver.

Use the controls better!
There are three basic controls in all vehicles and how they are used determines the output and speed of the vehicle. The controls are: the accelerator to increase speed; the brakes to reduce speed; and the steering wheel to change direction. I would bet that nearly every performance driving instructor would say that all beginning performance drivers overuse the controls. What feels fast and looks fast on TV is not necessarily fast by the stopwatch or lap times.

Try this exercise on your normal daily route to work, the store, or even pulling in your driveway. At normal speed take a turn or corner and observe how much you turn the wheel. Now take the same corner at a greatly reduced speed (when traffic isn’t around). Turn the steering wheel as little as possible to stay in your lane. Once you’ve reduced your steering to its minimum gradually increase your speed back to normal. You will be able to make the turn with the same reduced steering input. Simple, just steer less, don’t overdrive the car.

Be smooth with the application of the brakes and gas in the same way. If you are accelerating hard instead of putting the pedal on the floor as fast as you can, squeeze it down. Take .8 of a second instead of .2 of a second. Use the controls less and make smoother inputs when you use them. Another way to become smoother is to give yourself more time. How?

Use your eyes better!
At 60 mph your vehicle travels 88 feet each second. Think about that… in one second you’ve gone 88 feet. Do you leave this much space between you and the car in front of you? I would bet no, especially in larger towns. Can you stop your car in 88 feet at 60 mph? I’ll bet not. I’m not saying one second is enough, but if you leave this distance what happens? One or more cars fill this gap, right? So you can’t get this physical distance. However, you can provide it with your eyes by looking further ahead. Look around, through or over the vehicle in front of you. If you are following a truck or bus, drop back to let other people fill this gap, or change lanes. By looking further ahead you give yourself more time to handle situations as they come up. If you’re 10 feet off the bumper of the car in front of you watching their brake lights, what are your options?

By using controls less and more smoothly you’ll get more from your car before reaching the limit. To safely find the limit, practice in a safe area off the street, or contact your local sports car club about a driving school or autocross where you can practice these and other techniques. In general, you’ll find autocrossers to be very helpful and full of valuable advice for beginners to be become better and safer drivers.