car research: chassis rigidity and torsional stiffness

i am 23. i do not have a car.

maybe i ought to join a support group or something. i don’t know, i’ve done quite well without. the mountain bike was a useful investment. i work on campus and live a few minutes, if not seconds away. but there are those untold riches and opportunities that may exist beyond the reach of my bike and my legs.

so the thought has crossed my mind that maybe i should look into getting a car. (whether or not i should “go there” is a whole nother matter, as i’ve needed a couch since June, and am still looking…)

so i’ve been reading all these car reviews online–cause i know nothing about cars, especially what’s out there, or how much things cost, etc–and by now i think i’ve read just about every meaningful review on so i’ve moved on to, trying to absorb the broadest amount of meaningful information about these “cars”.

one thing these reviews seem to mention a lot about is how stiffer the car body is from the previous model. i’ve read this *so* many times, that this quote from car and driver made me laugh out loud:

“Like every new car that rolls onstage these days, the RSX has a far higher chassis rigidity than its predecessor–116 percent improved in torsional stiffness and 35 percent in bending, according to Acura–and even though claims like this make us wonder what the previous car was made of (linguine? licorice whips?), the decisive responses of the Type-S suggest the RSX is indeed composed of the right stuff.”

so anyway, what do the car people seem to like? well, they like cars that move fast, steer accurately, and shift well. they don’t like cars that suck, even though a lot of people buy cars that suck. probably cause they’re cheap. and probably cause they don’t bother obsessively reading car reviews.

obviously i want a good car that doesn’t cost too much. clearly this knocks out anything above $30,000. [my dad would say this knocks out anything above $20,000] i don’t want a convertable, a pickup truck, or an SUV. i don’t much like hatchbacks, though the MINI Cooper is an exception. this kind of leaves me with two car categories: coupes and sports sedans. oh, and i don’t want a PoS car either.

i started my research with my eyes on the volkswagen jetta and the MINI cooper, primarily for their looks, and presumably for their price. though they both price out at a very respectable $21,000, the so-so reviews suggest i might want to direct my attention elsewhere.

of course “elsewhere” always means territory more rarified and expensive. but then a car is an “investment”, right? so why not make it a really good investment (if not a freaking expensive one)?

so where do the car mags suggest i look? edmunds seems particular keen on the vw passat and they both really like the audi a4.

but it seems the pinnicle for both (in the sports sedan category) is the bmw 3-series. it seems no car ellicits more praise for its glorious engineering and the “feel” of the drive than a member of the elite bimmer 3 series. of course an elite bmw carries and equally elite pricetag, starting around $28,000 and easily reaching $32,000 with options.

1 Comment


There’s nothing wrong with not owning a car. at 22, I also do not own one, and am actually in school for automotive engineering! You gain a lot of freedom not having to spend the massive $$ on insurance, repairs, gas etc….


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