Inspired by comments here: I'm not the only one who has experienced an improvement in ride and road-feel with a heavily-laden vehicle. I'm recalling a long drive I made a decade ago in my otherwise crappy 1995 Mitsubishi Galant with nearly half a ton of equipment. That load turned it into a better car: Its ride went from flighty and harsh to soft and planted. It was not only more connected to the road, but its response to imperfections were more dampened – characteristics I have only seen together in much more expensive cars.
All I did was add weight to transform it from the car I had to drive into a car I wanted to drive. The question is: Why? And more particularly: Can that effect be reproduced without actually adding half a ton of unneeded weight?
We know that much weight made several changes to the vehicle:
- Shifted the center of mass to the rear, and lowered it a bit.
- Compressed the suspension.
- Which would have also increased negative camber.
More recently, I have taken to aligning all my cars to the limits of their negative camber specs, so I can appreciate what that does, but it doesn't nearly account for everything I experienced saddling that old sedan with weight.
I've spent plenty of time in near 50/50 RWD cars, so I know what neutral weight distribution feels like.
So I'm very convinced that whatever the weight did to the suspension had a great deal to do with the car becoming "smooth and connected." And in retrospect it seems like that would make sense: After all, with static suspension components manufacturers have to design in enough room for the vehicle to take a load up to its gross vehicle weight, without riding on the stops or pushing the wheels out of line. With a single passenger a standard sedan is half a ton shy of its design weight. Is it plausible that an unladen standard suspension allows more noise and is less connected? Or, put another way, if you knew you were never going to put more than a 200-pound passenger in a sedan, could you take the "excess" out of the suspension and expect a better ride?