ZF lined up its pro­to­types and cars with ZF com­po­nents for us at Pach­furth in Aus­tria. Here’s what we liked...


We had a go at sev­eral of ZF’s pro­to­types in Aus­tria

WE TEND TO LOOK AT THE SUM OF all parts when we give ver­dicts on cars. The un­sung he­roes how­ever are the parts that make the whole, and for tech­no­log­i­cal gi­ant ZF, it is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a mat­ter of pride to show­case their ad­vance­ments that make car com­pa­nies look good. In the Porsche Panam­era I drove for the July 2017 is­sue of evo In­dia, I men­tioned that the eight-speed PDK is the gold stan­dard and the rear axle steer is a tech­nol­ogy that en­hances the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Lit­tle did I know that ZF made these for Porsche. Just a week later, I was pre­sented with the same car, the only dif­fer­ence be­ing the change in lo­ca­tion from Lavasa to the Pach­furth driv­ing camp in Aus­tria. There is ZF’s pres­ence in most things au­to­mo­tive but what if it all came to­gether as a sin­gle prod­uct? Say hello to what used to be a Volk­swa­gen Touran.

It’s now called the Zero Vi­sion ve­hi­cle and be­sides the de­sign and chas­sis, you will find lit­tle re­sem­blance be­tween the two. For starters, it has au­to­mated driv­ing that works at speeds un­der 130kmph but a few en­gi­neers anony­mously men­tioned that it works at speeds as high as 200kmph. A few rough edges need to be pol­ished as it won’t han­dle sharp turns and re­quires hu­man in­ter­ven­tion there but the level to which it takes au­ton­o­mous driv­ing is sim­ply mind-blow­ing. The car won’t let you drive in the op­po­site di­rec­tion and if you ig­nore the warn­ing sig­nals, it will com­pletely take con­trol and brake.

When au­ton­o­mous driv­ing is ac­ti­vated and it senses an ob­sta­cle, the four-wheeled steer­ing will help it crab crawl away from the ob­sta­cle. Oh yes! it can turn all four wheels in the same di­rec­tion at the same time au­tonomously. Speak­ing of the rear axle, it’s called mSTARS for mod­u­lar semi-trail­ing arm rear sus­pen­sion and comes with an in­te­grated elec­tric drive sys­tem driv­ing the rear wheels. The pro­to­type makes 150kW of power, which is about 201bhp. And since it’s elec­tric, ac­cel­er­a­tion is quick off the line. “The so­lu­tion is suit­able for hy­brid, fuel-cell and bat­tery-pow­ered ve­hi­cles, as well as in com­bi­na­tion with con­ven­tional all-wheel mod­ules or our AKC ac­tive rear axle steer­ing,” said Dr Hol­ger Klein, head of ZF’s Car Chas­sis Tech­nol­ogy Divi­sion. ZF has been mak­ing rear steer­ing axles for a while with the 911, the Panam­era and also has a steeper steer­ing

an­gle in the F150 rear-steer pro­to­type but the Zero emis­sions ve­hi­cle takes this to the next level with the in­te­gra­tion of the pow­er­train and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing.

Radars, cam­eras, brakes, ac­tive body con­trol, airbags, chas­sis com­po­nents, seat belt ten­sion­ers, steer­ing sys­tems, elec­tronic com­po­nents, it’s prac­ti­cally a whole new car by ZF. The com­pany in­vested two bil­lion eu­ros in re­search and de­vel­op­ment in 2016 and the in­vest­ment shows in the ad­vances it has made to de­velop so many fea­tures that will see the light of day in pro­duc­tion cars some­time soon. Many ex­hibits al­ready im­ple­mented give us an idea of how real all the fu­ture tech is.

Back to the Panam­era, it has ZF’s ac­tive kine­mat­ics con­trol, the rea­son why the mas­sive 5-me­tre-plus Porsche Panam­era e-hy­brid han­dles like a dream. The rear axle, like in the Porsche 911 can steer and that makes the Panam­era a lot more ag­ile than be­fore. In tight spots at low speeds, the turn­ing ra­dius re­duces as the rear wheels turn ever so slightly in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the front wheels, mak­ing it a lot more ma­noeu­vrable. On the slalom course ZF had planned for us, the re­duced steer­ing in­put while nav­i­gat­ing through the cones show­cased the car’s low-speed agility.

At high speeds, they turn in the same di­rec­tion vir­tu­ally in­creas­ing the wheel­base and in­creas­ing sta­bil­ity. While we didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence that in Aus­tria, just weeks ago, I drove the Panam­era Turbo on our favourite wind­ing road – Lavasa, and the car sim­ply blew my mind. It should be a four-door sedan and act like it, but it’s a very com­fort­able sportscar.

Com­ing to the com­fort, the ZF com­po­nents that help are many. For starters, it’s the new eight-speed PDK gear­box ZF makes ex­clu­sively for Porsche. It’s quicker than you can think yet the shifts don’t have the un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence other cars that go this fast have. There is smooth­ness with ev­ery shift that keeps you in


rhythm and you are al­ways in the right gear. Adding to the smooth­ness is the ride that also turns out to be ZF com­po­nents. The shock ab­sorber, con­tin­u­ous damp­ing con­trol and ac­tive roll sta­bil­i­sa­tion en­sure the Panam­era al­ways stays in con­trol. ZF also sup­plies chas­sis com­po­nents, elec­tronic com­po­nents, airbags, seat­belt safety sys­tems and crash sen­sors.

Another ma­jor ZF com­po­nent in the Panam­era that makes it drive bet­ter is the steer­ing. Usu­ally cars this size are en­gi­neered to un­der­steer, re­quir­ing a lot more in­put in steer­ing when you tackle a wind­ing road and the ac­cu­racy is al­most al­ways found lack­ing. The flip­side is more weight added to the steer­ing to feel like a driver’s car. With the Panam­era, the bal­ance is just right. It isn’t un­nec­es­sar­ily heavy and very pre­cise, and be­cause the rear axles steer too, the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is taken to a whole new level.

I could count at least 12 ma­jor com­po­nents/ sys­tems on the Panam­era and of these the gear­box, sus­pen­sion and steer­ing are parts one can ac­tively ex­pe­ri­ence. Porsche is at the cen­tre of the VW group’s en­gi­neer­ing prow­ess and all new tech­nolo­gies on the chas­sis, sus­pen­sion, elec­tron­ics and gear­box front will be im­ple­mented on new Porsches. That ZF seems to be a cho­sen part­ner for one of the finest car brands in the world speaks of the Ger­man sup­plier’s ad­vance­ments in the au­to­mo­tive field.L

1: Au­to­matic Emer­gency Brak­ing

(AEB) uses radar and cam­era to brake within 150-300 mil­lisec­onds of spot­ting an ob­sta­cle.

2: Au­to­mated Col­li­sion Avoid­ance (ACA) cou­pled with au­to­mated high­way

driv­ing will make driver­less cars safe.

3: In­te­gral Chas­sis Con­trol con­nects EPS with brak­ing sys­tem for ac­cu­rate brak­ing

in wet con­di­tions. 4: Ad­justable front and rear sus­pen­sion






Above: Eight-speed plug-in hy­brid transmission in the Q7.

Left: Rear axle steer in the Ford F150 pickup – 12.5-de­gree turn­ing an­gle. Be­low: Elec­tric axle drive unit in the al­l­elec­tric Ritz con­ver­sion

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