Motoring jargon you need to know
Struggling to understand the alphabet soup of motoring terms and abbreviations? Here’s our handy guide:
4WD – Four-wheel drive Any vehicle which can send power to all four wheels; but, to be more specific, ones which can select between one or both axles. to get really technical, a Subaru impreza is actually not four-wheel drive but a nissan Patrol is. Often includes bush-bashing features such as low-range gearing and centre differential locks.
ABS – Antilock Braking System One of the single most-effective safety features on modern cars, ABS sends fast pulses of brake force to the wheels in order to prevent skids. By allowing the wheels to rotate, even under massive brake force, a vehicle is able to better maintain control when swerving, and this also shortens braking distances — particularly on slippery roads.
AWD – All-wheel drive Similar to four-wheel drive, but power is permanently sent to both front and rear axles. Examples of all-wheel drive include any Audi with quattro drivetrain, most Subarus and some soft-roading crossovers. Sometimes regarded as a milder version of fourwheel drive to offer less confident drivers a sense of security in slippery conditions. Also used in high-performance cars to give a traction advantage off the line.
BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle One of many new acronyms for the latest wave of environmentally friendly cars; this one relies only on electricity for propulsion. A BEV such as a nissan leaf or BMW i3 requires charging through either a wall socket or a quick charging station.
C02 – Carbon dioxide though touted as a nasty by-product of internal combustion engines, C02 is actu- ally vital to life on Earth. But as usual, too much of a good thing can be bad, and when spewed by millions of cars around the world, this component of exhaust emissions contributes to global warming.
C02 emission figures are almost always quoted alongside claimed average fuel consumptions in new cars, and in most markets is levied with tax to encourage buying of cleaner burning vehicles, and discourage high-performance gas guzzlers.
CVT – Continuously Variable Trans
mission Where a normal gearbox is full of (you guessed it), gears, a CVT usually uses a belt-drive system to continuously and linearly adjust ratios. Enthusiastic drivers are often put off by the droning, constant revs produced by Cvts, but their ability to keep the engine revs at their most efficient point have put them in favour with budgetconscious buyers.
DSG – Direct Shift Gearbox Officially licensed by Volkswagen, DSG is commonly used in motoring circles in reference to any dual-clutch automatic transmission regardless of brand.
A DSG’S complex internals would take paragraphs to describe accurately, but basically the transmission is able to pre-select gears on either side of whichever gear is currently engaged. this makes up- and down-shifts happen much quicker than a regular automatic transmission.
EBD – Electronic Brakeforce Distribu
tion in the old days, when you slammed the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure would be sent evenly to all four wheels — resulting in dangerous lock-ups or skids. EBD, which works in tandem with your car’s ABS, can sense which wheels have grip and which don’t, and can send stopping power to each wheel independently to most efficiently scrub off speed and also keep control.
ESC – Electronic Stability Control, aka Electronic Stability Program (ESP), or
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) this complicated system keeps your car straight when it starts to slide. it uses computers to detect a slide and selectively sends braking force or cuts engine power to individual wheels in order to maintain control. the system can usually be partially or completely disabled, but if not can be a drifter’s worst nightmare.
FCV – Fuel Cell Vehicle A fuel cell vehicle is much the same as a BEV, except instead of plugging in to recharge batteries, it makes its own electricity with a complex hydrogen to oxygen chemical reaction.
the process, which happens in an onboard fuel cell ‘stack’ results in only water as an emission. Fuel cell vehicles are widely believed to be the cleanest form of powering cars in the future, but hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will be very expensive to roll out around the world.
LED – Light Emitting Diode These tiny and extremely energy efficient little light bulbs date back to the 1920s, and you may have seen them for decades in your car’s instrument clusters where they’ve often been used to illuminate check engine lights and suchlike.
But more recently LED technology has progressed to a state of automotive jewellery, where it’s used for intricate daytime running light designs. We first remember LEDS used in this way in 2006, when Audi’s V10-powered S6 featured two thin white LED strips in its front bumper.
Even more recently, LED tech has advanced enough to complete replace traditional head- and taillights. Mercedes-benz’ latest S-class uses only LEDS for every light function in the entire car.
MPV – Multi Purpose Vehicle A tag which often denotes moms’ taxis such as the Kia grand Sedona and Chrysler grand Voyager. Sub-categories are medium MPVS such as the Citroën C4 Picasso and mini MPVS, for example Ford’s B-max.
NOX – Nitrogen oxide nitrogen oxide, or nox, is a harmful exhaust pollutant which was lesser known by the public until it made headlines recently as part of Volkswagen’s “diesel-gate” scandal. this by-product of burning fossil fuels is a known contributor to respiratory disease and acid rain.
Diesel powered engines generally emit less C02 than petrol counterparts, but produce much more nox. there are strict nox emissions requirements in place in most countries (which VW have been caught bypassing), but carmakers are not required to quote these figures to the buying public.
PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Plug-in hybrid vehicles are not only providing a stop-gap between conventional petroleum-powered cars and whatever technology might be around the corner, but also make it easier for buyers to slide into the green scene without taking uncomfortable leaps of faith into new-fangled EVS or FCVS.
Most PHEVS look exactly like their normal counterparts, but will have a separate fuel flap where on-board batteries can be recharged, and used for short (usually about 20-30km) distances on emission-free electric power alone.
under the bonnet, however, is a normal petrol or diesel engine which can fire up to help charge batteries, provide extra power bursts, or bail drivers out of trouble if the vehicle’s battery range is exceeded.
SRS – Supplementary Restraint System the key word here is supplementary. As in secondary. As in it needs something else to work properly. As in if you don’t wear your seatbelt, you can expect a serious facial pounding from your car’s airbag if you crash.
Yes, airbags are designed to work in tandem with seatbelts, hence that little SRS abbreviation you might’ve seen on your steering wheel. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. — iol