In April’s issue, C/D examined the “Disrupters,” the people, products, and the technology advancements that have helped reshaped the automotive industry. –Ed.
From the April 2020 issue of Car and Driver.
Using your own two feet to balance an engine’s torque with the traction available at the tires will always be deeply satisfying. Which is to say: It’s fun as hell to perform the perfect hole shot and rip from fully stopped to real fast in a blink or three. But properly launching a car without electronic assistance takes great skill. And even then, the very best drivers are still only human.
Whether or not technology is as artful in practice as our own efforts, launch-control systems have unquestionably helped us get off the line quickest in far fewer attempts than we could have on our own. Consider Porsche: Its PDK dual-clutch automatics feature the crown jewel of launch control. Starting with the 2010 model, launch control took the 911 Turbo from a mid-three-second car to a sub-three-second car. The C8 Corvette Stingray just joined the sub-three-second club, too, and it wouldn’t have gotten there without launch control—although moving the engine certainly helped.
We often associate launch control with dual-clutch transmissions, but the technology was born in racing and trickled into production cars with single-clutch automated manuals. Ferrari, Lamborghini, and BMW made excellent use of it starting in the early 2000s. Launch control isn’t just reserved for six-figure cars. The Audi RS3 can match the 60-mph time of a pre-launch-control 911 Turbo. Even the people’s sport commuter, the VW Golf GTI, gets this tech when you opt for the autobox.
Sure, occasionally a driver’s footwork can match or better the results of silicon processors and hydraulic actuators. And we lament the managed decline of manual transmissions as a byproduct of progress. But when it comes to launch-control technology and how effectively it can help propel most modern performance vehicles from a dead dig, it’s hard to argue with the results of a little computer assistance.
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