ZF Wants All-Wheel Steering To Make a Comeback in SUVs and Trucks

The best thing about pickups and SUVs is that they offer a lot of room - whether we're talking about a seven-seater that can take a larger number of passengers or a long bed that will make trips back from the hardware store a breeze, these vehicles are good at hauling something.
ZF's four-wheel steering system on a Ford F-150 3 photos
Photo: ZF
ZF's four-wheel steering system on a Ford F-150ZF's four-wheel steering system on a Ford F-150
Obviously, they can't be large on the inside, and small on the outside, or everyone would be buying smart fortwos, and all other carmakers would go bankrupt. That means that what you gain on one side, you have to lose on the other.

Traditionally, pickups and SUVs were the kind of vehicles you would find parked in front of a ranch or a farm, out in the countryside where their dimensions were dwarfed by the open scenery. Their size didn't bother anyone, nor did their turning circle.

Now, though, with the Ford F-150 being the best-sold vehicle in the U.S. and SUV sales going through the roof as well, you're bound to find some of them struggling to deal with the narrow (by comparison) streets of crowded cities.

"Why should we care for the people who buy cars that are inappropriate for their needs?" you might ask. You shouldn't, but ZF apparently does. The company that's best known for its excellent transmissions has come up with a solution for these cumbersome vehicles that would make them a lot feasible for urban living.

ZF is proposing an adaptation of its Active Kinematics Control - a rear-wheel steering system for sports cars meant to improve their handling - that would make pickups and SUVs a lot nimbler when more flexibility is needed. Such as parallel parking, making a U-turn or going through a tight corner.

Four-wheel steering systems in this type of vehicles aren't new, but ZF thinks it got it right this time. GM tried it more than a decade ago with the Quadrasteer on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and its larger SUVs, but a high price and reliability issues made the manufacturer give up on the idea.

Now, ZF claims its solutions is way better, and has installed it on a Ford F-150 to prove its point. It uses an electric steering system, as opposed to the old one that employed hydraulics, and is said to work fine with the F-150's simple live rear axle.

Of course, meddling with America's number one pickup - or any other pickup for that matter - is a delicate thing. People like their heavy duty machinery as simple as possible, and ZF's system surely doesn't make things any less complicated. 
On the other hand, if its benefits could be easily proven and Ford is convinced there aren't any reliability concerns, we might see this idea make a comeback (as well as pickups pull previously impossible maneuvers).
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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