8 Crazy Cool Active Wings And Spoilers

Technology / Comments

There's more than one way to produce mega downforce.

There's often confusion between a wing and a spoiler, and the two mistakenly get used interchangeably. There is a big difference in aerodynamic function, though. Essentially, a wing on a car is mounted, typically at the rear, to create downforce. Unlike an airplane wing designed to use passing air to lift, the wing on a car pushes it down and increases grip from the tires. A spoiler disrupts the air's flow around the car and can serve different purposes. Most commonly, it's used to spoil the airflow that creates drag and causes instability, particularly on cars with a steep rear slope where a low-pressure zone can be created by airflow separation.

The problem sports car makers have is that both can cause unwanted drag at higher speeds, and that's where active aerodynamics come in. Typically, but not always, the car can automatically raise and/or adjust the spoiler or wing depending on variables detected. In its simplest form, an active wing or spoiler will raise itself at a set speed and bring itself back down when under that speed. The examples below are anything but simple. In fact, they're downright spectacular.

Porsche

1. Porsche Panamera

When Porsche wanted to have a larger wing deploy on the Porsche Panamera, engineers came up with one hell of a showy piece of engineering for the 2018 model year. The tri-folding wing is stored folded down into three pieces in a well-hidden compartment under the rear window. It deploys at 80 mph, extending then unfolding to create downforce, then at slower speeds, it neatly folds itself away. Unfortunately, it's also a big signal on the freeway that you're cruising at an illegal speed to a well-informed cop.

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Porsche
Porsche
Porsche

2. Koenigsegg One:1

One of the most elegant active wings we've seen is the incredible piece of engineering mounted on the rear of the Koenigsegg One:1. The most unusual part of the design is that its main structural support is attached to the upper side of the wing to keep the underside smooth. The support stalks are mounted horizontally and are heavily tapered to avoid upsetting the air as much as possible before it reaches the massive wing. They are also part of the aerodynamics, acting as rudders to stabilize the car at ridiculously high speeds. Under braking, the wing angles up to 25 degrees to get the best balance of drag and downforce. At high speeds, it can move to a minus six-degree angle to reduce drag as much as possible. The manipulation of the wing is handled by hydraulically actuated hollow-carbon pushrods, which help bring the wing's weight down to just a shade under 20 pounds. That lightness is made even more impressive by the fact that it creates 1,344 pounds of downforce at 174 mph.

Koenigsegg
Koenigsegg
Koenigsegg
Koenigsegg

3. Ford GT

The second generation of the modern Ford GT has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, and a couple are to do with the rear wing. It's tucked way until needed or the driver puts it in track mode. V-max mode makes the GT as slippery as possible through the air using all the active aerodynamics features, so keeps the rear wing tucked away. In track mode, the rear wing becomes particularly active and stands up to become an air brake under heavy braking. The air coming to the wing comes through tunnels and buttresses in the bodywork to reduce drag, making the Ford GT one of the most creatively aerodynamic cars around.

Ford
Ford
Ford

4. McLaren Senna

The McLaren Senna rear wing is top-mounted GT3 racecar style like the Koenigsegg One:1 and acts as an air brake like the Ford GT. However, it also constantly changes its angle of attack when on the track and in concert with the front fender's dual-flap wings. It's bewitching to watch in Autocar's 360 VR video of the Senna attacking a lap at Silverstone as it is always in motion and working to improve the car's performance. Just make sure to move the view around to face backward so you can see the rear wing working its magic.

McLaren
McLaren
McLaren
McLaren

5. Ferrari FXX-K

Ferrari likes to keep its aesthetic design seamless and tries to avoid obvious spoilers or wings. However, the Ferrari FXX-K is a track-only car the Italian automaker insists isn't a LaFerrari variant. It definitely has a different active aerodynamic setup that uses pronounced "winglets" on each side as stabilizers. When the wing extends, the stabilizers direct air over it to create up to half a ton of downforce. However, the FXX-K has a lot more aero parts working with the winglets and wings, and all are controlled by a myriad of processors working in real-time to stick the car to the track or make it as slippery as possible through the air on the straights.

Ferrari
Ferrari
Ferrari
Ferrari

6. Lamborghini Huracan Performante

Lamborghini isn't well known for a particularly sophisticated approach to building supercars, but the active aero rear wing on the Huracan Performante is the result of some genuine outside-the-box thinking. The Italian supercar maker calls the system Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva (ALA) and takes a novel approach at the rear of the car. The wing itself doesn't move, but a small variable air intake on each strut feeds that air through the hollow area and into the internal cavity of the wing to increase downforce.

2018-2019 Lamborghini Huracan Perfomante Spyder Front View Driving Lamborghini
2018-2019 Lamborghini Huracan Perfomante Spyder Rear View Driving Lamborghini
2018-2019 Lamborghini Huracan Perfomante Spyder Rear View Driving Lamborghini

7. McLaren Speedtail

For the Speedtail, McLaren literally bends bodywork to make sure its active aero blends seamlessly with the car's styling. Two flaps are melded into the rear deck like the ailerons as you see on the wings of a plane. At high speeds with the flaps down, there's no drag created there, but when needed, the flexible carbon-fiber flaps curve up to create downforce. Hydraulic actuators control them to a maximum height of 4.7 inches. As the Speedtail is all about speed, they balance out the car's aerodynamics, creating a slippery shape and adding stability rather than pressing the rear wheels into the ground at the expense of maximum velocity.

McLaren
McLaren
McLaren
McLaren

8. Zenvo TSR-S

This list wouldn't be complete without bringing up the insanity of the Zenvo TSR-S's active rear wing. It borders on comical in how it adjusts its angle on the longitudinal axis of the car and on the fore-aft plane. In other words, the sides of the wing raise and lower independently to increase downforce on the inner tires in a corner. Zenvo calls it a "centripetal wing," and given that the car has been around now since 2016 and nobody else has run with the idea, we can probably assume it isn't effective enough to justify the complicated engineering required to make it work.

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