It was invented by American Vernon Gleasman and manufactured by the Gleason Corporation. Torsen is a contraction of Torque-Sensing. TORSEN and TORSEN Traction are registered trademarks of JTEKT Torsen North America Inc (formerly Zexel Corporation, formerly Gleason Power Systems). All Torsen differentials have their origin in the Dual-Drive Differential that was invented and patented by Gleasman in 1958.
Torsen differentials can be used in one or more positions on a motor vehicle:
A four-wheel-drive vehicle, for example, may use either one, two, or three Torsen differentials.
There are currently three types of Torsen differentials.
The Torsen T-3 is currently employed as the centre differential in all non-Haldex Traction Audi models with a ZF-sourced automatic transmission quattro four-wheel drive, such as: Audi A6/A7, and Audi Q7. Note Audi uses a mechanical "Crown Wheel" centre differential for all longitudinal implementations using dual-clutch transmissions, such as the 2013/14 S4/RS4. Alfa Romeo used a Torsen C twin differential in the Alfa Romeo 156 Crosswagon Q4 and also in the 159, Brera and Spider Q4 models. Also, Toyota uses a Torsen T-3 in the center differential of the Toyota 4Runner, Land Cruiser and Lexus GX470, with manual locking feature, and GM used a Torsen T-3 center differential in the transfer case of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer SS and Saab 9-7X (Aero model only).
The Torsen differential works just like a conventional differential but can lock up if a torque imbalance occurs, the maximum ratio of torque imbalance being defined by the Torque Bias Ratio (TBR). When a Torsen has a 3:1 TBR, that means that one side of the differential can handle up to 75% while the other side would have to only handle 25% of applied torque. During acceleration under asymmetric traction conditions, so long as the higher traction side can handle the higher percentage of applied torque, no relative wheelspin will occur. When the traction difference exceeds the TBR, the slower output side of the differential receives the tractive torque of the faster wheel multiplied by the TBR; any extra torque remaining from applied torque contributes to the angular acceleration of the faster output side of the differential.
NOTE: The TBR should not be confused with the uneven torque-split feature in the planetary-type Torsen III. The planetary gearset allows a Torsen III center differential to distribute torque unevenly between front and rear axles during normal (full traction) operation without inducing wind-up in the drivetrain. This feature is independent of the Torque Bias Ratio.
When attempting to turn with a torque sensitive differential, the outer wheel will need to rotate quicker relative to the differential, and the inner wheel will rotate slower than the differential. Friction in the differential will oppose motion, and that will work to slow the faster side and speed up the slower/inner side. This leads to asymmetric torque distributions in drive wheels, matching the TBR. Cornering in this manner will reduce the torque applied to the outer tire, leading to possibly greater cornering power, unless the inner wheel is overpowered (which is easier to do than with an open differential). When the inner tire (which has less traction due to weight transfer from lateral acceleration) is overpowered, it angularly accelerates up to the outer wheel speed (small percent wheel spin) and the differential locks, and if the traction difference does not exceed the TBR, the outer wheel will then have a higher torque applied to it. If the traction difference exceeds the TBR, the outer tire gets the tractive torque of the inner wheel multiplied by the TBR, and the remaining applied torque to the differential contributes to wheel spin up.
When a Torsen differential is employed, the slower-moving wheel always receives more torque than the faster-moving wheel. The Torsen T-2R RaceMaster is the only Torsen to have a preload clutch. So, even if a wheel is airborne, torque is applied to the other side. If one wheel were raised in the air, the regular Torsen units would act like an open differential, and no torque would be transferred to the other wheel. This is where the parking brake "trick" can help out. If the parking brake is applied, assuming that the parking brake applies even resistance to each side, then the drag to the airborne side is 'multiplied' through the differential, and TBR times the drag torque is applied to the other side. So, the ground side would see (TBR X drag torque) minus drag torque, and hopefully that can help restore progress either forward/backwards. In Hummer/HMMWV applications, there are both front and rear Torsen differentials, so the use of the main brakes will operate this "trick" on both axles simultaneously.
It is also used in the 4th-generation Toyota Supra (Optional) and 3rd-generation Toyota Soarer, the B5 platform revision of the Volkswagen Passat 4motion (based upon the Audi A4), Mazda MX-5/Miata 1994 to 1995 have a Torsen Type I and late 1995 to 2002 models have a Torsen Type II, the 2002-2003 model year of the Nissan Maxima SE 6 speed manual and the Honda S2000 and 1999-2002 s15 Nissan Silvia spec r. The Lancia Delta Integrale, the Peugeot 405 T16, as well as the 1999-2002 model Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro, had a Torsen differential. Rover group fitted Torsen type 1, and later type 2, units to their range of high performance front wheel drive turbo models (220, 420, 620ti, and 800 Vitesse). The use of the Torsen differential was preferred by Rover group; it is much better at controlling wheel spin on front wheel drive vehicles than electronic systems, which only reduce engine power and therefore performance.
The Humvee uses two Torsens, front and rear, with a normal manually lockable center differential (NVG242HD AMG transfer case) in the center.
The first Ford company vehicle to use a Torsen differential was the 2002 Ford Ranger FX4, renamed in 2003+ years to FX4 Level II, all of which used T-2R in the rear differential only. Starting in 2012, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor uses a front Torsen differential and the Ford Mustang Boss 302 uses a rear Torsen differential.
The Lexus IS200 came with an optional torsen differential, available only on manual transmission with the sport package.