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The vanilla version of the game comes with eight different cars. Ubisoft offered many others to be downloaded and installed, but their site (or at least the POD section of the site) went offline several years ago. Fortunately other players and fans made available these extra cars (as well as the tracks) for us to download. See POD Customization for more details.
In this section I provide descriptions of the eight cars from vanilla POD. Unfortunately I'm unable to add extra cars due to how my game is installed. Nevertheless I think these eight are enough for me, but feel free to send descriptions and screenshots of other cars, I will happily include them here.
Gamma was the first car I drove. It was one of the two cars offered in the demo version (the other one was AV1). Compared to the other cars, Gamma is a little more difficult to control. Its handling system and grip are different from the other cars, so the skills required to dominate it are different too. Gamma feels more glued to the track and the car turns in a discontinuous way, like there are turning levels the car reaches when you press left or right.
This characteristic can be used as an advantage, though. Gamma copes well with low grip configurations -- 45 grip is very drivable. This allows you to increase speed and acceleration, such as a 95-45-65-95, which is good for fast tracks. If you need even more speed (e.g. Pipeline) you can go for a 100-40-60-100. On the other hand, if there are a lot of curves try a configuration with higher handling, like 90-45-75-90. High grip for this car is actually worse. Grips higher than 80 make the car quite annoying to control.
Gamma usually is the car driven by the computer player whenever you choose the car this opponent usually races with. For example, on Beltane on Hard difficulty, if you pick Shivan, which is driven by Raze, he'll get Gamma instead. This is not a rule, though, there are some tracks that the substitute car is another one (e.g. Arc on Azthec).
Some videos I'm using Gamma:
- #10, on Beltane, using 90-50-70-90. I get hit by Rage at 2:28 but managed to win in the end because my opponents weren't able to make to the pit stop platform of this track. With this configuration the car easily reaches 200+ mph, with little speed loss in soft curves (see 0:22) and moderate loss in normal ones (see 0:26). It's reasonably easy to defend your position (see 0:40). I managed to reach around 210 mph in the lower level of Beltane's straight, which is good.
- #34, on Alderon, using the same 90-50-70-90. Bad start followed by great recovery, getting to 3rd in the first curve, only behind Nitro and Antonio. Nitro is very vicious in this track, it is important to avoid losing time and getting too behind him. This first curve and the second at 0:30 show that the combination 50-70 for grip and handling is fine for Gamma, while for others handling might get slippery. Around 180 mph in the main ramp jump at 0:59, which is more than safe. Took me some time to reach Nitro (1:50) and then I managed to trap him at 2:04 (you can hear him hitting the wall). The section between 3:13 and 3:23 is a good example of Gamma's drivability.
- #92, on Sewer, using 95-45-65-95. The car is very fast and easy to drive, skill-based curves and jumps are easy to perform, such as the sector at 1:15.
General recommendation: low grip, compensate with reasonable amount of handling, and the rest goes on acceleration and speed. I'll provide deeper analysis and comparisons in the adequate section of this page, but compared to other cars, even with higher acceleration and speed Gamma doesn't outperform other cars also well configured. For example, Gamma 90-50-70-90 won't beat AV1 85-65-65-85 or Dopple 90-55-65-90 for example. Gamma configured that way is great for high speed tracks, such as Beltane, Pipeline, and Road70. Not so great for skill-based tracks, such as Alderon, Babelweb, or VeitLand.
About aerodynamics, the car feels a little bit heavier than the rest, but nothing game changing really. Regarding stability the car is great, very stable if hit from behind or on the sides (the natural high grip helps in this case). Even with high handling (90+) the car still is a little bit slower than the others to turn, a fact that might make it difficult to protect positions -- so pay constant attention to the radar. Gamma is a nice car and quite challenging as well. The fact that it is the car "designed for the human player" makes it interesting too. Moreover, if you get another car opponents will suck with Gamma -- even Nitro. A Gamma vs AV1 Nitro duel on Alderon is a very nice challenge.
Saber feels clumsy, and that sums up pretty well my opinions about this car. I read in more than one place (including game documentation) that Saber is the fastest car. Actually I believe that among the eight main cars, the only one that is different is Arc -- and it's slower, not faster. The others, as long as the speed configuration is the same, have the same performance in my opinion. Thus, I'd say this statement is false. However, there is a modified version of this car called Turd (available for download here, last car of the list) that is indeed faster -- much faster. But Saber itself I don't think it's naturally faster.
The car feels very stable on curves. On the other hand, defending your position against fast players (which is the rule of thumb on hard difficulty) is complicated because the car is very unstable in collisions. Get hit from behind and you'll easily lose control. Handling is another problem: lower values, such as 60-, make the car very difficult to turn, while other cars are controllable with these levels of handling.
The configuration (or settings) is fundamental to get the most of the car.
The table below provides an initial comparison of the eight main cars of the game: