Front Wheel Drive, My Thoughts On This Love-Hate Relationship

Many folks out there gripe about front wheel drive, and the truth is, there is good reason for it. Take away all the mindless bashing that occurs on forums and look at the physics of it compared to rear and all wheel drive. Simply put, you do not have ANY control over the rear of the car. Both steering and throttle inputs go to the front of the car. This means that if rear of the car becomes seriously loose on ice or in some big maneuver the car will be almost completely uncontrollable. While you can fishtail a little and get away with it, the level of controllability is nowhere near that of a rear wheel or all wheel drive car.   

Now this is not to say there aren’t some good fwd cars out there, there are, some very good ones in fact, but if you look at the good ones you will find they all have very short wheelbases with very little rear slung weight. My gripe is not with these sort of cars though because many of them are extremely good cars, my issue is with a different sort of car. Think Mini Cooper and then think Toyota Camry and you should see what I mean here. Small coupes and hatchbacks are the name of the game; anything bigger and it would see nothing but a benefit from being RWD or AWD over FWD. Cars like my family’s Volvo S80 T6 and the Acura TL Type-S are good examples here. Both are far too big, have trouble putting their power down (almost 300hp for each), are around 2 tons in weight, and suffer control issues in wet weather. If I could change one thing about our S80, it would be to make it AWD, especially considering Volvo’s emphasis on safety.

So yes, FWD has its place on certain types of cars, and it is the most economic way to build a car from both a manufacturing and fuel efficiency standpoint; that is why most cars produced now are made with FWD. But, if you ask me, it is actually a detriment to road safety because it is rather uncontrollable compared to other drivetrains in any conditions other than dry normal driving. Anything bigger than a Civic should not be FWD. I know that people are getting on fine with large FWD cars, but I guarantee that there would be less deaths from accidents if such cars were not front-wheel-drive, because drivers would be able to avoid having said accidents; the easiest accident to survive is the one you were never in.  Once out of control, it is much harder to get a large front wheel drive car back in control in comparison to the other two.

-Nick

Image courtesy of: http://www.rogue-cavern.net/blog/?p=6

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