For several decades, US motorists have argued about which cars are better: front- or rear-wheel drive. FWD adepts prophesy that RWD cars will soon disappear from the car market, while their opponents consider vehicles with the front-wheel drive off-grade.
Is there any strong advantage that could outweigh in favor of any drive and put an end to the eternal dispute? The Indianapolis used car dealership experts from Indy Auto Man offer the core arguments for both types and also explain in their blog when it is worth considering an AWD.
A Few Words About the Drive Itself
A drive train is a particular arrangement of a car transmission in which the engine conveys power to the front or rear wheels. Accordingly, the drive train depends on which wheels the rotation is transmitted.
Initially, all cars were rear-wheel drive, but by the 1930s, manufacturers started to produce FWD vehicles. By the 60s and 70s, front-wheel drive cars equalized the score with RWD ones, and by the 90s, they almost completely captured the US market. Today, FWD is classic for most new and used passenger cars.
Why Rear-Wheel-Drive Cars Loose Customers
RWD cars are considered quite maneuverable and overcome difficult surfaces easily. And yet, many drivers believe that their time has passed.
• Expensive. Such a car has a more complicated design. It implies additional elements that ensure the transmission of rotation from the engine to the rear wheels – a cardan shaft, a rear axle gearbox, and a differential.
• Costly maintenance. A more complex and expensive design implies more expenses for repairs. This also includes a greater flow of working fluids, for example, for the differential. Therefore, an oil change is more expensive than in a front-wheel drive auto. There are more oil seals in this system, and you need to monitor them more carefully – otherwise, they will leak, and the differential will remain dry. Plus, rear-wheel drive cars are more voracious.
• More likely to skid. A lateral force acts on the rear wheels at high speeds, which pushes them out to the side.
• Additional elements, such as a cardan shaft, reduce engine efficiency.
• The cardan shaft steals the usable area of the interior.
However, rear-wheel drive cars still have something to offer:
• Even distribution of weight. In RWD cars, the mass is distributed approximately 50/50 to the front and rear, that is, more evenly than that of FWD counterparts. Even vehicle weight while driving improves maneuverability.
• The rear-wheel drive accelerates faster and better overcome steep slopes.
• Yes, a car with rear-wheel drive goes into a skid faster but comes out of it with the same ease. To do this, the driver only needs to turn the front wheels in the direction of the skid and, at the same time, release the accelerator and depress the clutch. Racing car drivers and simple lovers of pathetic drifting use this method for performing a spectacular controlled skid.
• RWD cars are more powerful due to design features: the engine is located longitudinally, so even a small vehicle can be equipped with a more powerful motor with many cylinders.
• During acceleration, the engine does not transmit vibrations to the steering wheel.
• Since the front wheels perform one single function – turning, a rear-wheel drive vehicle is more maneuverable and has a larger turning angle.
Why Indianapolis Drivers Prefer Front-Wheel Drive
Of course, the main advantage of FWD cars is their cost. They are cheaper to manufacture and repair. In this case, there is no cardan shaft, differential, and rear axle housing – fewer units and components are needed in production. Almost all budget and mid-range cars are front-wheel drives. Among other pros most drivers name the following:
• Lightweight. Due to the lower mass, the vehicle accelerates and brakes faster and consumes less fuel.
• More spacious interior. The missing driveshaft does not take up space.
FWD Is Not a One-Fit-All Solution
Despite obvious advantages, FWD still can’t win the competitive race. And here is why:
• The weight of an FWD vehicle is distributed unevenly, and the load falls on the front. Hence the poor grip of the rear wheels on the road. Therefore, the driver should be careful in winter: on a slippery road, the car can spin.
• Overload on the front wheels. The wheels perform several functions: acceleration, braking, turning, and steering. And the rear wheels participate in the movement passively and do not wear out so much.
• Less space under the hood. Now all the vital units are here: the engine, the steering rack, and much more. You have to dismantle many parts and assemblies for maintenance, diagnostics, or repair.
• The steering wheel receives a lot more vibration from the road.
It turns out there is no better drive but different goals. If you are not a race car driver, a speed drifter, or a fan of premium cars, an FWD car is most likely a good option to buy in Indianapolis.