One trend that has taken over is the shift from rear wheel drive to front. In 2010 BMW announced that it would join this bandwagon and pedal-heads were on the floor wailing to an extent that would make toddlers begging for lollipops at a grocery store judge them. The advantages of front-wheel drive are mainly practical. With the drive train, engine and steering all packaged together under the hood, it's easier to give more space to passengers or cargo inside. They also enable engineers to make a car that’s lighter, more fuel efficient and in some cases, lower in emissions.
The Achilles heel of the front wheel machine is its steering. It is the reason why high-BHP cars are better off being powered from the back. In RWD vehicles the axles play zone defense. The front deals with the steering while the rear handles the thrust, neither getting in the way of the other in normal driving scenarios. In FWD cars under-steer or “torque-steer” is a nuance that makes many an eye twitch.
Imagine yourself going for a run. When you come up at a curve, your entire body moves into the motion to
get you in the direction you want. Try the same thing just moving from the waist down and the smart money says you’re going to trip over and fall with the only airbag being your body fat, but I digress.
In the same sense, your legs are you drive wheels. Leave the job of steering on them alone and your drive faces resistance, eventually resulting in only one winning if not done with caution. Enter a curve too fast and your power clashes with your steering, making the car move almost straight ahead. This is where the enthusiasts puff their chests and go “I told you so.”
But don’t go flipping your front axle the bird just yet. Remember, many car makers are switching over to FWD for a reason. With the car’s driving capabilities being managed under the hood, it leaves a lot more room in the cabin for passengers and a nicety or two. Occupants in the back don’t have to deal with an enormous floor hump either. Several five seaters out there are actually four-seaters with wiggle room for a fifth because of the trans-box bump. The movement of the entire unit under the bonnet also reduces transmission loss from the engine to the output differential. The main reason why the F-word of the drive wheel world is more desirable to manufacturers is that it makes the car more useful for its buyer. Let’s face it most cars are bought for their efficiency, space and features on tap. Motoring is a passion to many, but in the real world they need practicality. Pulling off a slalom or drifting is hard to do when 99% of your commute in spent emulating cattle on your way to work. The best wheel spin you can manage is giving it too much gas on left-over road-work gravel.
Rear wheel drive vehicles have a more desirable driving experience. Some say it’s a more connected type of drive. RWD’s especially handle better because drive and direction don’t get in each other’s way and when they do, they produce the awesome act of drifting..or the stupid act of spinning out. *Oversteer>Understeer*. Since these cars have a more reliable steering response & enable back end control, enthusiasts always give it the thumbs up. While over-steer has an entire sport around it, under-steer is no fun and only hampers drive-ability.
Concluding this article of a definitive note is not possible. It’s the same affair as comparing Beyonce with Jennifer Love Hewitt. The features, mannerisms and behaviour you prefer are just that, YOUR preference. If you like your butts big who am I to judge you?
Front wheel drive cars make for a smarter pick because they are lighter, more spacious, more efficient and more cost effective to make. Rear wheel drive is the for the old school motorist who doesn’t see the difference between light beer and lemon juice. The cars are heavier, face more transmission loss, eat into passenger space and are a more expensive affair, but are genuinely more fun to drive. And you can’t just turn a blind eye to that.