Are rear-wheel-drive cars “better” than front-wheel-drive ones?
Before we get into the pros and cons of each, let’s define what these terms mean.
Front- and rear-wheel-drive refer to the driven wheels on a car.
So, front means the front wheels and rear refers to the rear wheels.
The majority of cars today have a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout.
This packaging lets carmakers place the engine transversely instead of longitudinally (as in rear-wheel-drive cars).
The result is tighter packaging.
And since there’s no need for a driveshaft to drive the rear wheels, there’s no need for a “tunnel”.
This tunnel is the “hump” or floor protrusion that eats into rear seat space.
Having the engine over the driven wheels also helps increase their grip.
+ Front-wheel-drive cars are usually more stable
+ More efficient packaging and usually more passenger space
+ Enhanced grip for the driven wheels
– Possibly more wear for the front wheels as they handle steering duties, too
– Possible torque steer for very powerful engines
– May not feel as agile (tend towards understeer) as a rear-wheel-drive car
Rear-wheel-drive, especially the front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout, is usually seen on more powerful cars, especially European luxury models.
Unlike front-wheel-drive cars, rear-wheel-drive cars tend to feel more balanced because the driven wheels don’t handle steering duties.
Sports cars typically use this layout, too, as it can lend the car more agility.
“Agility” can also mean the rear-wheel-drive car has a tendency to oversteer when pushed.
Enthusiasts typically find that this makes the car more fun to drive.
+ Better handling balance
+ Possibly greater agility
+ Can be more fun to drive
– Tendency to oversteer is risky for drivers who are not used to it
– Need for a driveshaft means powertrain is less efficient than a front-wheel-drive one
– Will require driveshaft tunnel; usually means sizeable floor protrusion inside the car that lessens occupant space
So, which drivetrain layout is superior?
It may seem that rear-drive cars are better than front-drive ones.
However, there are front-wheel-drive cars that are acknowledged by enthusiasts to be very fun to drive.
Each layout has their own pluses and minuses.
The best drivetrain layout is the one that suits and complements a driver’s skill and driving style.