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Car Advice & Reviews

Front-wheel-drive (FWD) vs. Rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Posted on January 21, 2013

Car manufacturers offer a variety of drivetrain configurations, including models driven by their front wheels (FWD), rear wheels (RWD) or by both (AWD/4WD). FWD, RWD and AWD/4WD each offer certain advantages and disadvantages, although good engineering and design can minimize the disadvantages of each configuration and make it a viable choice for you. A discussion of whether you should choose AWD/4WD is in the next paragraph below. FWD cars generally, although not always, offer increased passenger/cargo room and superior traction in snow compared to their RWD counterparts. The increased room in a FWD is a consequence of the engine and transmission being tightly packaged in the front of the car, freeing up the rest of the car for passengers and cargo. Similarly, as a result of the engine and transmission sitting over the front wheels, more of the car’s weight is concentrated over the drive wheels, providing the superior poor weather traction. However, this concentration of weight in front of the car, can adversely effect handling. FWD models can be slower to change direction and exhibit sloppy handling because of their nose-heaviness. Also, because the front wheels of a FWD car must deliver power to the road in addition to doing most of the braking and all of the steering, the steering can feel numb and disconnected. Finally, certain FWD models’ layouts (most often, those with a longitudinal engine layout) can fail to provide roominess / space efficiency advantages over RWD counterparts. Conversely, RWD models often provide crisper steering with more feedback and handle better than FWD cars. By delivering power through their rear wheels, RWD models split the work that a car’s tires must do more evenly. They tend to be less space efficient than FWD models however because the mechanical hardware directing power towards the rear wheels consumes space. Also, when lightly loaded, RWD cars can have inferior traction in snow to FWD cars because there is less weight on their drive wheels. A final item to note is that RWD cars tend to better stand up to carrying loads and pulling trailers. This is because of a variety of reasons, including more robust construction, better cooling of the differential and the fact that cargo / trailer weight is added over the rear wheels. In makings recommendations in your report, Car Match will consider which drivetrain bests suits you.

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