Driven Focus – 5 Tips To Finding The Right Car


Front wheel drive or rear wheel drive for everyday cars? There have been many arguments for years as to which one is better for us. Many have made very strong cases for both layouts. So which one should you go for? Does it even matter? I think it is worth discussion, as we focus on which wheels are driven. I’m only considering front engine cars today, and here are my 5 tips for what to take into account and why:

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Front driven focus handles superbly well
Front driven focus handles superbly well

Front wheel drive cars are better packaged in general, because the engine, gearbox and driveshafts are all close to each other. This makes for a very efficient transmission. Also, with the transmission out of the way, this benefits interior space and floor height. In front-engine rear-drive cars, the engine tends to be fitted longitudinally, which sometimes infringes front passenger space. This also results in it adding extra length to the vehicle, and gearbox. Front-engine rear-drive cars need a long propeller shaft to send the engine’s power to the back wheels. This shaft therefore runs the length of the vehicle underneath, and often impedes on rear passenger space. Thus front wheel drive cars tend to be a more efficient way of transporting large loads.

Thus, for front-engine rear-drive cars, you end up with a longer bonnet and longer vehicle length in relation to the interior space. None of this is ideal for practicality or parking, although it does tend to benefit the styling. Front-engine, rear-drive cars tend to be well proportioned. There aren’t a huge number of front wheel drive saloons, and there aren’t many rear wheel drive hatch backs. The hatchbacks tend to be more practical, and the saloons may sacrifice a bit of space for a bit more style.

Driveshaft, gearbox and steering all nice and close together in front-driven cars
Driveshaft, gearbox and steering all nice and close together in front-driven cars

Rear wheel drive vehicles tend to be more expensive that front wheel drive vehicles. This is because front wheel drive cars have the entire transmission system close together, which benefits development cost and means less fuel is used. With the weight of the engine over the driven wheels, front wheel drive cars are more suitable to everyday driving and are easier to manage in slippery conditions, for reasons that will be explained shortly. Expensive saloons and sports cars feature rear wheel drive, where a more driver-focused drive-train assumes greater importance.

This to some forms the main crux of the argument. If you haven’t read my recovery article. do please have a quick look afterwards. In essence, front wheel drive cars understeer when going beyond the limit. Rear wheel drive cars oversteer in this situation. The front wheels in a front wheel drive car have to deal with the steering, power and most of the braking. Therefore this overwhelms the front wheels in some powerful cars, which can be felt in the steering ‘misbehaving’.

For rear wheel drive cars, front wheels steer, and rear wheels drive. This is a more balanced approach, and the cars tend to feel more balanced as well. Most keen drivers prefer rear wheel drive for its purer steering, more even weight distribution and more rounded driving experience. For skilled drivers, the option of sustained oversteer is one that is too good to resist. For unskilled drivers, leave plenty of space.

Rear wheels do a great job of keeping the focus' exhaust off the ground
Rear wheels do a great job of keeping the focus’ exhaust off the ground

Note On All Wheel Drive
More and more cars are heading this way. Today’s intelligent all wheel drive systems can shift power between the front and rear axles. It can even divide power between the left and right wheels on a given axle to maximise traction. It can distribute power to mimic the best qualities of FWD and RWD. A lot of performance saloons are starting to include this system due to the flexibility on offer. It can make large power accessible and slippery conditions survivable. I suspect that more cars may be AWD in future, particularly with the rise of the electric motor.

Which is your favourite from FWD and RWD? Do you agree with the points made above? What is your main priority when it comes to choosing a drive option? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to join the family and gain extra benefits. Thanks for reading!

What are your thoughts?