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Front Wheel driving vs Rear Wheel driving aka FWD vs RWD

Discussion in 'The Guru's Pub' started by Mr.Bigtime, Oct 13, 2009.

  1. Kohlendioxidus

    Kohlendioxidus Maha Guru

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    OK I think I'll do the following:

    I'll turn the driver seat with 180° and drive using only reverse gear:idea:. So I'll have in this case a FWD with BWS (Back Wheel Steering:nerd:).

    Till then read this: (source: http://searchwarp.com/swa51377.htm)

    There is an endless debate on automotive forums throughout the internet. Which is better Front Wheel Drive (FWD) or Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)? Let's look at each.

    Front Wheel Drive

    Around since the 1920's, front wheel drive didn't catch on with American consumers until the gas crisis in the 1970's. As Americans struggled against high fuel prices, automakers began to seek new ways to increase fuel efficiency. The best way of course was to reduce the size (and thus the weight) of most vehicles. As Detroit aimed to make cars smaller, they needed a more efficient layout that would yield more interior room in a smaller package. Front wheel drive was the solution. By placing the engine and transaxle in the front, there is no large transmission housing or driveshaft tunnel running through the passenger compartment. In addition, engines were positioned transversely to reduce the size of the engine bay. And there was another advantage as well. With 60% of its weight at the front, 40% at the back, fwd holds an advantage in slippery conditions such as ice or snow as more weight is over the drive wheels reducing slip during acceleration.

    But most of the advantages end there. As most of the weight in up front, a fwd car is not as well balanced therefore it doesn't handle quite as well. Also, as vehicles continue to become more powerful, front wheel drive becomes more of a liability. Torque steer (when the steering wheel pulls to one side during acceleration) is a serious issue with many front wheel drive cars that exceed 250hp. As such, we've seen a resurgence in the popularity of rear wheel drive in more powerful vehicles.

    Rear Wheel Drive

    Prior to the fuel crises in the 1970's, rear wheel drive was king. Just about every vehicle, from economy to luxury, came with rear wheel drive. The shift from rear wheel drive to front took about a decade. Since the mid eighties, just about every economy car, family sedan, minivan and even many sport coupes came with front wheel drive. Luxury marks such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz continued on with rear wheel drive but Cadillac eventually moved every vehicle to front wheel drive. Once again, times have changed. Over the last few years we've seen more and more vehicles (re) introduce rear wheel drive. Why? Well, it simple.

    As cars become more powerful it is difficult to have one set of wheels doing the steering and the accelerating. By having the front wheels do the steering, and the rear wheels driving the car, you get a better-balanced vehicle. This eliminates torque steer and improves acceleration. Rear wheel drive offers better weight distribution (much closer to 50/50 than fwd), which in turn offers more predictable handling. Finally, with the advent of traction control and stability management systems, the front wheel drive advantage in slippery conditions has been significantly reduced. More and more rwd vehicles have the option of AWD as well. If nothing else, this is a great way for automakers to hedge their bets. Still, some consumers are skeptical of rear wheel drive. Perhaps they are the victims of clever marketing by Madison Ave. that tried to get people to accept fwd and forget all about the virtues rear wheel drive. They did a great job. Perhaps too good.

    Today cars are more powerful yet yield better fuel economy. As such, we can look at fwd and rwd more objectively. Is one better than the other? Fwd still holds an advantage in terms of packaging efficiency, offering greater interior room in a smaller package. Rear wheel drive provides better handling and acceleration and with the addition of traction control, virtually eliminates the fwd advantage in the snow.

    In the end, it depends on what you want from your car. If it's performance, you're looking at rwd. If you're indifferent, perhaps looking for a small car with greater interior volume, it's front wheel drive for you. Over the last 20 years, technology has improved both layouts, reducing the advantages of fwd to a point where rwd is a viable option for most people. Ultimately, you've got more choice, and when more choice is offered we all win.
     
  2. Sash

    Sash Ancient Guru

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    I agree, it is pointless to have FWD in sports cars , the strain on the tyres is crazy, but i also think instead of having RWD for all sports cars, you can go AWD in many circumstances, but nm+ said that this is banned on most tracks, maybe because of the unfair advantage of AWD over RWD in corners, but i still think AWD is a sweeet balance between power and grip, even everyday city cars can benefit from this like the A3 quattro, altough the fuel efficency would be high, the benefits of AWD would justify this
     
  3. wiskerbizkit

    wiskerbizkit Master Guru

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    For an average driver AWD and RWD should be avoided if you are worried about snow. RWD for the obvious reasons, my mother spun her 4 cyl mustang on the highway twice in the snow (she gave me the keys that night and i dropped a 330hp v8 into it lol)

    However AWD should not be the end all of snow driving. Anybody who has lost control in an AWD car knows what im talking about. you push the clutch in and take the ride cos their isnt anything you are gonna do to correct the spin.

    FWD is excellent in the snow. usually you only lose it if you're trying to lose it. Personally I drive a Cadillac Sedan DeVille FWD V8. Havent been in snow with it. but you can lose it on dry ground if you're getting on it at low speed. My tires can spin in the rain at 40mph if i gun it. not high horsepower but a ton of torque. torque is what make tires spin. since modern 4cyl FWD's dont have much torque thats why they have such a good snow reputation.

    What it all really comes down to is how you drive. If you drive like you can see the snow/rain on the ground i can almost guarantee your safety. Its not worth your car/life to get to your house 5 minutes faster. My personal preference is a RWD, Ive been driving RWD until this caddy, it just fits my driving style more but i fell into a crazy deal trading my 8mpg ford truck for a faster more luxurious 16/26 mpg beauty.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2009
  4. hawkeyefan

    hawkeyefan Maha Guru

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    AWD cars tend to have less understeer than FWD (usually). It's a matter o of degree, not absolutes. I don't care about the track. What I do care about is not winding up with the engine in my lap or wrapped around a tree because the car wants to keep going straight when it shouldn't. The closer to neutral handling, the better, but I'll take oversteer > understeer any day of the week and twice on Sunday.


    Exactly the opposite is true. AWD are better in snow than FWD, which are better than RWD.

    nm+ is exactly right though, in that a RWD plus snow tires is absolutely fine in snow. Ever see a FWD police vehicle? FWD plow truck? The problem with RWDs is that weight in most vehicles is so far forward that traction can be a problem, but a RWD sedan with traction control and snow tires is often a better option than a FWD and all-seasons, like most people use.
     

  5. nm+

    nm+ Don Cappuccino Staff Member

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    I dunno, for the average driver, understeer is much safer than oversteer.
    The good thing is that the solution to understeer is to lift. Oversteer requires throttle and steering control (though it depends on drive wheels).
    However, most every car sold in the US is setup to understeer, including RWD cars.
    In reality, it comes down to personal preference and setup.
    An Integra type-R is better than a lincoln towncar or a subaru outback for handling, for example.
     
  6. hawkeyefan

    hawkeyefan Maha Guru

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    Yeah, that's a fair point. I've owned a slew of vehicles that had oversteer, so I'm typically more comfortable with something similar. The handling of a G37 feels more natural to me than, say, that of an A4 as an example.
     
  7. nm+

    nm+ Don Cappuccino Staff Member

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    It also depends on how controllable the car is during oversteer.
    My subaru will hang at oversteer as long as I want it and is perfectly controllable. An AP1 S2000 on the otherhand will spin.
     
  8. itsb1again

    itsb1again Master Guru

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    I think FWD sucks, I think RWD sucks. The only thing worth buying is AWD. I've got a MazdaSpeed 6 with just about all the bolt ons you can get, new front mount IC, Turbo Inlet, Turbo back exhaust, Cold air intake, Motor Mounts, etc.. It's faster than an Mitsu Evo hands down, Faster then the STi, and faster then the Modded mustangs..

    I live in florida so it never snows here but the feeling of a AWD car vs anything else is just awesome. I can dump the clutch at nearly 5k RPM in the rain and still get a great launch off the line.

    Go AWD!
     
  9. Mad Cow

    Mad Cow Maha Guru

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    FWD is for sure the safest and easiest to drive, even in snow. Here in Canada we get some pretty serious snow, so I have lot of experience in that. What I've noticed is that even though AWD and 4WD have much more grip, it's still way too easy to slide the back out if you're not careful with the gas pedal. I live on the top of a big hill with a slight curve in the road, and after a snow storm I see all kinds of cars trying to make it up. FWD cars go straight up, get stuck and stop still facing upwards. RWD cars fishtail before either ending up stuck facing the sidewalk or t-boning a parked car. AWD cars tend to up straight up the hill but slide side to side even though they're still facing up.

    As for acceleration, I've noticed FWD cars are easier to launch, but they can easily lose grip once they start moving. For example, I have a 200hp mazda mx3, it's a small light FWD car and in the rain it's terrible not because it's hard to launch (although it is impossible to launch it quickly), but after I hit 3k rpm in first I'll just get wheelspin.
     
  10. Adicto

    Adicto Master Guru

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    Lol from FWD VS RWD, to a BMW bashing thread O_O

    Damn you guys, don't talk until you drive/own one :D:D (I mean any car not just BMW's)
    All this BS that this and that sucks :bang:
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2009

  11. wiskerbizkit

    wiskerbizkit Master Guru

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    Going to have to agree to disagree. I drove alot of Subaru's and Audi's and they acted the same way in the snow. don't get me wrong, they do handle good in the snow of course but its harder to correct than a FWD because all the wheels are slipping. especially in a stick, when using that gears to slow down a bit, it can just start sliding out of the blue. their is no theory crafting or guess work that can change my mind about it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2009
  12. dcx_badass

    dcx_badass Ancient Guru

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    Not sure as I don't drive but I know a RWD BMW 3 series with run on flat tyres (which don't help) spun out on ice at 5 miles when we were driving, literally just turning a corner and it spun the back out and slid sideways into the opposite curb.
     
  13. hawkeyefan

    hawkeyefan Maha Guru

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    I've got a FWD Subaru Legacy, an AWD 328i and a 4x4 Jeep Cherokee sitting in the driveway right now. The Legacy is the worst on snow and ice and it ain't even close. Had an AWD Legacy a few years back that was much better than the FWD one. Agree to disagree.


    Yep. That's why snow tires were invented. RWD 3 series with snow tires and traction control are actually excellent on snow and ice. That could arguably be said for most RWD cars with decent weight distribution front to back.

    People think that all-season tires are just that but truth be told, they just suck at everything. Poor for performance on dry pavement and poor on snow and ice.
     
  14. dcx_badass

    dcx_badass Ancient Guru

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    It snows here like 2 days a year, why would we get snow tires. We have a RWD new Audi A4 now anyway and that handles much better than the BM did, the old 3 series was good though, had two of them and liked it, just the current one sucks and is ugly.
     
  15. hawkeyefan

    hawkeyefan Maha Guru

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    Then why complain about handling in snow? That's about as much snow as they get in Atlanta and people just don't drive when it snows. Any RWD with no snow tires is going to be bad on snow and ice...then again no car is particularly good on ice unless you're running studded tires or chains no matter what the drive configuration. That was one thing I hated about St. Louis in the winter...never got super cold, so there was a lot of hovering around freezing and ice storms versus just snow.

    I beg to differ with respect to the bolded part, and the A4 absolutely does not handle better than the current e90 if I understood that correctly. Of all the cars I drove before we decided on the bimmer, the G37 was the only one that came close as far as handling. The A4 is a much better car than it was a few years ago and arguably has the best interior in its class though. Might also be better on snow in RWD configuration but that would be down to tires I would guess? Audi's AWD system is better than BMW's as well, but xDrive is still damn good.

    Fwiw, we started out with the A4 quattro, 328i xDrive, G37x, IS, TL and a couple Volvos and it came down to the bimmer and the G37 in the end. We each had the A4 as our third favorite and would have been happy with it for sure. The TL was awful, IS was boring and the Volvos were just horrific vehicles. No wonder they can't give the stupid things away. Even taking into account the douchebag factor of driving a 3 series, it was both of our favorites by a pretty good margin.

    Friend of ours went for the A4 with the 3.2 and it's sweet...I still like the e90 better from the inside. A4 probably looks a little better outside.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2009

  16. dcx_badass

    dcx_badass Ancient Guru

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    Not wanting to go off topic, but we got the A4 new in August, but have been offered to swap for a new 3 series instead, but unless the 3 series is high specced (engine wise both will be 2 litre diesels), we're not going to swap, the A4 is nicer inside, it handles better and it's comfier/more roomy, just in general feels better.
     
  17. nm+

    nm+ Don Cappuccino Staff Member

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    The good thing about 2wd in the snow is that it tends to get people in less trouble. Lack of traction is more obvious.
    AWD is better if you know what you're doing in these conditions, but few actually do. It also depends a lot on the AWD system.
    I've not driven the new B8, but I'm told it is quite improved over the B7 you're talking about.
    Audis actually handle quite well and have very good suspension setups (multi-link at all 4 corners). The real problem is that there is no steering feel at all.
    That and audis have a small problem with reliability.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2009
  18. JohnMaclane

    JohnMaclane Ancient Guru

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    Dude its not an opinion, from a control standpoint a FWD car has a better stability performance (what were interested here) then a RWD. There is a very simple test to demonstrate this which I posted, The fact is the equations are not readily available and you need a PHD level to calculate them (multiple input, multiple output, time variant systems). Not that I have PHD (I wish) but my lecturer had.
     
  19. Kohlendioxidus

    Kohlendioxidus Maha Guru

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    What I want to point out here is firstly that the subject of this thread is FDW against RWD and NOT AWD:3eyes:.

    Secondly, FWD having a better stability performance against RWD is a matter of taste, personal experience and capacity of each of us to control it. If you can't control a RWD in snow condition than take your hand off that car is so simple. A very important factor are the tires. If you have **** cheap winter tires than it's your own fault, as also FWD cannot help you here much.

    Yeah, modeling traction control and behavior of the car under different condition is very hard and the results means nothing if are not tested in real life (see below).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOpcgLFfeoI&hl=de
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ygf_4Jh08H4&hl=de
     
  20. JohnMaclane

    JohnMaclane Ancient Guru

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    Not traction control, God why are you being so stubborn a RWD car is unstable just try driving it in a striaght line without holding the steering, it will (shud) turn over to one side, that indicates instability, simply put the poles and zeros of a RWD car are real and positive.

    Do the same with a Front wheel drive and youll see that the steering tends to the centre why? because its a stable system IE its poles are real but negative.

    If you really wanted to waste some time and get a definative (and relatively simple answer) just perform the test at different speed inputs while measuring angle of error of the steering and derive the transfer function needless to say for the FWD/FDW you are going to see a type response with slight oscillations while with RWD your gonna see undampened oscillations.

    I am not talking about people skill I am talking about the endemic stability of the system, believe me im not a super car expert but I can tell if a system is stable or not and RWD is definetely unstable.
     

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