An objective comparison of front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive is possible only when there is real experience of driving both front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars. Moreover, in different conditions. The author of Auto without a service station has such experience, and now he will share it with you. You will learn about the design features of front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars, as well as their pros, cons, and driving nuances. Common myths will also be dispelled.

How to objectively compare different things?

If we consider a measured ride on roads with a good dry surface, then no driver will notice any difference between rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive. But one has only to drive out into the snow, ice, mud, start off aggressively, enter a turn, encounter a transmission repair - one can draw conclusions about it from five points at once:

  1. Design features.
  2. Real benefits.
  3. Minuses.
  4. Features of driving in different modes.
  5. Myphs.

Focusing on them, let's try to answer the question: which is better - front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive?

Front-wheel drive

What can you immediately say objectively about front-wheel drive cars? In fact, there are more of them. In salons, in the secondary market, on the roads. Although it was not always so. Until the 1970s, rear -wheel drive dominated. The main reason is that transferring torque to the wheels that are close to the engine is technically not so easy. It is necessary to stick the clutch, gearbox and drive shafts in a limited space. It was not possible to make such a transmission reliably at the dawn of the development of the automotive industry.

Rear-wheel drive still reigns on the racetracks. This is due to the fact that a rear-wheel drive car accelerates more efficiently than a front-wheel drive car. All-wheel drive is used mainly in those competitions where maximum cross-country ability is required (rally, etc.)

1.      Design features

Drive shaft front wheel drive vehicle
Drive shaft front wheel drive vehicle

The ideal layout of a front-wheel drive passenger car has long been found. In it, the engine is located across the body, and a gearbox with a clutch is implemented right on it. Drive shafts come out of the box, through which the torque is transmitted to the drive wheels. The advantage of this arrangement is that all shafts - crankshaft, primary and secondary in the gearbox, drive shafts - are oriented in the same direction, without turns and bends.

Here are some more design features of a front-wheel drive car:

  • There is no bulky gearbox, which is always in the rear-wheel drive.
  • There is no driveline going through the entire car.
  • There is no cardan shaft, which means that the shaft for it, which takes up space in the cabin, is not needed.
  • There is no gearbox at the back, which means there is room to increase the depth of the trunk.
  • The total weight of the vehicle without a cardan shaft and a gearbox with angular gears is reduced by 5-7%.
  • When passengers sit in the back row, and cargo is placed in the trunk, the grip of the drive wheels with the road decreases.
  • The drive shafts of a front-wheel drive vehicle must be made so that they transmit torque regardless of the position of the wheels when cornering and hitting obstacles.

Due in part to the latter design feature, front-wheel drive vehicles are more likely to fail drive shafts.

2.      Real Pros

Front wheel drive benefits:

  • simplicity of design;
  • compactness;
  • more space in the cabin and trunk;
  • less vehicle weight;
  • easier handling on slippery roads;
  • less likely to go into an uncontrolled skid.

It is also believed that a front-wheel drive car is preferable for novice drivers.

3.      Minuses

Cons of front wheel drive:

  • complex repair;
  • difficult access to transmission units;
  • increased loads on the drive shafts when cornering;
  • a sharp decrease in the grip force of the drive wheels with the road surface during an aggressive start;
  • front wheel drive can not fully drift.

Due to the last two disadvantages of front-wheel drive, it is not used in racing cars.

4.      Features of driving in different modes

The type of vehicle drive quite significantly affects its behavior when starting off, accelerating, driving in a straight line, in turns and when passing difficult sections of the road.

Consider the features of driving a car with front-wheel drive in these five modes:

  1. Starting off. Trouble-free if the road surface is hard and dry, and the start is smooth. With a sharp start, the mass of the car shifts sharply to the rear axle, due to which the traction force on the front wheels tends to zero. It turns out to be a slip.
  2. Acceleration. In this mode, stability is important, and with front-wheel drive it is at its best. The front drive wheels, as it were, “pull” the car in the direction of travel, without the desire to skid. Moreover, skillful operation of the steering wheel and gas pedal makes it easy to level the car, which accidentally skidded on a slippery road.
  3. Driving in a straight line. Problems with front-wheel drive occur only on a steep slope - the drive wheels can lose traction.
  4. Turns. On a front-wheel drive vehicle, it is important to slow down before entering a corner. If there is a lot of it, there is a risk of demolition of the drive wheels and loss of control over the situation. When exiting a turn on the front wheel drive, on the contrary, it is better to step on the gas - the drive wheels will “stretch” the car to the desired trajectory.
  5. Difficult sections of the path. Front-wheel drive is a little more efficient than rear-wheel drive when it comes to overcoming loose snow, ice, and mud. It is a fact.

In general, a front-wheel drive car is easier to drive. It does not deviate from the course during a sharp start (or on a slippery road), it is easier to get out of an accidental skid, it does not “burrow” when trying to drive through mud or deep snow.

5.      Myths

Myths about front-wheel drive are spread by owners of rear-wheel drive cars. Let's take a look at three of the most popular:

  1. For beginners - only front-wheel drive. This is a 100% myth. If you are a novice driver and car enthusiast, do not give up on a car just because it is rear-wheel drive.
  2. Front wheel drive - more fuel efficient. Allegedly due to the absence of a cardan and a heavy gearbox. However, a difference in mass by 5-7% can reduce fuel consumption by 0.05 percent.
  3. You can't drift on front wheel drive. Moreover, front-wheel drive allows you to perform at least five extreme driving techniques that are not available for rear-wheel drive cars.

So if you're a beginner, looking to save fuel, or want to master extreme driving, a front-wheel drive car is no panacea.

Rear drive

Now let's analyze the pros and cons of rear-wheel drive, the design features of this type of transmission, driving features and a couple of myths.

1.      Design features

Retro rear wheel drive
Retro rear wheel drive

To make a front-engine, rear-wheel drive passenger car, you need to transfer torque to the rear wheels. There are two difficulties here. The first is the wheels are far from the motor. The second is that the torque must be “turned” by 90°.

Here are the main design features of a car with rear-wheel drive:

  • To transmit torque, a cardan gear is needed.
  • For the correct distribution and "turn" of the torque, a gearbox is needed.
  • To stretch the cardan shaft from the motor to the gearbox, a shaft must be made in the cabin floor.
  • Under the gearbox, you also need a place, which is obtained by reducing the trunk and the special design of the fuel tank.
  • The more loaded the rear of the car (passengers and luggage), the better the grip of the drive wheels with the road surface.
  • The drive shafts on the rear wheels "adjust" only for up and down movement, which has a positive effect on the resource.

If you know any other design features of rear-wheel drive cars, share them in the comments below the article.

2.      Real Pros

Rear wheel drive advantages:

  • simplified access to nodes;
  • technically easier repair;
  • increase in the grip force of the driving wheels with the road during a sharp start;
  • the ability to accurately control the car in a skid.

The latter is achieved by repeated training, because for an absolute beginner, skidding on a rear-wheel drive forces you to act initially incorrectly.

3.      Minuses

Rear wheel drive cons:

  • extra weight;
  • more expensive spare parts;
  • less space in the cabin;
  • sometimes uncomfortable gas pedal;
  • small trunk depth.

For many, the biggest disadvantage of a rear-wheel drive car is the difficulty of driving on slippery roads.

4.      Features of driving in different modes

Continuous controlled skid
Continuous controlled skid

Consider all the same 5 basic driving modes:

  1. Starting off. On dry and hard surfaces - confident and effective. On ice, snow, mud - the drive wheels slip, and the car spontaneously deviates from the desired trajectory.
  2. Acceleration. The pros and cons of rear-wheel drive continue when pulling away.
  3. Driving in a straight line. When climbing a hill on a slippery road, serious problems can arise due to slipping of the drive wheels and skidding of the stern of the car.
  4. Turns. The only thing you need to do in order to safely corner in rear wheel drive is to keep the gas off until the car is completely level.
  5. Difficult areas. In the mud, on the snow, on the ice - rear-wheel drive is much more difficult to manage than front-wheel drive. The car strives to “burrow” or go into a skid.

The main "secret" of the skill of driving a rear-wheel drive car is the skillful work of the "gas" pedal. A successful start, and safe cornering, and a successful climb up the hill, and getting out of an accidental skid depend on this. Mastery is achieved by elementary training.

5.      Myths

As with front-wheel drive, here are three popular myths about rear-wheel drive:

  1. Rear wheel drive is difficult for a beginner. First of all, in winter. In fact, just a couple of training sessions are enough to understand how a rear-wheel drive car behaves on a slippery road. The main thing is to practice in advance on a spacious desert area, and not in a dense stream of traffic during a sudden skid.
  2. Rear wheel drive is less passable. On a rear-wheel drive car, driving on loose snow, ice and mud seems to be more difficult for many. But this is only if it is ugly to put pressure on the gas, not understanding what is happening.
  3. Rear wheel drive cars are more comfortable. It is believed that a long cardan with rubber connections "smoothes out" some of the driver's mistakes. For example, a sharply released clutch or too much gas. In fact, this is not the case, and such errors are equally felt by passengers in both front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars.

Still sometimes there is a myth that rear-wheel drive cars are “greedy” for fuel. But it's not.

VIDEO: FWD or RWD - which is best


3D model of car transmission with rear wheel drive
3D model of car transmission with rear wheel drive

Which drive is better - rear or front? There are more front-wheel drive cars, and in extreme conditions they are a little easier to drive. Transmission repair is more difficult, but spare parts are cheaper. A rear-wheel drive car is much more interesting when driving in extreme conditions. The transmission is easier to repair, but there are expensive spare parts. Other things being equal, there is absolutely no difference with which drive you buy a car - insurmountable difficulties will not increase because of this.