Looking at which drivetrain for your first car? Or you just curious on some knowledge about drivetrains? Well this article will be of interest for you.
There are 3 main drivetrains that are found in cars today:
Front Wheel Drive cars are one of the most common drivetrains found today. They are generally the least complex system, and therefore cheaper to produce. Fuel efficiency is a big reason as to why most passenger cars are FWD these days. Since majority of the vehicles have the engine at the front, it is relatively simple to connect the motor to the drivetrain. Because the drivetrain is so compact, it reduces the need for more components, therefore reducing the overall weight of the car, and combating any power losses through the drivetrain.
Even though FWD may be cost effective and practical, it also comes with a fair few disadvantages for the motoring enthusiast. Torque steer occurs when there is unequal power application to the front wheels. This results in the car veering off to one side in high torque applications. It’s often a scary experience trying to control a torquey car that is struggling to put its power down (MPS/Mazdaspeed 3 owners can relate)! Similarly, since the front wheels have to do all the acceleration, braking, and steering, it can lead to excessive tyre wear on the front wheels.
FWD cars are known to understeer quite a bit. Launching a FWD car also requires less RPMs for a decent launch.
A RWD drivetrain is the original “sports car” set up. Power is sent to the rear wheels and the front wheels are just used to steer the car. By utilising this set up, the front tyres aren’t expected to both steer and power the car like a FWD vehicle. This creates a bit more of a balanced set up, where weight is more evenly distributed throughout the car. The differential is placed at the rear end of the car, and the engine is placed at the front, contributing towards this balance. BMW’s utilise this set up to assist in the 50/50 weight distribution of almost all of their cars, making the handling much more predictable when driving aggressively.
Most JDM legends have a RWD drivetrain as this is the original set up when the early sports vehicles were manufactured. Some examples include the Toyota Supra, Honda S200, Mazda RX-7 to name a few.
Another advantage of driving a RWD vehicle is the ability for some hectic skids. By spinning the rear tyres, drivers are able to perform burnouts and engage in drifts. Most American muscle and Australian cars such as Holden and Ford manufacture RWD vehicles, especially in their sports variants. On a prepared drag track, RWD cars tend to outperform the other types due to power being sent to the rear wheels, and the lack of increased weight that you would often find in an AWD car.
The AWD drivetrain is very popular in rally applications. Power is sent to all 4 wheels to combat wheel spin and traction issues. Front and rear LSD (Limited slip differentials) that is found is some AWD cars, can further assist with the even distribution of torque under high intensity applications to outperform the other drivetrain types.
Gone are the days where AWD was only applicable in offroading and rally applications. This type of drivetrain can also prove to be beneficial when driving on public roads in the rain. There would be a lack of traction issues that you would often find with FWD and RWD cars as the power is distributed to all 4 wheels, driving the car forward. The Subaru symmetrical AWD systems are one of the best AWD drivetrains manufactured. With this system, there is always a symmetrical power delivery to all 4 wheels under any circumstance. The Mitsubishi Evolution’s AWD system also prevails as one of the best drivetrains ever produced, as is showcased through the many rally wins under their belt.
Although an AWD system can be beneficial in both track and daily applications, the increased weight through both a front and rear differential can turn driver’s away from the system. Additionally, there is a higher drivetrain loss from the engine to the wheels due to the need to power all 4 wheels.