Rear Wheel Drive Vehicles
Why are all expensive automobiles Rear Wheel Drive? All
police departments use RWD vehicles. What's going on? Is a rear wheel
drive vehicle safer and more
stable to drive?
I seem to have a different opinion on this subject from most experts in
that I prefer rear wheel drive when driving on slippery surfaces.
I grew up in Northern Wisconsin with plenty of icy roads and learned to
enjoy "fishtailing" gently down a deserted road. If you turn gently to
the left and step on the gas to spin the rear wheels, the car starts
skidding down the road while pointing to its left. If you then steer
(gently) to the right (in the direction the car is) going, the front
wheels gain traction and you can either get out of the skid or oversteer
and cause the car to swing in the other direction.
With front wheel drive, it is the front wheels which lose traction
and so lose their ability to steer. You are helpless and the car
continues to go in the direction it was going. If you are going around a
curve, this is very bad! Since more of the weight of the car (perhaps
60%) is on the front wheels, a front wheel drive car is somewhat less
likely to skid, but once it does, I believe it is harder to control.
Notice that all race cars are rear wheel drive (I believe) and usually
skid around corners with their front wheels pointing in the direction they
want to go as I described above.
(Don't try this at home!)
Best, Dick Plano...
Up-dated: July 2008
Improved traction and thus acceleration is certainly an advantage in RW drive
vehicles, however another important factor is overall handling.
Front-wheel drive vehicles simply don't handle well, primarily due to the poor
weight distribution. In particular, they have a tendency to "understeer".
This is widely known amongst sports car enthusiasts.
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Update: June 2012