BMW supercar rear wheel

Where did all the rear-wheel-drive cars go?

Advantages and disadvantages of rear-wheel drive

When it comes to cars, rear-wheel drive options are a dying breed to say the least. Why is that? We may be able to shed some light on that as we explore the advantages and disadvantages of rear-wheel drive in both cars and trucks.

Front wheel of a car going down the roadWhy are most cars front-wheel drive?

There are a few reasons why rear-wheel drive fell to the wayside. The chief reason comes down to weight, and by extension, efficiency. With the engine up front, distributing power to the front wheels saves you weight since you don’t need a long driveshaft. With engines becoming smaller and smaller, the packaging of front-wheel-drive cars has become easier too.

For the everyday driver, front-wheel-drive cars are easier to control as well. With a rear-wheel-drive car, when the wheels break loose the back end tends to swing around. On a front-wheel-drive car, you typically keep going relatively straight when the wheels break loose. Granted, this isn’t so much a big deal with the widespread adoption of traction control, but it may have led to an earlier adoption of the FWD form factor.

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Lamborghini red side back viewWhy is rear-wheel drive favored in sports cars?

We’ve established that front-wheel drive is typically lighter, but if that’s the case, then why do most sportscars put the drive wheels in back? The answer to this is quite simple and it all comes down to weight transfer.

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When you mash on the throttle, your car actually lurches backward. It’s this weight transfer that makes drag cars do wheelies. Because of this, you lose traction on your front wheels (as they have less weight on them) and you gain traction on your rear wheels.

For the purposes of straight-line acceleration, power going to the rear wheels is better. Couple this with the fact that most sports cars have near 50/50 weight distribution between the front and the rear, and you have a great recipe for a fun car.

2019 Ford F-150 blue side view with a boatIs rear-wheel drive preferable in trucks?

Most trucks either come with 4×4 or with RWD, and there’s a good reason for that. Having a rear-wheel-drive truck does mean you are going to make sacrifices in traction since most of a truck’s weight is up front, but that whole equation flips on its ear when you are towing. This is why RWD is still the most popular alternative to the heavier and less-efficient 4×4 trucks.

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