Which sports cars are front-wheel drive

What happened to the rear-wheel drive?

Actually, everything started so well. A car was driven in the back, steered in the front, and people sat in between. In terms of design, it was relatively simple and inexpensive. It was also very smart, as we will see later, because the drive has no negative effects on the steering and vice versa. The disadvantage that you had to run a cardan tunnel through the passenger cell to get the power from the engine at the front to the rear axle was so manageable that the tunnel still vaguely exists in many front-wheel drive vehicles today, only that other components are now housed there.

The longitudinal engines were also more gracious with the space in the engine compartment than the current front scraper, where in addition to the transverse engine, the gearbox and the drive must be housed under a sheet metal cover.

The driving characteristics were very good for several reasons. There we have the balanced axle loads, which were easy to implement, and the superior acceleration because the car loads the rear axle, which in this case means more grip on the drive axle. And more weight on the rear axle also means higher braking torque at the rear and relief for the front axle. Heavy luggage in the rear was not a problem, it was sometimes so good that you simply put a bag of cement or a concrete umbrella stand in the trunk if the grip conditions were poor.

Rear and rear wheel drive

And look, that's exactly what you can't do with rear-wheel drive. It has no trunk in the back. Although every rear-wheel drive is a rear-wheel drive, please not every rear-wheel drive is a rear-wheel drive. The term rear-wheel drive is often used today for what actually means standard drive - i.e. engine in front, drive in rear. The standard drive is still popular today in special cars such as luxury sedans and sports cars - because of the advantages discussed.

With rear-wheel drive, the rear axle is also driven, but the engine and transmission are on or behind the rear axle. It's something like that with the 911. The advantage here is that the drive is more compact, there is always sufficient weight on the drive axle, and this design was also cheap. Or did you think that Ferdinand Porsche would have chosen this drive because it is so exclusive? Not even close. The rear engine even has its pitfalls, namely when the rear breaks out. From this point of view, it is a feat that Porsche has meanwhile made its 911 into such a sporty driving machine that it can move even those who do not need driving dynamics incredibly quickly.

Mid-engine and transaxle

Another rear-wheel drive that isn't rear-wheel drive would be the one with a mid-engine. The unit sits in front of the driven rear axle and behind the front axle. The first modern automobile, the Benz Patent Motorwagen, had such a drive; today it is mainly found in sports cars such as those from Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini.

With the transaxle design, the engine is at the front, but the transmission and drive are at the rear. We know that from the Porsche 924, the Alfa Romeo 8C or the Mercedes AMG GT.

So everything was fine as it was. For athletes with enough flair for driving there were rear and mid-mounted engines, for everyone else the standard drive. But then, of all places, the disaster takes hold in Vienna in 1898.

Back then, Gräf & Stift came up with the brilliant idea that you could drive the front axle to pull the car over inclines like a string. However, one must also credit the engineers for not knowing what Walter Röhrl would say many years later about front-wheel drive, namely that a curve driven through with such a drive always looks like an accident. But he, too, was later to speak out for the all-wheel drive, which was hardly less shifted.

In 1929, the Cord L29, the first large-scale car with front-wheel drive, came onto the market. However, the milestone for the breakthrough of the front scraper was the Citroën Traction Avant, which was built from 1934. And today we have this drive in almost every small and compact car, SUV and even some sedans. Even BMW, the last heroes of rear-wheel drive, are now installing it more often.

Turning circle like a bicycle

Now that we, friends of the agile rear end, feared that rear-wheel drive would finally have to give way to automotive philistineism, this drive is about to flourish again.

The first rear-wheel drive surprised us in the Smart and later in the Twingo. Now the small car is not a miracle in terms of driving dynamics, because the driver assistants take great care that something like a slide doesn't happen, but because you don't have to come to terms with the drive on the front axle, the two have a turning circle that we would otherwise only have Know bicycles.

As soon as we have digested the good news of a new rear-wheel drive vehicle, new rear-wheel riders appear little by little. Some manufacturers are relying on precisely this drive for the newly coming electric cars. The ID.3 from Volkswagen, for example, has one, but so does the Honda e. Learned front scrapers do not need to be afraid. Here, too, the electronics ensure that the car stays on track and does not wobble its rear end. (Guido Gluschitsch, June 8th, 2020)