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Old 02-26-2003, 09:38 AM
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blackmercedes blackmercedes is offline
Just a guy
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
The main advantage of RWD is that the front tires do nothing but steer. Think of traction as a percentage. Ask your front tires to do two things (accelerate AND steer) and they get to 100% of available traction quick.

Look at the new crop of performance cars. Manufacturers are realizing their folly in pushing 250+hp into a FWD application. It sucks. Nissan is quickly changing all their high power chassis' into RWD. Even Honda is talking about RWD for their higher HP applications. They "broke the mold" already with the S2000 and NSX, so a RWD sedan line seems plausible.

RWD has some disadvantages. It "feels" different. For an unskilled driver, understeer plow feels safe. FWD cars naturally understeer, and it requires little tuning effort for makers to have an understeering FWD car. This conditioning makes RWD seem unsafe. RWD cars have less weight over their drive wheels. This makes acceleration traction in LOW TRACTION surfaces poorer than FWD.

However, a FWD car transfers weight away from it's drive wheels when dry pavement presents itself.

The main thing I don't like about FWD is drop-throttle oversteer. Oversteer is not a bad thing. Controlling a RWD on snow can be easy, and fun. Controlled four wheel drifts and moderate oversteer are not the out-of-control condition that most people think. However, FWD cars are trickier to drive at more than a slow pace on snow/ice. Understeer is very hard to correct, as it requires you to do the opposite to what you've been taught: turn more by steering less. You must turn the wheel stright to regain traction (remember, the front tires are trying to do two things at once, you've got to give them time off from one of their jobs) and brake, slowing the forward progress before you can try to alter the car's path again.

People 99.99% of the time turn the steering wheel MORE when plowing. Wrong. Then, realizing their mistake, they take their foot off the gas and stab for the brake. A FWD car is usually carrying only 35% of it's weight in the back. The rear tires unload dramatically, and completely lose traction. That 35% now acts as a pendulum. Oversteer! Lots of it, and very difficult to control.

AWD cars suffer some of the same problems as FWD, but have much less abrupt handling. It's a pretty good compromise between the "feel problem" of RWD and the potentially unsafe abrupt handling of FWD. Personally, I still prefer RWD.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K

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