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Old 02-27-2003, 07:14 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 565
I own an '87 Accord Lx - 262,000 miles, in addition to my '91 300SEL. JCE's and Larry's points are well taken, but so is Sbourg's.

The FWD Honda is a much better handler in slippery situations than the MB RWD.

Then again, how often does one deal with slippery when they live in a dry, hot area(me)?

The FWD's all have those damned rubber timing belts that are a pain to replace.

In the end I'll take a RWD and a metal timing chain!!!
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Old 02-27-2003, 09:46 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: SoCal
Posts: 1,303
Not sure where you live Mike, but we are in SoCal, so the differences in the lowlands aren't a major decision factor either. Still, we have a house in the mtns about an hour north of L.A., and every time we have been there this winter it has taken about an hour to shovel out the driveway. The kicker is we have no chains for the Honda, so even if it CAN get us there we might be turned back. For the Merc we bought chains, but putting those on and off loses its charm quickly...

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Old 02-27-2003, 10:49 AM
Posts: n/a
As I live in a mountainous region that sees a decent amount of snow and ice, let me weigh in:

FWD's bad weather advantages are most evident in low-speed driving, particularly if the road is hilly and has a prominent "crown". For those who don't know, the crown of a road is the curvature of the road surface if the road was viewed as a cross section. While a high crown is great for promoting water drainage away from the center of the road towards the curb, it is equally effective in allowing gravity to drift a car towards the curb when its drive wheels spin. In a rear-drive car, the rearend slides toward the curb (or parked cars). This process can only be corrected by reducing power, which may mean stopping on an icy hill, with little prospect of resuming forward motion absent reversing down the hill and trying again. On a front-drive car, a driver can correct for this curbward drift by steering the drive wheels to the left slightly while continuing to apply power. Momentum is preserved, and the car makes it to the top of the hill.

Highway driving in snow, front-drive may provide a slight advantage to an inexperienced driver, as an overapplication of power in a rear-drive vehicle may lead to fishtailing, whereas the same situation in a front-drive car may lead to a slight degree of easily-correctable understeer.

My teenage winters were spent driving a V8 Firebird on hilly, icy roads. RWD trial by fire.
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Old 02-27-2003, 01:40 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: England
Posts: 1,841
Originally posted by PaulG
I'm prepared to say here that NO FWD CAR CAN BE A SPORTS CAR (at least not by any sane definition)
Try telling that to many Lotus owners:

Lotus Elan Central

Admittedly it may have been even better with RWD
2.5-16v 1990 90,000m Astral Silver
2.0E 8v 1986 107,000m Black 2nd owner
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Old 02-27-2003, 04:38 PM
blackmercedes's Avatar
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 3,492
Right now, sitting in our drive/garage are two RWD cars, one AWD car, and one FWD car.

The low power FWD Mazda is a mountain goat at slow speeds in poor traction conditions. This is due in part to it's FWD, but mainly because of it's low curb weight (contrary to SUV dictum, low weight is BETTER for handling, acceleration and braking in snow and on ice) and it's aggressive snow tires. Try to hustle the Mazda, and it understeers like a pig, and will frustrate any drive with even a modicum of skill.

The RWD C230 is not as good off the line in icy/snowy conditions as the Mazda, partially due to it's RWD, but mainly thanks to it's poorer traction snow tires.

The AWD Subaru is amazing thanks to true AWD and Blizzak tires. Truth be told, I'd rather have a RWD car on Blizzaks/Hakkas than an AWD car on all-seasons. Tires make the difference! However, in slippery conditions, the AWD system aids handling and has a well balanced feel. Since WRC cars spend most of their time in poor traction conditions and have gobs of HP, AWD makes perfect sense.

The FWD Mazda sucks on dry pavement. It's 65/35 weight distribution is awful, and the steering feel is terrible thanks to the dual job of pulling the car and steering that the front tires have to do.

The AWD Subaru is much better on dry pavement than the FWD Mazda, but no thanks to it's AWD system. Well, partially I guess. The added weight in the rear of the driveline makes it a bit better in the handling department. However, there are really no gains for AWD on dry pavement. It's a foul-weather system, without a doubt. This is not always true, as AWD is used to advantage in very high power applications like Porsche's 911TT.

The RWD Mercedes is the best on drive pavement by a mile. The steering feel is the best, and the ability to balance the car through the "twisty bits" makes all the difference. Despite the Subaru having a few more ponies, I could hustle the C230 through the mountains in the summer at a better pace than the Subaru.

This shows the difference in engieering of three companies. Mercedes compromises some winter-safety-for-dummies (people using all-season tires, etc.) for driving pleasure and performance. Subaru installs an expensive AWD system that does a pretty decent job of staying out of your way when not needed (drives better than FWD) but shines in the tough stuff. Mazda goes for cheap. The sticker of the 626 when new was LOW, and the car was built to appeal to a broad audience. FWD is cheaper to build and package. FWD feels "safer" to low-skill drivers.

People thought RWD dead. Ha! BMW and Mercedes stuck to their guns, and are finally being proved right. However, the "masses" are now okay with RWD since MB and BMW added stuff like DSC and ESP to keep low-skilled buffoons from wrapping themselves around poles everytime a skiff of snow fell.
John Shellenberg
1998 C230 "Black Betty" 240K

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Old 02-27-2003, 04:48 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Mass
Posts: 1,127
I don't think anyone mentioned serviceability.
Maintaining a FWD is usually made much more difficult due to the tight 'packaging' with everything crammed up front.
Where is that steering rack? Can you even see it? Starter? Inner CV joints? Change a clutch?
Or try doing anything on the 'frontside' of an 86 Accord engine, and you will be wishing you had hands the size of a 5-year-old!

In terms of handling and torque-steer, they have gotten so much better, but as many have stated, there is nothing like having the 'throttle-steer' capabilities of a RWD at hand (errr- foot). I really hate the trend towards ever greater understeer bias. I think manufacturers now consider this to be some sort of [misguided] 'safety feature'.
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.
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Old 02-27-2003, 05:34 PM
Posts: n/a
I'm not a huge fan of FWD, but after owning two Olds Toronados (1966 and 1970) I grew to like the 25 ft FWD burnouts. Yes, servicing them is a pain, and not for the faint of heart.

My Golf GTi has been a real kick to drive in the snow. Start skidding a bit and turn into it while hitting the loud pedal! I don't think the 560SEL is as fun, with the long wheelbase and all that weight! Yikes! Haven't had much of a chance to play in the snow with that tank.

But in the end, I prefer RWD.
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