Around sixty years ago an automotive engineer named Alec Issigonis (later Sir Alec and a legend in his own lifetime) designed the now iconic Mini which subsequently became part of motoring history. The most innovative idea was to turn the in-line engine sideways and send the drive direct to the front wheels. Since then, aside from the more robust four-wheel drive mud-pluggers, most car makers have used this system; but why?
The advantages of front-wheel drive are clear. By avoiding the need for a driveshaft connecting the engine at the front with the rear wheels, front-wheel drive cars save space. The entire drivetrain can be packed into a neat compartment under the bonnet, leaving the rest of the car for passengers and cargo without the hump of a driveshaft tunnel passing down the middle. As the original Mini demonstrates, this is the way to seat four people in a small space.
An added bonus is that front-wheel drive cars have better traction in slippery conditions thanks to the weight of the engine over the driving wheels.
Although much less common now thanks to advances in technology, torque steer is an effect whereby front-wheel drive cars, especially of more powerful models, is they do not go straight when high power is applied. Instead, they pull to one side, requiring the driver to compensate with the steering wheel. Most motorists never experience this, or are just not aware of it, simply because they drive normal, mainstream vehicles in a normal fashion. At one time though this was considered a downside of FWD.
In a front-wheel drive car, the front tyres have to do all the hard work. They steer and apply the motive drive. The rear wheels are basically just there for the ride and to hold the back of the car up and thus the front tyres wear more quickly, requiring wheel rotation for safety reasons.
Purists will tell you that real drivers prefer rear-wheel drive. Anyone who has driven one of the many RWD cars from BMW (and there’s always a good selection for sale here at eCars247) might well be inclined to agree. They say that rear-wheel drive cars handle better thanks to a better balance, but really most of us do not consider ourselves to be sporting drivers, we just want a car that works. For those that seek more thrills then the best and safest place to go is to a motor racing circuit and experience the extreme handling effects of rear-wheel drive in the hands of an expert. The fact is, FWD cars are more predictable on our broken roads.
Essentially, that is why most mainstream vehicles today have front-wheel drive. Manufacturers like them because they can get more into less space and buyers like roomy, yet compact motors that can do all the jobs our lives require of them. Most importantly, whatever your preference, check out our cars for sale
. We’ve got something for everyone, driving the front wheels or the rear wheels or indeed all of the wheels!