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Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Which Drivetrain Has The Best Handling? 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Which Drivetrain Has The Best Handling? 

When deciding what is the best car to purchase when looking for a new or used vehicle, drivers need to know whether they want a front wheel drive vs all wheel drive. By comparing the pros and cons of each vehicle type and the differences between front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, car shoppers can make a smart decision based on their individual needs.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


 

Although all car drivers may have heard of the terms front wheel drive ,all wheel drive, and rear wheel drive, they may not know exactly what this means. How does this change the car? What option is best for me and my family? We will tell you the meaning behind the different drivetrains so you can feel confident when buying a vehicle. 

 

You need to ask yourself a few questions when comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive. Do you need a car that just gets you from point A to point B? Do you want your car to focus on safety and practicality? Or do you want a high-performing vehicle that will frequently drive their car long distances? Do you want to go off-roading in your vehicle and perform routine maintenance yourself?

 

Finding the answer to this question can help you narrow down the answer to whether you want to buy a front wheel drive vs all wheel drive!

The Pros of Front Wheel Drive

Front wheel drive means that all the power from the engine goes directly to the front wheels of your car. 

 

There are some benefits to this option when shopping and cooking between front wheel drive vs all wheel drive. 

  • Less Expensive – The front wheel drive mechanism is a simple system, so it means less expensive repairs  and replacements – especially when dealing with labor costs. By keeping the procedures simple, the front wheel drive cars keep auto body costs as low as possible.
  • Fuel Efficiency – A front wheel drive vehicle is also lighter, so these cars have a better fuel economy and higher miles per gallon in the city and highway than all-wheel-drive vehicles. 
    • By just these two facts alone, this means that you will most likely pay less in the long run when searching between front wheel drive vs all wheel drive if you choose front wheel drive. 
  • Roomier – Furthermore, there is more room inside cars that contain front wheel drive. There is no space in the floor of the rear seats where the transmission tunnel is housed for the all wheel drive vehicles, creating more space and legroom for passengers in the second row of seats. In addition, since the mechanisms are up front, they can be engineered ergonomically to make the most of the space for a comfortable ride. 
  • Better Traction – Front wheel drive has better traction than all wheel drive when it comes to climbing hills, since the weight of the engine and the engine power is positioned over the front wheels. When comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, it is crucial to know the type of terrain you will frequently be driving. 
  • Dry Weather – Lastly, front wheel drive is a good choice for anyone who drives in dry or rainy conditions. Although this system can handle light snow, it might not be the best choice for those who live in constant winter climates. 

The Pros of All Wheel Drive

In the all wheel drive system, all of the wheels get power from the various differentials at the axles that split the power between the front and back wheels of the ehice. Since all of the wheels obtain power from the engine, they can help one another if one loses traction on slippery or wet terrain. Although not quite four wheel drive, it is a step up from front wheel drive. 

 

In all wheel drive cars, there are many different ways to set up the system. Some cars use all wheel drive every time they operate, while others only use all wheel drive depending on a certain percentage of the engine’s output deepening on exterior conditions. Some all-wheel drive systems operate part time, meaning the rear wheels only get power when they need it, helping increase the fuel efficiency in certain road conditions. 

 

When comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, we need to also look at the positives of all wheel drive when seeing what option is best for you based on your needs, driving conditions, and weather climate. 

 

  • Improved Traction – No matter how the all wheel drive system is set up in your vehicle, this mechanism improves traction in rainy, snowy, and slippery off-road conditions. If you find yourself wanting to push the limits of on-road driving and want to explore off-road destinations on trails and smaller forest roads – such as through shallow creeks, over rocks, or on tree branches, then this could be a great bet for you when comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive. 

The downsides to using all wheel drive when comparing this mechanism to front wheel drive is the lack of fuel economy, more expensive repairs and replacements due to the extensiveness of the system, and the longer labor process it will take to repair any issues in your vehicle. 

What is Four Wheel Drive (4WD)?

When comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, it is important to know the other types of drivetrains so you can make a smart decision at the dealership. Although four wheel drive and all wheel drive are sometimes used interchangeably when advertising vehicles, there is a small difference.

What is Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)?

Rear wheel drive is usually found on pickup trucks, older SUVs, sports cars, and high-performance sedans. Rear wheel drive uses heavy-duty components in order to tow heavy loads. In performance vehicles, rear wheel drive improves the handling by balancing the weight of the car, optimizing the suspension for agile handling. 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Fuel Efficiency

The engine in your vehicle generates rotational energy to help make the wheels move. The farther that energy travels to make the wheels turn and operate at the correct speed, the less efficient the system is in your vehicle. Theoretically, the most fuel efficient drivetrain option in the car is a transverse engine located next to the axle obtaining the power. 

 

Therefore, a front wheel drive engine or a rear engine with an RWD setup is the most fuel efficient option. The shafts connecting the engine to an axle at the opposite of the car add mass and inertia, which can slow down the rotational energy and cause the car to use more energy transferring power to the wheels than it is using. 

 

All wheel drive will never be as efficient as front wheel drive or rear wheel drive with an internal combustion engine. When comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, front wheel drive wins in this category. 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Space Efficiency

When comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, it is important to know which car is the most space efficient, which has the most comfortable seating, and which has the biggest cargo area. If you frequently travel on weekends or have a bigger family that you need to fit in your vehicle, space is a key factor when purchasing a car.

 

In this case, a transverse engine located directly next to the driven axle is the most space efficient. Without any shafts, transmissions, or other parts located in the cabin that can intrude into the interior area, the floors of the front wheel drive or rear wheel drive will not be occupied by an engine or other internal parts.

 

Therefore, a front wheel drive is more spacious when compared to an all wheel drive vehicle. 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Traction

Traction is a key component of driving safely on the road. Although you may not think you need a traction control system or anti-ocb ranking system when you drive in sunny weather, as soon as rain hits you will find yourself praying that all of your safety systems and wheels do their job of keeping your car safely on the road. 

 

A car’s potential acceleration traction consists of the friction between the car’s tires and the road surface, multiplied by the mass pressing on the tires (the weight of the vehicle and the occupants). The only way to make sure that all of this mass is being carried is to ensure that all four wheels are holding grip on the road.

 

Therefore, all wheel drive vehicles hold an advantage when discussing acceleration traction and staying on the road during slippery weather and wet conditions. 

 

If your engine in a front wheel drive car is near the front axle of your vehicle, it adds weight to the driven axle and reduces any unnecessary weight from the undriven axle. This is a good safety mechanism for when you are driving in a straight line, like on a highway, but can be less efficient in holding traction when driving on curves, driving aggressively, or driving on curved roads that require agile handling. 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Safety 

As we know by now, when comparing front wheel drive vs all wheel drive, front wheel drive options have their engine placed by the drive axle that is absorbing all of the energy and power  -the front axle. However, in terms of safety, the driven axle has little to do with passive safety.

 

In slippery conditions, breaking traction under power with front wheel drive cars can cause understeering, while braking traction with rear wheel drive can frequently cause oversteering – both dangerous conditions that can cause the car to swerve one way or the other. When comparing the lesser of two evils, understeering is safer than oversteering, since you would slide forward in the direction of travel. 

 

For an all wheel drive car, since the system distributes power to both axles, the mechanism could break traction at either axle – which can lead to an unsafe driving condition. However, locating the engine in the crash zone ahead of the passengers can offer some added protection. 

 

In addition, a neutral weight balance and a lower potential for inertia to cause understeering and oversteering means that all wheel drive or rear wheel drive vehicles with a mid-engine are considered safer than front wheel drive vehicles. 

 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Handling 

If you are comparing the front wheel drive vs all wheel drive in terms of handling, you need to know which drivetrain comes out on top. If you are interested in agile handling, spins, off-roading, and high-performance maneuvers, the engineering means that front wheel drive usually misses out on winning the category. 

 

Since every tire has only so much friction to apply to the road, longitudinal acceleration causes the force to dissipate while you are turning. This means that powering out in turn is harder, less successful, and less satisfying in a front wheel drive vehicle when compared to an all wheel drive vehicle.

 

In terms of total engine power and torque when handling your vehicle, rear wheel drive and all wheel drive vehicles are better options. 

Front Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive – Acceleration

All wheel drive vehicles can use all of the power produced to generate acceleration friction. However, remember that mass, friction, and inertia all counteract inertia – and all wheel drive vehicles produce a lot of each of those numbers. 

 

In this case, it is likely that using summer tires in a rear wheel drive vehicle could potentially outperform an all wheel drive car with all-season tires. 

 

The winner of this argument could be using an all wheel drive car with winter tires in certain conditions, or using a rear wheel drive vehicle with summer tires to create the best accelerative speed. 

The Bottom Line

Car owners need to compare the pros and cons of front wheel drive vs all wheel drive to get an idea of which option is the best for their needs. By seeing what drivetrain wins out in each performance category, like safety, acceleration, handling, and traction, you can make an educated decision about your next car purchase.