AWD vs FWD vs RWD
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  1. #1
    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    AWD vs FWD vs RWD

    I've noticed that a little spark has been thrown in another thread to start up a debate about driving wheels.

    So, FWD, RWD or AWD, which do you prefer & why?

    Being brought up chiefly on a diet of FWD cars, I'm quite familiar with their characteristics. There seem to be a good few who can't stand it, so I'm going to stand up for the "uncool" FWD

    One point that has been brought up previously is that FWDs are dangerous from a standstill under acceleration on a wet road. Can I just say, there is a good reason why RWD is frowned upon in the snow, and FWD is superior here.

    Understeer, I believe this is inherantly safer than oversteer. In fact, I believe human nature is designed for understeer, when you feel you've overcooked it, you back off, the car tightens its line.

    FWD does not consign a car to heaps of understeer either, in fact, all of the FWD Peugeots I've driven feel superior in handling compared to the RWD 505s I've driven - the 505s ride better.

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    You can also notice the packaging benefits of FWD, RWD wastes quite a bit of space. You also have lower power losses with FWD and hence better economy.

    RWD is good in the sense that it gives each wheel less to do. Another benefit is that it gives you more freedom with gearboxes - Volvo's high performance engines are now all limited by their gearboxes; noone has a gearbox compact enough for FWD applications that can handle their torque and meet Volvo's durability requirements. Turning circle in RWD is generally much better too - 306 GTI-6, ahem

    It also works well in the sense that the more power you apply from a standstill, the more weight is over the driving wheels, increasing traction. But I believe that engineering has arrived at a state where FWDs are excellent. I believe the notion that RWD is definately superior to FWD is expired.

    AWD doesn't actually improve grip, it only improves traction, as the tyres only have to handle half the amount of drive, compared to a 2WD car. It's only really useful in high power applications (which excludes most of the current French range), and in smaller cars, I think any traction benefits are outweighed by fuel consumption penalties.

    Fire away

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  2. #2
    Guru davemcbean's Avatar
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    I more or less agree with all that except to say there is very little difference between a GOOD RWD and a GOOD FWD.

    The biggest difference is on cheap cars. Cheap FWD cars almost always handle better than cheap RWD cars (e.g. an early model Hyundai Excel has much safer handling than say a Datsun 120Y).

    It is inherently easier to make a predictable FWD car. Combined with ease of production, this is why FWD is so predominant on cheap cars.

    On big, heavy, powerful, expensive cars, the benefits of FWD are less pronounced, and hence RWD has largely survived on these types of cars.

    As for AWD, it wins hands down on high power vehicles, but on lower power vehicles the weight and friction increase largely offsets the benefits.

    Dave

    <small>[ 13 April 2003, 03:35 PM: Message edited by: davemcbean ]</small>
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  3. #3
    1000+ Posts Pugnut403's Avatar
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    I have only owned RWD cars,having done most of my driving in vans and utes. The only FWD car I have driven was the Mazda 121 I got my licene in, and I couldn't test the handlling in those circumstances .
    AWD seems to give good results in slippery conditions, mud,snow, ice, rain, gravel etc.
    My father has owned FWD and RWD cars, and he rates the R16TS as one of the best cars he ever drove, but he does not have such a high regard for the handling of the Morris 1100. So I guess that a good car will handle well regardless of which end does the driving. I certainly wouldn't say that the Holden HQ I learned to drive on handles well, but my Pugs are great. It all comes down to the quality of the engineering.
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  4. #4
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    My own cars have all been FWD... a Subaru Leone Wagon (yes, it's 4WD, but FWD when in 2 wheel drive), the 306XR and now the 306XSi.

    The only RWD cars I've driven regularly have been our Datsun 620 ute, which was replaced by the AUIII Falcon ute, and the 504 sedan.

    The 504 sedan I do think handles amazingly well, but even with its meagre amount of power (is it 66kw or 69?) and a 3sp auto, it is possible to step it out of line in the wet if you want it to. The ol' Datsun ute was a disaster in the wet. Suprisingly, the Falcon is great in the wet, the LSD makes it very predictable. I'm yet to spin the wheels in the wet, it just launches off the line with a little bit of a squirm.

    All in all, I do think I favour FWD - I learnt that at the Ian Luff courses I did anyway. I agree with you that humans are programmed to like/understand/be able to control understeer, because all you have to do is back off the throttle and let the car regain its line. Obviously, RWD cars are much more likely to suffer oversteer.

    Mind you, I haven't driven powerful RWD cars, but they would probably only reinforce my view that for most drivers, FWD is the way to go. That, and the fact that lift off oversteer in a FWD is so much fun to control!

    On the topic of turning circle... the C3 has a better turning circle that the 504! The 306 is worse than the 504, and the Subaru was miles better than the 504 and the C3. How do I know this? To turn into our garage you drive down the driveway and do a right hand U-turn around into the garage. The Subaru used to end up in the middle of the garage (it's 2 cars wide). The C3 ends up at a comfortable position on the left side of the garage. The 504 ends up uncomfortably close to the left wall of the garage. The 306 doesn't have a hope of making it! My 306 doesn't get the garage That's reserved for the C3 and the Clio cry I get a carport...

    Derek

  5. #5
    nJm
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    I would have to say that the FWD pugs I've driven definately handle better than the 505's I've driven. However the flip side is I've driven some awefull FWD cars too. My parent's magna combines ancient rear suspension design with vague steering and a powerful V6. What that means is bad understeer. However, lift off and it swings out into unexpected lift off oversteer eek! . Not a pleasant surprise if you don't want it to happen.

    Characteristics of RWD that I don't like is how tail happy they get in the wet. I've had the odd fishtailing experience which wasn't too pleasant. Also, trying to make a quick U turn can result in a bit of a powerslide if you're not careful (full lock and heavy throttle doesn't = stability in RWD). I guess it is really just a matter of adjusting your driving style depending on the car. I've driven two AWD vehicles (a Subaru Outback and a Range Rover) and the AWD grip is nice, but not necessary most of the time.

    I do love my 505 for its handling, and think that if it had been FWD I would never have bought it, as more often than not it is the larger FWD cars that don't do well. However, I'm more than happy to own a FWD pug next time round, after having a decent go of a 206 and 307. So, I think the RWD pugs are superior to quite a few cars out there whether they be FWD or RWD, however Peugeot moving to FWD has definately paid off with the wonders such as the 205.
    Nick
    1983 Peugeot 505 GR


    "All of its cars from the 1.1 litre 205 through the ugly duckling 309 to the 2.2 litre 505 GTi had a rightness and a righteousness about them that turned every humdrum drive into a journey. Someone, I once wrote, in the bowels of Peugeot understands handling and how a chassis should feel." - Jeremy Clarkson

  6. #6
    Fellow Frogger! Jez 405's Avatar
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    I'm a rear drive person.... until Peugeots that is.
    I love being able to control a car on the throttle, the extra traction from standing starts and the tail-out antics you can do (off public roads, of course).

    What I do not like are certain Aussie-built cars with live axles which have darn near zero grip on right-hand turns and 'advanced IRS' which tramp like crazy under hard acceleration.

    I'm not a great fan of 4wd. I just don't think they're all that fun. Subarus (RX, WRX and Outback) in particular are near impossible to launch rapidly without seriously abusing the driveline.

    I used to dislike front drivers, and a bad front driver can be terrible to drive - I remember test driving a [email protected]@b 9000 turbo manual. Lots of torque steer, understeer and a very unstable, gripless front end. My first Pulsar was nothing special and my parents' V6 Camry was bordering on the overpowered. It was driving 306's, 405's and Alfa-Suds which pretty much changed my opinion.
    Still, when I do go for my next car I'm looking at at least six cylinders and I reckon that's probably too much for a good handling FWD car. So overall, still a rear drive fan, but willing to try out something new. Who knows, I might yet find a 4wd that I like.
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  7. #7
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    Jez 405:
    Still, when I do go for my next car I'm looking at at least six cylinders and I reckon that's probably too much for a good handling FWD car. So overall, still a rear drive fan, but willing to try out something new. Who knows, I might yet find a 4wd that I like.
    oooops I completely forgot about our XM in my previous post. For those who came on the first Aussiefrogs cruise, and any other who've driven an XM in a spirited fashion, you'll know what a powerful 6 cylinder FWD *should* handle like. I'll never forget Avi8n's face when he got out of his 205GTI after tailing me in the XM. I did have it in sports suspension mode, but that was all! Speaking of Avi8n, where are you Carl?? The XM didn't have significant torque steer, although you definately knew it when you hit a bump/pothole at full throttle. Gee that was a nice car

    Derek.

    <small>[ 13 April 2003, 06:28 PM: Message edited by: DeKa ]</small>

  8. #8
    1000+ Posts Damien Gardner's Avatar
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    Hey guys, you forgot the magic ride in a rear engined rear drive car
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  9. #9
    Moderator Alan S's Avatar
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    ........and speaking of Jap AWDs let's not lose sight of the fact that once the front lets go, the rears keep pushing it along until it finds something solid to hit & stop it.
    Anybody who wants to argue that point has obviously never had it happen. I know someone (very near to me) who has. mallet mallet mallet

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  10. #10
    1000+ Posts Warwick's Avatar
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    Peugeot Alfa and Honda (maybe Audi, but i've hardly driven them) make the best FWD cars. The 205 GTi is amazing. Driving my car at the Southern Loop at Phillip Island remains vivid in my memory. Accelerating flat out, there was bugger all understeer at all. When I had the line wrong, which was on most occasions, backing off a little on the throttle had the rear step out. i.e. swing around. This is something that the RWD fans dont expect from a FWD car at all. The more violently one backed off, the faster the rear swung around. At the entrance to the main straight this characteristic bit me on the bum, on the warm up. Whilst watching sheep I got the line very wrong and backed off too much. I did a 360 at 140 kph. People crap on and on about FWD cars understeering. This is not necessarily the case at all. It just depends how the car is set up. I have driven RWD cars on the racetrack that understeer like pigs. There arent many cars that will accelerate in the wet from a standstill as fast as a GTi6. Nothing to do with the FWD aspect, but that the geometry is brilliant. Take each car on its merits. I hate people banging on about FWD cars being inferior to RWD. The shortcomings of each type of car are different, but to say that one format of car is better than the other is just the words of an ignorant and unqualified moron.
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  11. #11
    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    Warwick2:
    ...but to say that one format of car is better than the other is just the words of an ignorant and unqualified moron.
    Either that or a V8 driving bogan

    I really have to toast to that comment, it's so true. I just find the ignorant criticise FWD to hell and back. They're the type that say the Avalon doesn't sell because it's FWD - heck, I reckon most Aussies think FWD means Forward! Pretty much only car nerds know this kind of stuff.

    I remember driving my first FWD, thinking, "What's all the fuss about?".

    You have good FWDs & bad FWDs. You have good RWDs & bad RWDs. Today there are plenty of good FWDs, and even the bad ones aren't that bad. In fact most cars these days are quite reasonable, it's just that there are some that are really good.

    Also bear in mind, the way most people drive, you'll probably never even learn what oversteer or understeer are.

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  12. #12
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    the problem with the fwd/rwd debate is that it no longer applies to small cars...ANYBODY out there making a rear wheel drive hatch???and why would they...most handling issues have been sorted out just by the sheer fact that the engines in these hatches are not that heavy...i ve driven heaps of front engined cars and the sensation of a fwd PULLING u out of trouble is very conforting which is appropriate considering the short wheelbases that follow them....when it comes to fwd in larger vehicles...well, i must admit i m not keen on them...power transfer is usually not that smooth and they can ceartinly mess up all your ideas of how a long wheel base wehicle should handle under throtle, especially in the wet...yes your avaerage comodore and the EA (non car) falcon can make a REALLY big mess out of a sharp right turn (and one would know that after a first rainy day and try and compensate thereafter) but attempt the same turn with something like a big merc or a beemer and you realise how a good rear wheel driver should handle...the traction control has ceartinly helped improve the aussies in this respect but they still lack certain finnese the europeans posses (and please no comments on the BA).....i think large /heavy/powerfull cars should only come in the rear drive option although i think it wont be long before awd starts to become the norm even in this class...in regards to awd well, they cant be beaten really whatever the shortfalls might have been in the early editions of this drive system...with variable transfer of power from front to rear and very affective abs thrown in they really are very safe although we have seen even the most experianced rally guys/gals loose it....to me the actual drive in the never vehicles is becoming irrelevant as the future creeps up on us the computer will take many elements of fun and assumed control from us...already we find beople trying to disable the abs and traction control on many cars...we can just hope we r given that option via easy/user friendly in car controls....its probably one thing i like about the jeep..if it rains i drop it into awd and you would not believe how much safer this particular primitive becomes when its agricultural platform goes awd...

    cheers
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  13. #13
    nJm
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    dino:
    ANYBODY out there making a rear wheel drive hatch???and why would they...
    Well, BMW make the 3 series compact. The current ones are actually meant to be quite good. Most journos think the 325ti is as much fun as you can have in a BMW without buying an M3.

    As for Warwick's comments, I agree too. That is what I was trying to express in my ramblings earlier. It isn't necessarily which end it drives from, it is the car as a whole that determines how it will go. From the sounds of it, my rwd 505 will be more likely to understeer in a race track than a 205/306 GTi .
    Nick
    1983 Peugeot 505 GR


    "All of its cars from the 1.1 litre 205 through the ugly duckling 309 to the 2.2 litre 505 GTi had a rightness and a righteousness about them that turned every humdrum drive into a journey. Someone, I once wrote, in the bowels of Peugeot understands handling and how a chassis should feel." - Jeremy Clarkson

  14. #14
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    RE: justin: quote:heck, I reckon most Aussies think FWD means Forward! Pretty much only car nerds know this kind of stuff.

    i dont know about that....the merket ceartinly posses some democratic right to what they want available on the au marketplace...surelly u must understand that many many people love the way their hsv transfer the huge amounts of torque to the rear wheels and so on and so on..hell even i love destroying a powerfull rearwheel driver...commentary on how good or bad the fwd will not wash with the big 6 and v8 brigade and justifiably SO...we have yet to see the day when a magna makes 300kw and transferrs it to the front wheels as effectively as some of our aussies...

    cheers
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  15. #15
    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    I think most out there in their repmobile Commodore Executives, etc, really wouldn't know the difference.

    The reason why the Avalon doesn't sell has very little to do with the fact it has FWD, IMHO.

    Cmon, if you're getting something like an HSV, you have to have some interest in cars.

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  16. #16
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    hhehhe...the 3 series compact is nothing but a compromise to fill in a market niche for people who dont know any better and dont forget the car was hacked from a substantial platform that was available as quite a decent sized 4 door sedan that also had a BOOT to boot...but ultimately u r right...the car does exist but its a rare unit in current market place...ie.most small cars are fdw...

    cheers
    dino

  17. #17
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    no..that reply had nothing to do with the avalon if u read the given quote...AVALONS dont sell because they r a car without any personality....the people that buy them do so because they r getting what they believe is a cross maxima/comodore/camry/lexus....hell they dont even know how to park properly...but to most avalon owners its the best thing since sliced bread because most tight#@$ purchasers of this car would know a LOT LESS than some of the V8 bogans u mention.....for those who dont give these people any credit maybe one should turn on the tv sometimes and see how much these guys/gals enjoy these vehicles...ie philip island race was on today...can u imagine what these fans would thing if all those falcons and commodores were FWD...

    cheers
    dino
    ps..as much as i like front wheel drivers i still understand why some people are so passionate about the fwd issue...the manufactureres would like to go fwd because its more cost effective but the aussie market obviously does not like that road...whatever happened to the SAAB platform the next gen. holden was supposed to be based on???

  18. #18
    Guru davemcbean's Avatar
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    Warwick2:
    . The shortcomings of each type of car are different, but to say that one format of car is better than the other is just the words of an ignorant and unqualified moron.
    Very true.
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  19. #19
    Guru davemcbean's Avatar
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    nJm:
    From the sounds of it, my rwd 505 will be more likely to understeer in a race track than a 205/306 GTi .
    I agree Nick. RWD Pugs are much more prone to understeer than FWD Pugs.

    I do think it's hard to compare 504s/505s with 205s/306s, because the size and set-up is quite different. A newer smaller car with sportier, lower suspension settings is always going to handle better than an older larger car with suspension very much compromised towards comfort and high ground clearance.

    If we really must compare FWD to RWD we should compare like with like (e.g. big with big, small with small, sporty with sporty, barge with barge, etc).

    So, in the 1000kg class for sporty new vehicles we'd have things like:

    -206 GTI
    -Clio sport
    -MX5

    In the 1300-1400kg class for mid size new sedans we'd have things like:
    -406
    -Vectra
    -BMW
    -IS200

    In the 1200-1300kg class for 1980s sedans we'd have things like:
    -Magna
    -505
    -Saab
    -BMW

    In the small sub 1000kg class for older cars we'd have things like:
    -Alfasud
    -R12
    -Escort
    -Gemini

    In the big heavy new sail barges , we'd have things like:
    -Falcon
    -BMW
    -Mercedes
    -607
    -Taurus
    -Dodge Intrepid
    -Avalon

    <small>[ 14 April 2003, 08:22 AM: Message edited by: davemcbean ]</small>
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  20. #20
    1000+ Posts CHRI'S16's Avatar
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    ...mmmm, i think this thread's been around before, gota lov'm.
    Ive been lucky enough to drive lots of cars, but not too quickly(ie round a track)...
    But the very few that i have punted round a track are slowly changing my mind about what i want to race...
    not drive on a road, i think my FWD S16 fills that void,... tough a E46 SCL M3 'd be nice too.
    Most track cars ive punted were converted road cars, only one open wheeler (GRS Clubman), and i used to love the predicatable nature of the FWD, then i drove a couple of well sorted AWD's and they felt like over powered FWD's predictable and quick, but dull..
    Then i drove well sorted mid-mount RWD ie, GT MR2.... this was a rip-snort of a car, and once i learnt how the rear was going to react i soon realised why F1's also use this format... just the way you can dial the control pre, mid and post apex was unreal,... i felt more in control than any of the other AWD/FWD's id pushed..
    Im not saying that these cars are crap, infact i had trouble setting the same lap time in the GT that i had set in my S16, but i got pretty even and had i more time on track i know i would have blown that time to pieces. The GT had street tyres on and i had my semi's on so it wasn't just the extra power of the GT.
    So for OUTRIGHT RACE PACE, i vote the MID/RWD cars,...
    for the PUBLIC CITY ROADS i like nimble and sensible FWD's like the 307 XSI, which i had my first drive in this morning.. nice.
    For open hy-way a nice 5 series fills that best..
    my two francs, and not a GT-R in site....lol
    Cheers Xq

    ps, for sheer loony time, id take the moded Superkart i listed in my Dreamtime 5 car, thread.
    ... ptui!

  21. #21
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    The new BMW 2-Series is going to be RWD, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the marketing department insisted upon it rather than because of any technical advantage.

    All examples of FWD/RWD are subjective to a certain degree. I have driven a number of FWD cars, the best being a 206 and a 307, both of which were sensational. But both were also new, and thus, predictable - ie - you know its history etc.

    In fact I am going to go off on a tangent here...

    Does rear wheel drive provide better scope for good ride characteristics?

    The 206 has hopeless ride in my opinion (not that ive spent any time in its competitors). Justin is always moaning about the 307's ride (i think he is a tiny bit picky tho)...

    The pre 1996 and post 1996 magnas are comfy cruising cars that ride very well, but handling is hardly A1.

    The 505's ride so well its a case of over-engineering imho.

    So, is there a higher level of tradeoff between handling and ride in a FWD than a RWD?

    Sorry for the ranting post

    <small>[ 14 April 2003, 10:41 PM: Message edited by: Sergetov ]</small>
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  22. #22
    1000+ Posts Pugnut403's Avatar
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    Mid engine layouts certainly make it easier to achieve the "perfect" 50/50 wieght balance, but that is not a prerequisite for good handling.
    Design and engineering play a huge part in how a car will perform, regardless of its layout.
    If you look at extremes, the FWD Caddilacs and Oldsmobiles of the '70s were renowned for MASSIVE understeer, while the 205GTI is known for controllable lift-off oversteer, and I know someone with a Fiat 127 which can suddenly oversteer violently .
    If you look at RWD, just try and get a six cylinder HQ Holden to oversteer on a tarred road. It is well nigh impossible. On the other hand, a car like the Dodge Viper is renowned for its love of oversteering very quickly indeed.
    It's just a matter of good design. 2_cents
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  23. #23
    1000+ Posts dino's Avatar
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    in regards to rwd providing more scope for better ride characteristics....well its probably just as hard an issue to comment on as the fwd/rwd argument in general....volvo seems to be having quite a few problems satisfying the aussie journos when it comes to its ride but i must admit
    one could never really fault the 200 series when it came to ride...yes it was never going to be like the 505 but it was decent in its very basic set up....ride generally has more to do with engineering quality and suspension geometry rather than what drive system its based on although the rwd generally offer better weight distribution...the rear wheel drivers generally feel smoother in their power transfer and as rwders suspension faults during heavy acceleartion or even braking over raugher surfaces these sensations are more detached (because they r in the rear)as there is obviously no real feedback through the steering wheel...when u think about it the front drivers have to cope with many variables and they can be very effective in most ie...abs,torque steer,variable suspension travel etc(under steering conditions) is handled quite well by most modern cars except by some of the cheaper koreans but considering the pricing at which they deliver the goods even these vehicles do OK...one of my biggest qualms with fwd cars is
    high speed tyre punctures...and speaking from experiance i d rather be in rwd when the fronts blow anytime over some short wheelbase fwd...the other point which IS very important is the fact that a lot of fwd vehicles have serious problems towing heavy loads (and not necessarilly because they may or may not be power adequate)as front GRIP can become nonexistant and very scary to deal with as anybody who has experianced this will attest...

    cheers
    dino
    ...did somebody mention ranting...

  24. #24
    1000+ Posts CHRI'S16's Avatar
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    Pugnuta,.. agreed, except that i don't like 50/50 cars too much, F1's aren't, my old alfa, S2000 and RX7 sVI/VIII are other close to 50/50 RWD's that ive really pushed but didn't feel as controlable as the GT,...............................
    having said alllllll that, i agree with what you metioned. there is more to it than FWD/RWD/AWD layout, as these days the gap is shorter than ever.. now in some cars it almost dosn't mater. Good engineering at the start helps, other wise you end up with chariots like SAAB Viggens.......
    holy shitze i said the S word....
    (insert mpeg of me running for cover here)
    cheers Xq
    ... ptui!

  25. #25
    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    I still maintain the 307 has a fairly uncoordinated low speed ride, at 110km/h with a few people onboard, you appreciate the coordinated damping.

    But whenever you're put into a situation where you need independent movement of suspension, it protests. Over "simple bumps" such as speed humps, it has no problem, in fact I find it dips less than some other cars. Cars like 505s feel as if there are pillows between the body and wheels.

    I could name a number of Japanese cars which I believe ride better, which is a little embarassing (seeing it semes sacrilege to mention anything good about a Japanese car on a Froggy Forum ), but fortunately it handles competently (better than what people may let you to believe - it's just a different feel).

    Don't really think there should be any difference between FWD & RWD on ride characteristics, if anything, because you don't have a diff in the rear, you might even have more freedom of movement, as well as less unsprung weight in FWD. Amongst the Peugeot's I've been in, the 505s are in a class of their own compared to FWD ones in respect to ride. 306 & 405 were fine, but not special like a 505. 206 is overrated, and the 307 is only good at high speed.

    Where's good ol Ray on this subject?

    Peugeot 307 XS 1.6
    Aussiefrogged in MEL, PER, SYD, BNE & ADL.
    Rendezvous Adelaide 2005

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