What you need to know about different drivetrains, and which one is right for you.
I know, it can be overwhelming shopping for a new car. There are endless options, packages, accessories, and customizations. Sometimes all of those options can get confusing, especially if you aren’t familiar with the differences between some of the more important ones! Of the major differences between different types of cars, and even different packages on the same car is the drivetrain. Although you may not know much about it, it can have a pretty big impact on your daily driving life depending on what you use your car for. Here are some of the important differences to keep in mind when looking for your new car, and how some of them can alter your car’s performance!
RWD (Rear Wheel Drive)
Rear wheel drive is a decreasingly common drivetrain among smaller cars, SUV’s, and trucks. This means that power from your engine is only transferred to the back to wheels of the car, meaning the rear wheels are pushing your car down the road while the front wheels are only used for steering. This is more common among higher performance muscle cars and is becoming less popular in an average car. This drivetrain is great for mild weathered regions that rarely get ice or snow. However, a RWD car can be lacking in slick conditions since there is generally less weight over the back end of the car. This can lead to dangerous handling, and ought to be taken into consideration when buying your car. If you live in the northeast, or somewhere with a lot of adverse weather conditions, I would advise moving on to another drivetrain option.
FWD (Front Wheel Drive)
This is the most popular drivetrain among all passenger cars and trucks in America. This drivetrain is best suited for someone that may encounter slippery conditions a few times a year but doesn’t find AWD necessary. Handling on a FWD vehicle is great for the average driver, however, many car enthusiasts are not fond of FWD cars due to their shortcomings in performance handling. There are some issues such as torque steering and lack of performance from a starting line that gives them some warrant to stay away from FWD cars, however, unless you are worried about your 0-60 time, or drifting into the parking lot at soccer practice, then FWD performance is more than optimal for your driving style.
AWD (All-Wheel Drive)
All-wheel drive is becoming more and more popular among SUV’s and performance cars alike. This setup is great for someone who lives in an area with harsh winters, who needs a car that can traverse snow and ice better than a two-wheel drive could ever dream of doing. Just as it offers great traction on slippery roads, it does the same on dry asphalt… or racetracks if that’s what you’re into. Because of the increased traction and handling through fast turns and tight corners, AWD is becoming more popular with high-performance cars destined for the track. If you aren’t looking to enter the Indie 500, but instead maybe want to enjoy some curvy mountain roads on the occasional Saturday then AWD might be something to look into. However, if you have no interest in the added handling in poor weather or performance benefits, I would recommend FWD due to the usually cheaper price and better fuel economy.
Now that you’re a pro on drivetrain performance, you can get a better idea of what best suits your driving needs on a day to day basis. If you have found a car you love, be sure to check the available drivetrain options to make sure you are getting exactly what you want and aren’t overpaying for something you may not need! Happy car shopping!
At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.