When discussing automobiles, one of the terms you would have come across but ignored is either Front Wheel Drive (FWD), Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), or All Wheel Drive (AWD). As with many aspects of a car, these terms are equally important and play a major role when it comes to handling, pricing, and efficiency. So what is the difference and advantages or disadvantages of each of the drive layout? We explain.
Front Wheel Drive (FWD)
As the name suggests, the engine drives the front wheels of the vehicle. This is the most commonly seen set up in Indian vehicles and most cars in India. FWD is cost effective and the drive is direct owing to less mechanicals and components. Also, FWD vehicles offer better fuel efficiency, something that the Indian market is key on.
One of the biggest disadvantage though is handling. The front wheels do two things — drive the car and steer it. This makes FWD cars slightly bad handlers compared to RWD vehicles. The handling aspect has been worked on over the years and modern FWD cars are becoming good handling cars and the new Civic Type-R is an example. However, FWD cars have limitations and most enthusiasts consider them as not much fun.
Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)
The engine drives the rear wheels. This setup is more expensive compared to FWD vehicles and most high-performance cars are rear-wheel-drive. Power is sent from the engine to the rear wheels via a drive shaft that connects the rear driveline to the motor. In India, most high-end cars (luxury cars) have this set up owing to the fact that they produce more power.
Advantages of RWD cars is that the front wheels steer and the rear wheel drive, making them better handlers comparatively. Also, the weight on RWD cars is better-distributed, making them fun to drive. The biggest downsides of RWD cars are the cost and traction — they are not good in slippery conditions like snow or rain as they lose traction easily.
All Wheel Drive (AWD)
Not to be confused with Four Wheel Drive (4WD) — All Wheel Drive (AWD) is common with high-performance cars and SUVs. The engine sends power to all four wheels of the vehicle, helping them gain better traction and perform better. The AWD system is divided into two types again, Full-Time AWD and Part-Time AWD. Full-Time AWD sends power to all four wheels constantly, while Part-Time AWD uses only two wheels to drive, but when there is a loss of traction, power is sent to all four.
The advantages are that AWD vehicles give great traction on various surfaces, including low traction conditions and they help with mild off-roading too. This is a big reason why rally cars use this system. The biggest disadvantage is the added weight on cars and the cost involved as it uses more mechanical parts or complex electronics.