When purchasing a new car, there’s more you should think about than just the model, make, year, and price of the car. You should also consider the car’s drivetrain. 

Drivetrain is one of those terms in the automotive industry that people are vaguely familiar with and often mistake for powertrain or driveline. A drivetrain includes your car’s transmission, driveshaft, axles, and wheels. In short, it works with the engine to move the wheels forward. 

The drivetrain system is an essential component of your vehicle. There are four major drivetrains: All-Wheel Drive (AWD), Four-Wheel Drive (4WD), Front-Wheel Drive, (FWD) and Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD). 

Comparison Table

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Advantages of Front-Wheel Drive

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Front-wheel drive is popular for its cost and fuel efficiency, light weight, and good traction.

Disadvantages of Front-Wheel Drive

planning for front wheel drive

The major disadvantages to front-wheel drive vehicles have to do with the steering and the amount of weight placed on the front wheels. 

Best Front-Wheel Drive Cars Currently On The Market

Front Wheel Drive Car

Here are some examples of the best front-wheel drive vehicles you’ll see on the road today.

Front-Wheel Drive Against The Other Drivetrains

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While some have argued that front-wheel drive doesn’t hold up as well compared to the other drivetrains, others have shown that it only depends on where you live and how you use your car.

What Is Front-Wheel Drive?

A car or truck with a four-wheel drive exerts all of the engine’s power into the two front wheels. The drivetrain is pulling the car down the road like a pair of oxen pulling a heavy load. It is celebrated for its stability, predictability, and dependability, especially when the roads become icier and snowier.

This drivetrain is a popular one today for its lightweight, better traction than rear-wheel drive, and fuel and cost efficiency. Examples of cars with front-wheel drive are the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. 

How Does Front-Wheel Drive Work?

Because of the limited space under the hood of a front-wheel drive vehicle, there are big blocks of components that fit carefully in a small space. The reason for this is that the engine sits right over the transaxle under the hood.

The transaxle acts as the transmission and front differential. In other words, the transaxle controls the car’s ability to rotate and power — using gears — a pair of wheels at various speeds.

The usual setup of a transaxle includes a transversely mounted engine installed off-center under the hood. On the side of the engine component, the transmission is mounted to the engine. Transmission then sends power into the front differential gears. The front differential is usually off-center as well. The wheels turn accordingly, responding to the vehicle’s suspension while also receiving power from the engine.  

Advantages of Front-Wheel Drive

front wheel drive

Front-wheel drive is popular for its cost and fuel efficiency, light weight, and good traction.

More Spacious

Because front-wheel drive cars use mounted crossways under the hood, the transmission doesn’t cut into any of a passenger’s leg space under the floor. There’s no hump in the floor of the rear seats where the transmission tunnel would be in an all-wheel drive vehicle. That means more leg room for backseat passengers. Since all the mechanics are stowed in the front under the hood of the vehicle, it means more room for front-seat passengers also.

Better Traction

Front-wheel drive vehicles tend to have better traction when it comes to climbing hills because all of the engine’s weight is over the front wheels. 

These types of vehicles also have better wet weather, snow, sand, gravel, and ice traction. This is due in large part to the engine being directly above the front drive wheels. The weight balance with front-wheel drive vehicles is about 60:40, with 60% of the weight in the front and 40% of the weight being in the back. Your front-wheel drive vehicle will be pulled through the icy or snowy road conditions.

Front-wheel drive vehicles also have good directional stability in which the car is able to go straight for longer periods of time. It is for this reason that front-wheel drive vehicles are very stable at highway speeds where crosswinds are strong.

Easier and Cheaper to Install

The reason front-wheel drive vehicles tend to err on the cheaper side is the single-unit transaxle. Car manufacturers can connect the transmission, front-wheel differential, and transaxle as one assembled unit. It is beneficial to manufacturers as it reduces time spent on the assembly line.

Lightweight

Front-wheel drive vehicles tend to be lighter also because there is no separate rear axle or drive shaft going the length of the entire vehicle, front to rear end.  

These vehicles tend to be made up of less components than any other drivetrain setup, making the vehicle lighter and improving gas mileage. The amount of energy the car would need to expend to deliver power from the front to the rear end is increased in a rear-wheel drive because of the heavy driveshaft and differential.


Disadvantages of Front-Wheel Drive

planning to front wheel drive

The major disadvantages to front-wheel drive vehicles have to do with the steering and the amount of weight placed on the front wheels. 

Torque Steering

Front-wheel drive vehicles can pull unequally to one of the front wheels, causing the vehicle to steer more to one side under sudden, heavy acceleration. This phenomenon is called torque steering. Uneven distances between the front differential and two front wheels cause this problem.

Torque steering can be unpredictable which makes it all the more dangerous.

Because of torque steering, a front-wheel drive vehicle is limited in how much power it can handle without losing control on corners. 

Front-Wheel Wear and Tear

Because front-wheel drive vehicles are front-heavy in terms of weight, the front wheels tend to work harder than the rear ones. Therefore, the front tires and brakes on these vehicles will wear out much faster.

Understeer

The front-wheel drive vehicle is tasked with both propelling and steering the vehicle, which adds an extra load on the front tires than is necessary. Given the extra load, your car can be prone to understeering, a steering technical difficulty.

Understeering occurs when your car’s wheels get too much power while turning and lose a considerable amount of their traction. Your car will push more toward the outside of the turn than where you’re trying to steer it. 

Understeering is still a better problem to have than its counterpart, oversteering.

Oversteering occurs when your car gets too much power on a turn and goes inside the turn rather than where you want to steer it. In other words, the backend of your car tries to overtake your headlights.  

Best Front-Wheel Drive Cars Currently On The Market

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Here are some examples of the best front-wheel drive vehicles you’ll see on the road today.

Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta ST has a sporty look, making you feel like you’re a stunt double on the set of the next installment of “The Fast and the Furious.” The car features a sport-tuned suspension and a 197-hp 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that’s both turbocharged and direct-injected. 

It also includes honeycomb inserts in the grille, a roof-mounted spoiler, and big alloy wheels. Recaro bucket seats are found on the list of options for those who travel fast.

Honda Accord

This is the default midsize front-wheel drive sedan that many buyers go for. However, the 2018 version is revamped to make a good car even better.

The car is one of the rare few that still offer a manual transmission or a detuned version of the engine from the pocket-rocket Civic Type R. It features many unique safety features as well as an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-compatible infotainment system.

Front-Wheel Drive Against The Other Drivetrains

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While some have argued that front-wheel drive doesn’t hold up as well compared to the other drivetrains, others have shown that it only depends on where you live and how you use your car.

Here’s how front-wheel drive fares against other drivetrains.

Rear-Wheel Drive

Opposite front-wheel drive in many respects, rear-wheel drive’s engine power is sent to its rear wheels. It is pushed instead of pulled down the road. Because of its push down the road, a vehicle with this drivetrain doesn’t work as well in icy winters as the traction is low. It does, however, still provide balance and good braking and handling. 

Examples of this type of vehicle include the Lexus IS Series and the BMW 3 Series. 

Four-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive is the ultimate drivetrain for off-road driving as its engine power is sent to all four wheels. You’ll find four-wheel drive systems on vehicles with raised ground clearance, shielded underbodies, tow hooks, and knobby tires. These vehicles can travel greater distances and through difficult terrain such as mud and puddles of water. 

Four-wheel drivetrains are typically found in vehicles such as trucks like the Ford F-150 and SUV Range Rover. 

All-Wheel Drive

The all-wheel drivetrain is an upgraded version of the four-wheel drivetrain. Not only is the engine’s power sent to all four wheels, but it also has fluid-filled differentials and advanced electronics to provide an improved capacity for treading over wet or slippery terrain. 

Cars with all-wheel drivetrains include Subaru Legacy and the Acura RL. 

Choosing The Right Drivetrain To Suit Your Needs

When thinking about a car’s drivetrain, be sure to consider the weather conditions in your city or town and where you’ll be travelling with your good horse. 

If the weather conditions in your city or town are icy and snowy, a vehicle with a front-wheel drive will suit your needs. However, if you work on a farm and require a car with strong towing capacity, you’re better off with a vehicle with a four-wheel or all-wheel drivetrain. 

Always keep in mind what you’re using your car for and where you live.


Featured Image: Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels

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