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Old 3 Mar 2003, 18:46 (Ref:523735)   #1
paul c
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Front wheel drive.... Or rear wheel drive?

Apologies if this one is an old chestnut but I'd be interested in people's opinions. Until now I've only ever had rear-wheel drive cars but I've recently bought a Saab 9000. I was told by the salesman to expect it to be more responsive to steering if I was used to rear-wheel drive. It does seem to be, but I'm not at all convinced that's down to it being front-wheel drive. What are your opinions?

It's certainly different and I'm not at all sure how to know when I'm getting near to the limit of handling. The rear wheel drive cars I've had have tended towards predictable oversteer but one or two comments I've picked up have suggested that when you get near the limit with a large front wheel drive car it may not be so clear as to what the handling's going to do. As Bluebottle and Tim know from experience, I'm not one to throw a car around the whole time, but I've got more power on tap than I've had in my previous cars, so any suggestions from experience would be welcome.

The one thing I have noticed is the turning circle is lousy!
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 19:39 (Ref:523781)   #2
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The only large fwd car I've driven was the Buick Century we rented in Florida last year, a soft squashy ride giving few clues as to what was actually happening! The others have been small hatchbacks with odd handling charecteristics, most recently a Corsa which tried to throw me off the road on every turn! And they all have lousy turning circle (apart from the Buick, just as well in such a barge!)
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 19:41 (Ref:523782)   #3
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From my experience a front drive car is more predictable that a rear drive. Mainly because all they do is understeer. Hit a corner to fast and it just plough straight on. Theres not a lot u can do other than put it on full lock and slow down. A rear drive car is much more fun especially if its got more power than chassis, and then you can start to steer with the throttle!

Last edited by Mal; 3 Mar 2003 at 19:42.
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 20:47 (Ref:523859)   #4
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rear rear rear rear!!

although i'm getting a front wheel drive car, what are the main differences? i drove a fwd peugeot and understeered excessively, is this normal?
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 22:47 (Ref:523992)   #5
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Yes, particularly with large engined hatches (all the weight at the front).

Got to be rear wheel drive for fun, but thats not always desireable on the roads. If you get some idiot behind the wheel then they'll be spinning like a top.
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 23:22 (Ref:524023)   #6
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Theres not a lot u can do other than put it on full lock and slow down
Nope, wrong. Providing you've got space, take the lock off and slow down. The wheels will regain the grip faster, and you can brake with them straight, then you can go round the corner.

Give me rear drive always, more fun and far more control.

Will Hoy put it best: With front drive you have to be very precise on the entry and exit of a corner and a hooligan in the middle. Rear drive is the opposite, so you can be a hooligan twice as often for any given stretch of road.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 06:59 (Ref:524195)   #7
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Nope, wrong. Providing you've got space, take the lock off and slow down. The wheels will regain the grip faster, and you can brake with them straight, then you can go round the corner.
Fine, but in reality on the road where do you have the space? The point is that FWD is not as much fun as RWD
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 07:07 (Ref:524198)   #8
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How can anyone think a FWD car is good? Gotta steer with the rear!
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 07:12 (Ref:524200)   #9
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Fun is relative! Although the driving wheels affects the character of the car there is more to it than that. I have owned mostly rear wheel drive cars for road and competition and I reckon I can drive a RWD pretty well but dare anyone to tell me that a mini or Peugeot 205 is not fun to drive. I have powerful FWD rally car now and I am struggling to drive it. On my first rally i had a few spins and my "friends" told me that it was because I was lifting off mid corner. So next run I nailed the throttle through the corners. the result.. I had 360 at 90mph. The moral.. never listen to your friends.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 07:44 (Ref:524216)   #10
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You can't do circle work with a FWD car......unless you put it in reverse

I've mostly driven FWD cars, not by choice, i've never had a car of my own and most people i know have FWD cars. I've done quite a few laps around Bathurst in my dad's RWD Holden Commodore VT SS though, and give me that any day. I've had a steer of some other RWD cars, and just generally preferred them to FWD cars.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 14:36 (Ref:524557)   #11
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Rear. Or a clever, light 4WD.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 15:38 (Ref:524593)   #12
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Anyone tried the trick of left foot braking on a fwd if it starts to slide on a bend? I've never done this but I'm told that gentle left foot braking while accelerating moderately with the wheel turned in the direction you're trying to go in will pull the car back into shape by slowing the car on its rear brakes to give traction back to the driving wheels. This is supposed to be a good technique when driving on icy roads but I've not had the car long enough (or found a big enough empty car park in the ice) to give it a go.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 16:10 (Ref:524610)   #13
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I've had some nice four wheel drifts in my Focus. In middle bend the car will understeer if the throttle is applied hard, but if it is pushed in smoothly it just tracks right around the corner. Its kind of a wierd sensation. The car is fairly tall and feels like it is leaning way over, but it never lifts a tire off (ala VW Golf) and keeps up its grip even with my factory Firestones (grip/wear rating 300 = hockey pucks) on it.

When our weather gets bad my FWD just motors on. I have had a Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger pickup and they were much more challenging to drive in the wet and snow than my Focus. My Focus handles better than my 1990 CRX Si by a huge margin, even when I had sticky Dunlops on it.

In the last two weeks I have had to drive in the snow and ice for 12 of those days. I have found that if the car loses front traction to let it coast and straighten the wheel up. The tires start rolling instead of sliding and control comes back. The obviously stupid things should be avoided at all costs. Hitting the brakes while on a bridge or changing lanes on a bridge are definitely inviting disaster. I also stop using 1st gear when it gets slick. The car pulls away from 2nd gear no problem and it reduces the torque at the wheel.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 16:12 (Ref:524612)   #14
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gfm should be qualifying in the top 5 on the gridgfm should be qualifying in the top 5 on the grid
Don't do it Paul C. Left foot braking is a total red-herring, unless the car's designed for it and you're on the loose - see comments in racer forum 'left foot braking'. IMHO this is just bar room talk.
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Old 4 Mar 2003, 16:45 (Ref:524635)   #15
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I'm with gfm on that. Leave left foot braking to the pros.

If we're honest here, we'd accept that for most of us (obviously keen but fairly average in terms of driving skill) a FWD is the better bet 'cos it's more predictable below the extremes of its limits and therefore somewhat safer (and probably just as exciting) in our hands.

We all know that a RWD (with traction control switched off!) is more adjustable at/over the limit and ultimately much more fun cos we've seen it on telly, but we also know it needs a more advanced level of skill to achieve that without a 50/50 chance of meeting the scenery backwards.

Most road going 4WD cars are intentionally set up to behave initially like an FWD - call it a level of engineered in safety margin. And again, what we really know is that for most of us the handling limits of an Impreza or Evo are waaaaaay beyond our own and we'll probably never reach that mythical point you read about in the mags where "initial understeer can be easily provoked into a rewarding four wheel drift..."
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