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Randy Pobst On the Goods and the Bads of RWD, FWD, and AWD

Back in the old days, RWD was the norm for passenger cars while 4WD was the standard for military vehicles. But with the advent of the Citroen Traction Avant (1934) and the Jeep CJ Series (1944), rear-wheel-drive steadily became yesterday’s news.
FWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing Line 8 photos
FWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing LineFWD vs RWD vs AWD: Know How to Handle Your Junk! - The Racing Line
In the 21st century, RWD is a layout that’s usually reserved for pickup trucks and, of course, go-faster machines. But in an era in which the fastest production car on the planet is all-wheel-driven (Bugatti Chiron) and the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S claims the FWD lap record on the Nurburgring, which is the best layout? The thing is, there’s no clear answer to that, I’m afraid.

In his latest episode of The Racing Line, racing driver extraordinaire Randy Pobst makes it clear that RWD, FWD, and AWD each has its strong points, as well as not-so-strong points. In the case of rear-wheel-drive, Randy explains that RWD isn’t all power oversteer. Case in point: if the driver forgets to rev match during a downshift, the rear axle will lock, generating a big, big spin.

For front-wheel-drive cars such as the Ford Focus ST, downshifting is a lot easier than in a rear-wheel-drive machine such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Although safe and easy to tame, there’s a big problem with FWD. That, dearest reader, is the fact the front wheels have to grip, steer, brake, do every job a pair of wheels can do. So yes, a FWD car isn’t good at multitasking.

But what about all-wheel-drive? Is it any good? If you want to go off the beaten track, then yes, 4x4 is good. If you want to go rallying, AWD is recommended. If you want to build a quarter-mile monster, then yes, a badass brawler such as the Nissan GT-R is a great building block. Even though it adds stability during cornering and traction under power, all-wheel-drive also adds weight and complexity. On top of that, an all-wheel-driven passenger car should be apexed later than a front- or rear-wheel-drive car.

For more goods and bads on RWD, FWD, and AWD, press play and enjoy.

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