Front, rear or all-wheel drive? Which one suits me best?

If you're looking to switch cars, you've probably come across a simple fact: some vehicles are front-wheel drivethe vast majority in fact, while others are from rear wheel drive and some of all wheel drive. What is the difference between them? Would you have to buy a car with two drive axles to be safe? Is propulsion dangerous? Is it impossible to have fun with a front-wheel drive setup?

In this advice we will explain the basic concepts of each of the aforementioned systems and provide the key ideas for optimal use in all of them. However, before entering into the question itself, it is worth clarifying that when talking about “a type of traction”, what we do is discern between the different drive wheels of a vehicle. To refer to these types, we can distinguish between those with a drive axle (2WD), which can be either the previous one or the later one (FWD/RWD(Front/Rear-Wheel-Drive)) and those with two (4WD/AWD).

What is two-wheel drive?

A two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicle is exactly what it sounds like: only two of the car's wheels actually receive power. The other two are essentially for travel, although having four wheels on the ground obviously makes the car much more stable than if there were only three. As we said, most new vehicles come standard with 2WD, although the wheels that receive that power vary depending on what the manufacturer intended the vehicle to do.

Urban, compact, minivans and SUV/crossovers Those that are not intended for off-road use usually have front-wheel drive (FWD). They rotate and accelerate, which may seem like a lot of work. However, a vehicle in this configuration can be lighter than a rear-wheel drive (RWD), and drives better in the snow. But more on that in a moment. Rear-wheel drive, predominant until the mid-1980s, is now generally reserved for sports cars and cutting cars premiumlike big sedans.

Most new passenger cars come standard with FWD because it usually results in a higher fuel efficiency. Rough way, there is less power loss in the driveline, or wasted energy, with a front-wheel drive car because both the engine and drive wheels are close to each other. Additionally, the fact that the engine is pressing the front wheels against the ground helps with traction, especially on slippery surfaces such as snow, sand or mud.

However, don't rule out a rear-wheel drive car. The power sent only to the rear wheels results in more neutral and balanced handling which makes models like a BMW 3 Series more fun to drive than an Opel Insignia. Today's RWD cars are better than ever in inclement weather. This is due in large part to its efficient traction control systems and major advances in tire technology. Even so, it “loses” in grip when it comes to a very slippery surface.

What is all-wheel drive?

Four-wheel drive is a general term for two different types of systems, which sound similar but actually work very differently in practice. A conventional 4WD like the one you see on a “real” off-road vehicle (see a Jeep Wrangler or a Suzuki Jimny), it generally has a 2WD mode for use on dry pavement. Systems on these types of vehicles also typically include an automatic 4WD mode, suitable for use on wet pavement or sandy conditions.

From there, these systems also host a slippery-terrain-only 4WD mode that locks the solidarity axles (meaning the front and rear wheels spin at the same speed), which can cause serious damage to the driveline if They connect on asphalt. They usually add the functionality of a shorter ratio (Low Range) for off-road use at ultra-low speed or to avoid a very pronounced obstacle. Some may do this using a set of mechanical gears, while others opt for electronic sensors.

Now, today an all-wheel drive system that can be connected by the car itself is much more common. Most SUVs and some compact or sedans are offered with an AWD system that works in the background. Typically, power is supplied to the front wheels in these configurations. It is then sent to the rears as needed. This is the technique used by the vast majority of manufacturers, with some honorable exceptions such as Subaru, whose all-wheel drive system remains Always connectedvarying the torque on each wheel.

These systems normally do not require driver intervention. They usually work without problems and silently under the command of a switchboard. From time to time, car manufacturers will offer something like a “4WD lock,” designed to be useful in deep snow. The advantage of this system comes from its simplicity: there is nothing to do but go outside. But, unlike the all-wheel drive systems on hard-core off-roaders, this one is not designed to tow huge amounts of weight or for heavy duty use. off-road really serious.

What is the best system for you?

If you live somewhere sunny and have no intention of going skiing or venturing off an unpaved road, a front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle will probably work well for you. Even then, carefully selected tires rated for winter use will go a long way toward instilling more confidence. Because a car is not safer just because it has four-wheel drive, but also because of its footwear.

Mainly, the choice comes down to the skills of the driver. Anyway, SUVs and pick-ups They sit higher on the ground. This makes them handle worse than the tourism models from which they are derived, with a lower center of gravity and less mass to move. But the most important thing to opt for a four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive vehicle is know under what conditions you are going to circulate with it, but it won't help you stop faster or safer. Oh, and consumption. Having four drive wheels means more energy, so white and bottled.

Most of the population will be fine with either option, with front-wheel drive being the most common, rear-wheel drive reserved for more dynamic vehicles, and full-wheel drive to provide extra mobility and safety in low-adhesion conditions. It is better to reserve a “pure 4×4” model for those who want to go on muddy roads or especially deep snow with some regularity. Otherwise, what you take home is a heavier car, which consumes more fuel and which, on top of that, is more expensive to maintain thanks to the extra components it has.

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