October 31, 2003

Rear Wheel Drive

Category: Automobiles :: Permalink

In a radical departure from my usual blogging, I am now going to blog about cars. I happen to own a Chrysler Cirrus and, since I bought it new, I receive Chrysler’s Strada magazine. The latest issue contains an article on the new Chrysler 300C which comes with an interesting new (old?) feature: rear-wheel drive.

“Rear-wheel drive?” you say. “But I thought rear-wheel drive turned out to be a bad idea, not nearly as safe on roads as front-wheel drive, especially in slippery conditions!”

Well, Strada expected that response and included a little apologia for rear-wheel drive. True, they say, front-wheel drive does make things more compact and leave more room for occupants. But that’s only an obvious advantage in a compact car, and the 300C is a “well designed full-size car.”

True, having the weight of the engine and transmission over the driving wheels does mean that you get improved traction, especially in snow. But if you drive and steer with the same wheels, your car has a “front weight bias” (up to 60% of the vehicle’s weight is in the front). Furthermore, you get “torque steer, the sensation that the steering wheel is being jerked out of your hands when applying the throttle while the wheels are not in a straight ahead position.”

With rear-wheel drive, there is no torque steer, since the front wheels just steer. What you get with rear-wheel drive, then, is “more precise handling.” As for traction with the weight on the rear wheels instead of the front, “innovations like improved tire technology, electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes have virtually eliminated the problem. The innovations, more than anything else, have paved the way of rear-wheel drive’s return with the stunning 300C.”

Posted by John Barach @ 5:52 pm | Discuss (0)

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