FWD vs. RWD, the Great Debate - Mercedes-Benz Forum

View Poll Results: What is your preffered winter drivetrain?
Rear Wheel Drive 5 45.45%
Front Wheel Drive 1 9.09%
All Wheel Drive 5 45.45%
Four Wheel Drive 0 0%
Voters: 11. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
MGD
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FWD vs. RWD, the Great Debate

Ok, here's the deal. Apparently I offended people in a previous post when making a comment that there is nothing wrong with rear wheel drive vehicles in the snow and that front wheel drive is no better (I'll offer my opinion to this shortly). So in the spirit of Christmas, and any other religious based holiday ( ) I offer this thread to hear everyone's opinion (we are all allowed one) for the sake of people learning more and to help make sound purchasing decisions on chassis configurations for winter driven vehicles. I put a request in to "MythBusters" as I am curious to see what would perform better.


Here's my opinion, based on having driven both during many a winter:

FWD, although having a lot more weight on the drive wheels for good take off loses this advantage to a lack of stability due to the reduction in weight over the rear wheels.

I am a prudent driver in the Winter months but things do happen. In my experience living here in the Great White North I have noticed a few things that make me lean toward RWD as my preferred choice of vehicle for winter.
I have noticed a tendency for the ass end of FWD cars to want to run away on corners that are slick (be it due to black ice...) and in order to recover and avoid spin outs I have always had to "gas and go" to pull them back in line. A point to mention in this instance is that if the breaks are applied in this scenario the outcome is usually not good. The vehicle will begin to decelerate and transfer even more weight to the front wheels giving them more steering traction all the while the rears are being lightened further. Since the front is now being given all this traction while turning the back tires cannot keep up and inevitably continue on pass the fronts via a spin out. Which explains why most vehicles in ditches this time of year are FWD. I for one am not a fan of having to increase speed on precarious roads to save my ass. On the flip side I have found that in my RWD vehicles, when these situations arise, I lay off the gas and along with engine breaking the ass end quaintly pulls back in track behind the front wheels all while my speed is being reduced. This in my opinion is a good way to go.

Another point I have against front wheel drive for the winter is the fact that your driven wheels are also your steering wheels. Traction in snow/ice/slush/sh!t comes at price. If it cost 8$ to steer the car around a corner and 6$ to keep it moving forward and all you've got is 10$ worth of traction something has to give and in FWD that is usually the steering. In a RWD car your steering wheels are never loaded with having to propel the vehicle and therefore generally always offer decent steering traction (this also explains roughly why a RWD car can out maneuver both FWD and AWD vehicles).

At the end of the day, experience, proper tires and safe driving practices generally prevail no matter what the drive train.


Marc
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 07:06 PM
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I used to live in 4 season Poland couple decades ago. At the time the snow chains were not available, cars had no traction, no ABS, no ESP and no lot of other things.
So I was sliding on the snow, ice, slush and lot of other strange things.
My answer is that it all depends. I preferred RWD overall because it gave better acceleration on pounded snow or ice and occasionally I had the fun of taking turns sideways.
But when it comes to fresh, deep powder -the FWD is giving you directional control of the pulling force what is unbeatable advantage.
Sure AWD is the best if available, although I had moments when I wished that 4-Matic had differential blockade. The traction control on those cars has too long delay.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MGD View Post
On the flip side I have found that in my RWD vehicles, when these situations arise, I lay off the gas and along with engine breaking the ass end quaintly pulls back in track behind the front wheels all while my speed is being reduced. This in my opinion is a good way to go.
Sounds like you are talking about dirty roads, not really slippery conditions. On icy snow taking foot of the gas will make you loose the traction.
That is why lot of cars have the option to lock the 1st gear out.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kajtek1 View Post
Sounds like you are talking about dirty roads, not really slippery conditions. On icy snow taking foot of the gas will make you loose the traction.
That is why lot of cars have the option to lock the 1st gear out.
The majority of poor driving conditions in these parts are as you said "dirty". A lot of sloppy snow. As we get mostly larger dumps of snow at a time as opposed to steady constant snow that snowplows can generally keep up with. Here you can end up with a few hours to half the day before roads are cleared again. a good portion of our back roads are usually hard pack, while our highways are salted to death and dry for the most part once they are cleaned.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-11-2010, 08:09 PM
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See -those are the details that makes whole difference. Pounded white snow is actually having good traction. I had no problem to drive on such at 40 mph with no chains.
Than I had a conditions when coming to road curve at 10 mph the car would keep going straight till it hit the snow bank on the shoulder.
I will not even go to the clean ice extreme where locking the wheels was giving less traction than letting the car roll on neutral.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-12-2010, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by MGD View Post
At the end of the day, experience, proper tires and safe driving practices generally prevail no matter what the drive train.


Marc
Well, if you want something that will generally prevail, may I suggest one of these?


Felicita e un bicchiere di vino con un panino.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-12-2010, 09:32 AM Thread Starter
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That thing kicks ass! It's like the old Bombardiers, I used to work on them (well the trail and ski hill groomers)
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-12-2010, 09:37 AM
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Kind of silly that the only thing you discuss is winter conditions traction.

More than anything FWD vs RWD is a packaging thing.

That is, most smaller cars are FWD to preserve interior space. Plus, FWD is cheap.

Most larger cars are RWD to provide better handling balance. Larger car can bear the cost of more expensive drivetrain, too.

Even Caddy--in trying to get itself out of its self-inflicted doldrums--is returning to rear wheel drive.

Might be interesting to compare Swedish cars, i.e. cars in a country where snow happens a lot. SAAB was really the "niche" car and Volvo remained rear wheel drive for a long period, during which it sold more cars for sure. Volvo has since gone the cheap route.

Also interesting is the notion that FWD may be an "excuse" for not running winter tires. Still, your FWD car will be better on winter tires, and of course so will your RWD car. Best of all is 4WD with winter tires, of course, and if FWD appears a "cheap" alternative, well "cheap" isn't really often associated with "best," now is it?

Kent Christensen
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-12-2010, 01:26 PM
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Why are you saying FWD is cheap? It save some weight by eliminating long driveshaft and gives extra cargo space, but than designing and building drivetrain that will fit and work all under the hood plus adding expensive CV joints is very likely more expensive.
Than for really deep powder IMHO nothing beats screw drive vehicles.


Last edited by Kajtek1; 12-12-2010 at 01:29 PM.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-12-2010, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lkchris View Post
Kind of silly that the only thing you discuss is winter conditions traction.

More than anything FWD vs RWD is a packaging thing.
The purpose of the thread was to be a dump zone for discussions that pulled another thread in the W208 section off course. This is the reason why it was winter traction based, I am open to all traction conditions though.

I would assume that most drivers when driving on dry pavement do not get to appreciate the limitations of their specific drive trains as easily as they would during typical winter driving conditions which can push the vehicle above and beyond this point at even, say, 20KM/h.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lkchris View Post
...most smaller cars are FWD to preserve interior space. Plus, FWD is cheap.

Most larger cars are RWD to provide better handling balance. Larger car can bear the cost of more expensive drivetrain, too.

Even Caddy--in trying to get itself out of its self-inflicted doldrums--is returning to rear wheel drive.
This is part of the reason for my argument, I feel that a lot of people have the mentality that FWD is the only way to go for winter because of auto maker marketing making it appear that way while having a hidden agenda to push a drive train that was cheaper to build saving themselves a buck (auto makers). Not saying that FWD doesn't have it's benefits, just saying not to jump the gun thinking that you are safer in this D/T while it's design has inherit characteristics that can be just as fatal in these conditions as any other D/T. People in general do not seem to understand that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lkchris View Post
Might be interesting to compare Swedish cars, i.e. cars in a country where snow happens a lot. SAAB was really the "niche" car and Volvo remained rear wheel drive for a long period, during which it sold more cars for sure. Volvo has since gone the cheap route.
I would like to see the old Dodge Daytona FWD go head to head with the same Dodge Daytona that was RWD under various conditions. If memory serves me right the body and chassis were identical between the two D/T.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lkchris View Post
Also interesting is the notion that FWD may be an "excuse" for not running winter tires. Still, your FWD car will be better on winter tires, and of course so will your RWD car. Best of all is 4WD with winter tires, of course, and if FWD appears a "cheap" alternative, well "cheap" isn't really often associated with "best," now is it?

I see this a lot on SUVs and trucks, summers or all seasons because of the false sense of security that if I can propel forward with great ease it must be able to stop just as easily...
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