Rearward, March Debunking the myth of front-wheel-drive superiority
(MONEY Magazine) – There are no front-drive race cars. Or genuine sports cars. That's because rear-wheel drive has always produced superior handling, period.
And it's why U.S. automakers are switching larger and performance models back to rear drive, the way makers like BMW have always done it.
The idea that front drive is better is a myth many automakers have shoveled for decades. The industry's switch to front drive throughout the '80s was never really about driver control. Instead, front drive helped carve out extra interior space. That's one reason it continues to make perfect sense for small cars or family cars.
Front drive does provide good traction in sloppy conditions. But it also creates a nose-heavy, unbalanced car. Worse, you're asking two small patches of rubber to simultaneously steer and power the vehicle. Too much power or steering input can overwhelm the front tires, producing what's known as torque steer: the steering wheel squirming in your hands, the nose darting about.
Now, for anyone suffering flashbacks to '70s Camaros spinning or getting stuck in snow, know that 21st-century tires, suspensions and electronic stability systems make today's rear-drive models vastly more resistant to fishtailing. Hustled along perilous roads in the subalpine forests of California's San Jacinto range, the 300 and Magnum never spun a tire. Nor could they be provoked into an out-of-control slide--even with the stability control switched off. And for any Northerner who's not convinced, both models will offer all-wheel-drive options in the fall. --L.U.