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FWD, AWD, RWD and the Luxury Performance Sedans



  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I drive a 2001 911/996 C4 and have driven it on the track at Daytona and I cannot say, truly, that I wouldn't have rather had a RWD to push harder.
  • jimbresjimbres Posts: 2,025
    I wouldn't dispute the benefits of AWD on a snowy road. But your post #26, to which my remarks were intended as a response, made no mention of snow or ice. Not surprisingly, I interpreted your post to mean that this mysterious & sinister "tail wagging" could occur at any time - even on a hot summer day. In your subsequent post, you make a more narrowly drawn & thus much less controversial claim: given certain specific road & weather conditions, AWD is safer than the alternatives. If that's the point you wanted to make, I wouldn't argue with you. (Certainly, I'm not crazy enough to drive an SP-equipped RWD BMW shod with "summer" tires under those conditions.)
  • The general driving public is the driver I mostly refer to when I present some of the reasons for one to consider AWD, FWD or RWD. What may or may not happen on a track is NOT irrelevant -- it is, however, for the vast majority of folks, infrequently where they find themselves driving their personal vehicles.

    Benign is a good word to use to describe the reaction to driver inputs. Car manufacturers have, for years, come to the conclusion that understeer is a good thing, i.e., it is primarily a benign trait (at least modest understeer, I would not urge any manufacturer to continue to increase the amount of understeer using the premise "if a little understeer is good, more must be better".)

    Yet, a little understeer IS good for most drivers on our Interstates, Primary, Secondary and even Residential highways, roads and streets. A "little" understeer is considered by folks who get paid to opine about such things the MOST benign, i.e.

    FWD besides its many packaging, weight and cost saving attributes offers (or usually offers) improved control for the driver under public driving conditions and under most conditions ranging from dry pavement to slick pavement.

    I am not suggesting, however, that it is a wise choice for the high or highest performing vehicles. That can be another discussion another time, i.e.

    A synthesis of what I assume we MAY both agree with follows:

    For average drivers (on the public roads), FWD will either appear to be superior, or for practical purposes will be superior and FWD more often than not will have certain advantages in poor weather.

    However, therefore, notwithstanding, a well set up RWD car with a trained driver is extremely capable in poor conditions when "set up" properly.

    If we can agree that the above generalizations do apply to the majority of non-professional drivers, then, hopefully my point has been clarified.

    By the same token, AWD offers (or can) even higher levels of control and -- as it continues to be demonstrated (in the highest performing and luxury performance classes) -- performance.

    I will so stipulate that I am not discussing some of the many FWD vehicles that have had RWD bolted onto them, but continue to behave 95% of the time as FWD vehicles.

    I favor Proactive AWD, Rear biased AWD and AWD "systems" that marry mechanicals and electronics -- stability control systems, e.g. Nothing less than a 50 50 split will pass muster -- and in an ideal world, the vehicle under scrutiny will be well weight balanced F/R and have at least a slight R/F torque bias.

    Overall, I am suggesting that the average driver under average conditions, driven at under 80% or 90% of the "performance limits" of the vehicle will find the greatest ease of achieving both control and performance first with AWD, then FWD followed by RWD.

    We could continue to debate -- and substantiate with many anecdotes and many articles (some biased some more-or-less objective) -- what is best for "racing" or driving over 9/10th's.

    We could discuss the market penetration and number of models being sold (in several markets, not limited to one or two) that either offer as standard equipment or as an option AWD. We could further attempt to differentiate and discriminate between performance and utilitarian classes.

    We could look at the "exotics" and the cars made of unobtanium over the years and see the trend in terms of end driven and number of wheels driven, etc.

    We could look at the hold outs, the purist marquis over a 10, 20 or 30 year period and note the trends in adoption of AWD.

    AWD's penetration across the board (some great applications some not at all great) continues and continues to accelerate. Not too many years ago, my Bimmer-centric friends would have been in near total denial that their beloved RWD BMW's would ever be offered with AWD.

    The upcoming 7 series will nearly complete the transition from nearly none (can be had with AWD) to nearly all (can be had with AWD.)

    The largest BMW dealer in Ohio (which may or may not be significant or statistically important, I don't know) claims that ~40% of the inventory sold is AWD -- and that is inventory constrained, NOT demand constrained.

    The practical superiority and "benign" nature of AWD is virtually self-evident.

    Please note the word before "superiority."

    At this point, debating 2WD vs. AWD beyond its practical and widespread application for the general driving public was never my intention.

    I know virtually no driver who EVER drives on the track at Daytona or anywhere else on the track for that matter -- the parking lot full of cars at my office, however, tells the tale. There are almost NO RWD vehicles, a few FWD vehicles and at least 50% AWD vehicles.

    Granted this is an anecdote, granted we live in Ohio which does have "moderate" (modest) winter weather and precip, but this does appear to be a trend, a Mega-trend in drive lines. AWD from several aspects (including consumer demand) is superior and most desirable. :shades:
  • ". . .the popularity of SUVs in the 1990s is now driving growth in the high-end features in car-based products as some buyers migrate from SUVs to smaller vehicles. All-wheel drive is becoming a more important factor in consumer purchase decisions.

    Ford customer research and independent analysis shows that 73 percent of current midsize SUV owners want AWD or four-wheel drive (4WD) in their next vehicle. Additionally, 20 percent of full-size car owners want AWD in their next vehicle. And interestingly, in the large car sample, less than one percent of the owners currently have AWD.

    The trend is stronger in the luxury market where 18 percent of luxury car owners currently have AWD, but nearly 50 percent say they want it in their next car.

    In 2003, AWD or 4WD vehicles accounted for 25 percent of the market. It is estimated that number could double to 50 percent of the market by 2012."

    From "media" press release.

    Again, this indicates the trend is for AWD. This indicates the "popularity" and increase in demand for AWD.

    VHS was also more popular as measured by "demand" than Beta.

    That I happen to think the pros of AWD outweigh its cons . . . is really beside the point.

    AWD is succeeding in the world of "moichendizing" (Mel Brooks, pronunciation.)
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I think we are in full agreement, for average drivers (95% of the population) on average roadbed conditions FWD will be the most optimal selection.

    However I think this particular discussion started out being pertaining to driving on adverse roadbed conditions.

    So, first, tell me what advantage AWD or even a 4WD/4X4 has in these roadbed/highway conditions other than often developing a high level of false, over-confidence, by exhibiting the ease of getting you up and going initially.

    When things get dicey I want the front tire contact patch dedicated to lateral/directional control and absent a clutch pedal I NEVER want any level of engine compression braking on the front contact patch.

    Yes, the trend is certainly and clearly toward AWD, but regretably absent driver education we will continue to see those potentially dangerous, unsafe, and even hazardous front torque biased AWD systems predominate in the marketplace.

    But look at the RDX, GS300, and 4runner AWD systems and you will see yet another trend. AWD systems that dynamically allocate and/or reallocate engine drive or braking torque according to vehicle and roadbed conditions.

    Basically all of these quickly remove engine drive/braking torque from the front contact patches when conditions warrant.
  • Ah yes, the three "E's" -- in order -- must come into play:

    Education, Engineering and Enforcement.






    I do not disagree that AWD can offer a false sense of security as AWD vehicles can brake (or not) no better than 2WD vehicles (regardless of road conditions.)

    I also agree that under lowered coefficients of friction that since the AWD car can often "step off" (due to having 4 contact patches with which to place the power down on the road) with aplomb the hapless (and poorly educated) driver may well assume "stopping distances" will also be improved as a result of my new found invulnerability due to 4 driven wheels rather than 2.

    Na baby na! We know it ain't so. But we, apparently, have some additional education and/or experience that allows us to both appreciate the extra control to "get going" that AWD can offer yet not become over-confident that that somehow translates to shorter stopping distances (which it cannot.)

    As we move to cars that have ever higher levels of electronics and traction assists (and are in the majority all wheels driven), it would seem that ever higher levels of education will be required to help us "tame" these cars with their "normal" stopping capabilities.

    Where can I "vote" for additional skills, education and certifications to drive these new vehicles on ever more crowded streets and highways? Apparently the same place I can vote to make "passing on the right" a high-crime -- and that would be, "not here, not anywhere in the US."

    Overall, though, I would think the driving population would have more control (at least in getting going) were all cars equipped with rear biased AWD, ESP (stability programs) and all of the features that accompany these stability programs (ABS and brake assist and so on) rather than to soldier on with 2WD vehicles.

    I would think, too, that this increased control could translate into an overall safer motoring experience.

    The time is, apparently, coming when we may be able to test this notion for accuracy.

    Mean time -- lobby long, lobby loud for higher licensing standards for all drivers. And for pity's sake don't pass on the right and don't tread across my nice clean kitchen floor with your dirty muck-lucks and turn the light out in the garage when you come in and don't stand in front of the open refrigerator door for 15 minutes while you decide you'll have a Coke.

    Your mother and I are starting to worry.

    - Dad :shades:
  • jimbresjimbres Posts: 2,025
    That I happen to think the pros of AWD outweigh its cons . . . is really beside the point.

    AWD is succeeding in the world of "moichendizing" (Mel Brooks, pronunciation.)

    Which is precisely the point that I've tried to make. When a customer can add AWD at the point of sale for no more than the cost of a stereo upgrade or navigation system, then the war is over & it's time to find something else to pick over. (Leasing vs. buying? XM vs. Sirius? Gas vs. charcoal? Pinot noir vs. zinfandel?) The technicalities no longer matter.
  • And the point I do believe has been well made by many.

    Moreover, the customer has spoken and continues to vote with his/her money: many want AWD and many more are queuing up for it "next time."

    We may -- not saying that we would -- may argue the point til forever (the point is one superior to another). It really matters not what WE argue or agree upon.

    The customer perceives a value (about $1500 to $2000) for AWD.

    If 'twern't worth a damn, customers would be reluctant to pay anything for it. It adds "value" -- perceived or real, it matters not. Perception is reality.

    Although, I remain resolute that I continue on "the voyage of the acolyte" in terms of AWD and Dr. Piech.

    But that's jus' me. :shades:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Driving simulators along the line of those used for flight training. Obviously the technology is available all we need is a way to force the automotive insurance industry to fund their development.

    Don't just teach new beginning drivers how drive, teach them how to correctly react in any and all threatening
    common driving conditions. Don't license drivers unless they know, not just how to drive, but how to survive.

    Since they are regulated perhaps an increase on their allowable ROI for each 5% reduction in injury accidents.....??

    But the automotive industry would probably spend billions opposing such a breakthrough since such an educated driver would NEVER purchase a FWD or front torque biased AWD.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,623
    I purchased an '06 300 xi and had the opportunity to drive a '06 330i laoner with non-SP option for around 1,000 miles while my car was in the shop in March.

    I know the SP that is in my car does not have any suspension tuning for performance but I know I could out-handle the 330i because of this experience. Most affecianados do not agree from other posts in response to my claim but I wondered if anyone else experienced this out there. I assume the xdrive suspension has it's own tuning but let's get dome additional feedback.
  • bdkinnhbdkinnh Posts: 292
    I know the SP that is in my car does not have any suspension tuning for performance but I know I could out-handle the 330i because of this experience.

    I guess it all depends on how you define out-handle ;)
  • mnrep2mnrep2 Posts: 200
    I did not discover this article, but found it in another post. =10

    Basically, the AWD was faster than it's RWD only twin, in both dry and wet. Having driven an 05 G35x for the last 40K miles, I agree. This car offers room for 4 adults, rwd biased sports car like handling, and awd when you need it. :shades:
  • can not wait for road & track to do the same test for, bmw 335i vs 335xi sedans.
    just purchsed the xi, thinking (& hoping) bmw should get the same results.
    even if not, i'm totaly happy with my choice.

    hey mnrep2, seen the new g37? i like! :shades:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I wouldn't be so quick to judge based on those tests.

    Just as many high power FWD vehicles MUST electronically limit engine torque on the low end or risk numerous accidents due to loss of directional control, so must, might, many high power RWD vehicles.

    The fact that VDC, yaw control, was switched off doesn't necessarily mean that traction control engine management was.

    Not by any means concluding that R/AWD wouldn't outperform a RWD vehicle, all other things being equal, just being my usual suspecious self.

    Absent wheelspin/slip on the RWD vehicle, or Trac derating of the engine, the results make no sense.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706

    Now I see, re-read the article...

    "hanging the tail out...."

    There WAS wheelspin, loss of traction, involved...

    Ignore my previous post.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "hanging the tail out" does not necessarily mean loss of traction. Done correctly it's called powered oversteer and is a very effective way of tossing a car around a race track.

    Best Regards,
  • mnrep2mnrep2 Posts: 200
    Yea, Yea I saw the 07. It is obviously slicker than my 05X. But I still love my car, it is paid for so I'm in no rush to trade-up :shades:

    I just found that article very interesting about the fact that the AWD version was quicker in both wet and dry... Something I have felt about AWD vs. RWD all along.
  • me too! :)

    guess we won't be seeing each other in our RS6"s :cry:

    safe, fun & what you can afford, all wheel driving. :blush:
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..Done correctly..."

    It's simply INTENTIONAL loss of traction...!

    With pwered overstear the rear wheels will not move sideways absent so much DRIVE power being applied that there is not enough traction left for lateral "stability".
  • does any body understand why audi quattro, is banned from all racing circuits, except the few that they are still winning ( like the last 5 yrs american 24hr lemans & this years french lemans but know banned too)?
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    It's only a matter of time when RWD will be history.

    You know, just when I thought we had almost agreed that RWD vs. AWD has a lot of subjective preference aspects to it, you make a (dumb [non-permissible content removed]) absolute statement like that. :confuse:

    Let me point out that the Nissan GT-R is a two seat so-called sports car that weighs a smidgeon under TWO TONS. It is a boatload closer in weight to our old Isuzu Trooper (only 500 lbs less) than it is to my former Honda S2000 (1,100 lbs more) or even a 911S (750 lbs more). Imagine a 900 pound male African Cape Buffalo in the passenger seat of a Ferrari 430 and that's what the GT-R is in weight.

    Let me also point out that Nissan is jumping up and down and Edmunds reviewers are drooling on their keyboards typing up reviews becasue the AWD GT-R posted a time that is supposedly a whopping 2 seconds faster around a 14 mile track than the AWD 911 Turbo. But they forget to mention that the GT-R is a second slower than the considerably less powerful RWD 911 GT3 and is a full seven seconds behind the new 911 GT2. Which is, essentially a lighter weight, sportier RWD version of the AWD 911 Turbo. Oops, forgot to mention that, Nissan and Edmunds.

    The Nissan GT-R proves nothing in my book. On paper, the 350Z performs neck and neck with the Honda S2000 and Boxster S. But it is also 400-500 lbs heavier than either and behind the wheel, feels like a bloated pig in comparison. Am I capable of posting an 8:40 time around The Ring or telling the difference between 1,2 or even 7 seconds in ultimate capability? Heck no. But I sure as hell can tell when I've got a Cape Buffalo in my passenger seat.

    So let's get back to some restrained diplomacy, shall we? I know YOU like the added security and traction of AWD and prefer it in all driving conditions. But if we EVER get to the point where the standard weight for a 2 seat sports car is TWO TONS, I want out.

    And, by the way, Happy New Year. Our automotive differences do not deter me in the least from wishing you and your family the very best in 2008. :)
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,623
    Habitat, I am not trying to prove anything by my absolute statements. The weight is the diminishing factor in this technology, no doubt. I assume that will be solved ultimately anyway. I, as you, can not take a GT3 around the 'ring at 10/10ths either.

    The point is that AWD is blossoming and rwd is waning. Which is better to YOU is understood and highly respected. I would assume RWD will be limited in scope in the next 20 years as the golf analogy you wittingly submitted shows the 18th green final put 1/10,000 of a millimeter closer to the cup.

    There is no argument to the superiority of RWD in the sporting sense and ditto with an MT. Pushed to the limit (unwittingly), however, takes years of training but add bad weather and an untrained driving public and it is a recipe for additional road fatalities (which are showing a positive downward trend no doubt due to the technology improvements).

    I wish you and yours much health, prosperity and happiness in the New Year as well. I do so enjoy and respect all of your phenomenal knowledge put forth in these forums.

    Now let me put my mind to decreasing the result of my Male African Cape Buffalo-like my holiday feasting! I do not want to add insult to injury in my already over-bloated 330xi.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "The point is that AWD is blossoming and rwd is waning."

    Hmmm, I beg to differ. While I don't have the numbers handy, there have been so many new RWD cars marketed here in the U.S. in the half decade or so that are either replacements of previous FWD models (think 300M to 300C for instance) or entirely new models from companies that previously did almost all FWD (think Lexus IS and Infiniti G and M for instance), that if anything, RWD is blossoming right along side of AWD. The only drive system that seems to be suffering in the moderate to high end market is FWD.

    Best Regards,
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,623
    ...that if anything, RWD is blossoming right along side of AWD. The only drive system that seems to be suffering in the moderate to high end market is FWD.

    Shipo, 30 years ago, there were no all-wheel drive US made cars. Now the 300C has an AWD option, as does the CTS, Ford 500, MXZ, STS, Montego, Sebring, Charger, Magnum, Avenger, etc. I won't even go global because of the advancement proliferated long ago, particularly in Europe.

    My point is AWD is not going away and the desire is there in the market which is on the rise. 1978 saw the first US consumer application of FWD. FWD is slowly going away and I predict the same will happen to RWD in the average consumer models. Your point is true regarding the increase in RWD models as FWD dies out...I just think the mass market will choose AWD as time goes by.

    Happy New Year and best wishes to you and your family.

  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Wow, this sounds a lot like the "death of the manual transmission" predicions over in that other forum.

    Let's review. AWD costs, on the average $2,000 more than RWD (my guess - about that on a 3 series, $5,800 on a 911, less on others). It adds anywhere from 150 to 250+ pounds to the vehicle's weight. It dulls the handling, steering and overall dry weather performance of the more sporting versions of some cars. It doubles the number of moving drivetrain parts, increases maintenance costs, increases the potential for costly repairs. It decreases fuel economy at a time when CAFE standards have been raised.

    There is no doubt that some buyers strongly prefer the foul weather advantages of AWD. But if it was such a foregone conclusion that it will become the preferred choice, why the heck hasn't that happened with the Mercedes E class. The relative cost is low, given the price of the car. These aren't the most performance oriented sport sedans to begin with. The Mercedes 4-matic has been available on the E-class for at least 16+ years (a co-worker had a 1991 300E Sedan 4-matic). And yet, on the E-class, I believe the percentage of AWD to RWD sales is less than 25% and has remained relatively stable for the past several years. For other Mercedes models, the 4-matic option is even less popular.

    I actually heard a different prediction the other day on CNBC or Bloomberg business News (forget which). It was that we may end up seeing passenger vehicles go on a serious diet to get the weights down to help improve fuel efficiency to meet CAFE requirements. They pointed out that the average small to mid size car has gone from 2,400 lbs to nearly 3,400 lbs in the past 25 years. That does not bode well for AWD in areas that do not have enough snow to justify the additional weight and fuel penalty.

    P.S. Washington DC has a 6% sales tax on vehicles under 3,500 lbs and a 7% tax on vehicles over 3,500 lbs. At one time, it was jokingly called the "SUV penalty". Now a BMW 3 series can get hit with it.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,623
    OK, remember, first, it's just a personal prediction. 2nd, ALL cars (especially mine) need to go on a weight watcher's campaign as you duly noted.

    Heck, the new base CTS is 3,500 lbs. with the 210 HP V-6 RWD. I know the AWD adds weight. So does all the air bags and gizmo options, sound insulation, etc.

    Let's see how they can reduce weight and add fuel efficiency...a 3-series with TT engine gets in the 20's at the 3,600 lb. mark with 300/300 power. Even your C2S gets economy-car efficiency equal to rust buckets of the '80's that weighed 2,400 lbs.

    Hopefully the metals technology can help.

  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    Let's have some refreshments and continue this conversation here in the drawing room where we've all been herded. Help yourself to what's on the table over there in the corner. Enjoy! ;)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Even your C2S gets economy-car efficiency equal to rust buckets of the '80's that weighed 2,400 lbs.

    Only according to the EPA sticker (18/25 in 2005). In reality, I can get 26-27 on the highway, but only average 13 +/- around town.

    Comparing my 3,000 lb Maxima SE (rated 22/27) and my 3,400+ lb Acura TL 6-speed (20/29), the TL also gets much worse around town (16 vs. 20+) when you have to start and stop that extra weight.

    And lastly, remember the old Civic CRX (?) from the early 1980's. They were small, but a buddy got one and I distinctly remember driving with him on a 350 mile trip and filling up with a hair over 6 gallons gallons at the end. He routinely got over 50 mpg on the highway in that car, better than today's hybrid Prius.

    I'm not advocating that we dump all of the safety and structural improvements of todays cars for the sake of getting a few more MPG. But, just like I'm personally feeling right now, carrying an extra 10% more weight on my frame doesn't help my performance. Back to hitting the pavement and gym after the holidays.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,623
    Back to hitting the pavement and gym after the holidays.

    I am with you! I am a little surprised at your city number on your C2S. I would have guessed 16-18.

    It is interesting that car companies have not conquered the added weight issue considering the new tech metals available vs. 30 years ago. At least the rust issue seems a success.

    If you look at the difference in the 3 and 1 series regarding weight, there is not much difference and there should be.

    The new M3 weighs in at 3,648 lbs.

    There is a lot of work to be done to get to my magic 3,000 lb. limit. Perhaps after the HorsePowerWars, we can start the WeightWatchersWars!

    Regards and Happy New Year!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    It should be:


    F/AWD for front torque biased AWD or AWD derived from a FWD based chasis.

    R/AWD for rear torque biased AWD or 4WD/4X4.

    What I see in the marketplace is more and more RWD vehicles being introduced and more and more FWD being "converted" to F/AWD to avoid the stigma now being (slowly) assigned by the buying public due to the patently UNSAFE nature of these BEASTS.

    No 4WD/4X4 driver with any level of experience whatsoever would dare leave the center diff'l locked once underway "at speed" on a snow or ice covered roadway. But basically that's what a FWD or F/AWD is, a 4WD/4X4 vehicle traveling down the ice or snow covered hwy with the center diff'l locked.

    The ideal drive system IMMHO would be one that provides equal torque to all four, or maybe even is a bit front torque biased, as long as directional control is not threatened nor directional control is being imposed by the driver. In that case the front torque biasing should be reduced incrementally as the lateral forces build.

    It looks to me as if the 4runner's (R)/AWD mode does exactly that.

    I wish the RX350 did the same.

    But I would willingly accept an RX with the SH-AWD (F/R/AWD..??) system.
This discussion has been closed.