Finding the ideal drive for your car

Finding the ideal drive for your car. Car drives in the snow: four-wheel drive vehicles are suitable for snow-covered roads. (Source: dpa/tmn/Thomas Breitling/ACE Auto Club Europa)

front, rear or all-wheel – which drive is safest? The choice should always be based on the purpose of use and the areas to be covered. It is therefore important to know the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of drive.

Actually, the choice between three alternatives should not be so difficult: but for some car buyers, the choice of drive becomes a philosophical question. andreas zygan’s approach is not particularly philosophical, but pragmatic. When deciding on a drive system, it all depends on the intended use, says the head of SUV development at mercedes-benz. "There is no such thing as "the best drive, he says.

"For regions with many inclines and frequent snowfall, vehicles with all-wheel drive are suitable; for flatter regions, two driven wheels are sufficient", zygan explains.

Tendency to understeer or oversteer

Reinhard buchsdrucker, driving safety trainer at the expert organization dekra, finds it difficult to say which drive type is best. "Front- and rear-wheel drive basically have advantages and disadvantages, as does all-wheel drive.", he says.

A front-wheel drive vehicle pushes over the front wheels when cornering too fast – in other words, it understeers. A rear-wheel drive car is more likely to oversteer in such a situation – it swerves. This can be particularly noticeable on slippery roads.

Thanks to modern ESP control, drivers don’t notice much difference in driving dynamics, says buchsdrucker. However, front-wheel drive cars tend to be easier to handle in such situations than rear-wheel drive cars.

Front-wheel drive offers more space

Another factor is the performance of the car. For high-horsepower engines, manufacturers tend to use rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive, on the other hand, is mostly used because the engine is mounted transversely and thus enables compact, lightweight and inexpensive propulsion. It also creates more space in the passenger compartment.

In buchsdrucker’s opinion, the choice of drive is a matter of usage behavior and price. Front-wheel drive vehicles generally offer more space and are less expensive than comparable rear-wheel drive models. "Again, these are more dynamic in design and are more suited to sportier drivers."

All-wheel drive gives more grip – and more fuel consumption

All-wheel-drive vehicles offer the best traction in bad weather conditions and thus also the most safety. But they cost and consume a little more than cars with two driven wheels.

Hans-joachim kirchvogel of the auto club europa (ACE) answers the drive question as follows: "city drivers are better off with a front-wheel drive car, as it consumes less fuel and is cheaper." power is generated where it is needed: in front.

With trailers, two drives are at an advantage

Car-trailer drivers are better off with rear- or all-wheel drive because the trailer puts more load on the rear axle and provides more traction. All-wheel drive cars are suitable for drivers who have to carry heavy loads and frequently travel on poor roads.

"In winter, car drivers drive more safely with a front-wheel drive", so kirchvogel. Because it is better for a vehicle to be towed than pushed, as happens with rear-wheel drive.

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Norbert funk from the teach and drive training center in lengede (lower saxony) has a clear opinion: "if you don’t mind the higher weight and higher fuel consumption, a four-wheel drive vehicle is the safest way to go", says the driving instructor.

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Christina Cherry
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