Why Rear-Wheel Drive Is Pretty Much Dead

Before auto gearboxes and turbos take over, we'll probably be kissing goodbye to RWD...

By Ollie Kew, 26 April 2013

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Like drifting? Want a car with that perfect 50:50 weight distribution? Promised yourself something rear-drive after years of front-drive hatches? You'd better be seriously quick, because all the evidence is pointing to rear-wheel drive being on its last legs. Forget the death of manual gearboxes - RWD is on its way out first. Here's why.

1. Rear-drive can't get any faster

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Cars now are way more powerful than rear-drive can deal with. That's why a 424bhp Audi R8 S-tronic would beast a 616bhp McLaren 12C off the line. A Nissan GT-R will destroy a Koenigsegg or Hennessey Venom with double the power for usable real-world pace. Everyone demands progress, and cars are launching faster, whether you're a customer, marketer, or just a fan of Top Trumps. Even with launch control and dual-clutch, there's only so much you can do to get a RWD missile off the line.

It's why Mercedes is turning to 4MATIC AWD to make the 580bhp E63 and CLS63 AMG manageable, even usable, on the road. And as a result, it'll do 62mph in 3.6sec. Forget BMW M5s - even a Noble M600 wouldn't see which way the Merc went.

2. The last bastions of RWD are throwing in the towel

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AMG is going AWD for the A45, CLA45, and next C, E, CLS and S-class. BMW's 'Ultimate Driving Machines' are slowly moving to xDrive, starting with the X5/X6 M, then the M135i, etc...

Even Ferrari has gone for all-wheel drive. Has that hurt the FF? Nope. It's selling scarily well for a machine with Marmite styling and a crackers quarter-million price-tag.

3. 4x4 means easy hybrid sports cars

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Want tomorrow's sporty cars to be quicker and more eco-friendly? Simple, add electric gubbins. That's what most car-makers are thinking. Take the new Honda NSX: petrol V6 driving the rear, and adaptive electric motors spinning the fronts. That template can be flipped for AWD hot hatches, new Scoobies and Evos, and even tomorrow's 458-successor.

4. We're the only ones that care

Petrolheads are a noisy minority. Fact is, most folk haven't got a bloody clue which wheels push or pull their car along. As these shameful images remind us.

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RWD. Get it while it's hot...

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