What is Front Wheel Drive (FWD) in cars?
Front wheel drive layout is an arrangement of engine and transmission in which the engine drives only the front wheels of the vehicle. These vehicles are also known as FWD vehicles. In addition, some people refer to these vehicles as 4X2 cars.
Technically, the term 4X2 means the following:
4: The number of axle-ends on a vehicle (2 at front + 2 at rear)
2: Number of wheels that directly receive power from the engine (The front two wheels)
A quick look at the history of the auto-world shows that front wheel drive cars were developed mainly because of the fuel economy concerns. The mileage of these vehicles is better compared to four-wheel drive vehicles because of the reduced number of driven wheels.
The above diagram depicts a typical FWD arrangement with the transversely mounted engine. In these vehicles, the engine occupies space near the front axle. It later mates to transmission or the ‘transaxle’. This is because of the fact that it combines the functions of transmission, driveshaft, and differential. Thus, with the help of transaxle, the engine supplies power only to the front wheels of the vehicle.
Possible configurations in FWD layout:
Depending upon the position of powerpack i.e. engine and transmission, FWD vehicles can have the following arrangements:
- Longitudinally mounted engine with front wheel drive
- Transversely mounted engine with front wheel drive
- Mid-mounted engine with front wheel drive
Front wheel drive advantages:
- FWD cars have better traction while moving on the slippery roads like snow-covered roads because the engine is mounted above or near the front axle.
- These vehicles have compact design as the entire power-pack fits at the front of the vehicle.
- Due to the absence of the propeller shaft and transmission tunnel, these cars have more interior space.
- Light-weight transmission reduces the curb weight of the vehicle.
- As the front wheels of these vehicles receive engine power, they ‘pull’ the vehicle instead of a ‘push’ from the rear. Thus, passengers feel more stability in these vehicles.
Disadvantages of front wheel drive cars:
- Tire wear on these vehicles is uneven. Front tyres wear out faster compared to rear tires because of uneven weight distribution.
- While driving on roads with high slopes or during sudden acceleration, front wheels may experience loss of grip due to weight shift.
Front wheel drive cars in India:
The following are some of the FWD vehicles available in India: