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Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

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Encyclopedia
Front-wheel drive is a form of engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

/transmission
Transmission (mechanics)
A machine consists of a power source and a power transmission system, which provides controlled application of the power. Merriam-Webster defines transmission as: an assembly of parts including the speed-changing gears and the propeller shaft by which the power is transmitted from an engine to a...

 layout used in motor vehicle
Motor vehicle
A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid...

s, where the engine drives the front wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

s only. Most modern front-wheel drive vehicles feature a transverse engine
Transverse engine
A transverse engine is an engine mounted in a vehicle so that the engine's crankshaft axis is perpendicular to the long axis of the vehicle. Many modern front wheel drive vehicles use this engine mounting configuration...

, rather than the conventional longitudinal engine
Longitudinal engine
In automotive engineering, a longitudinal engine is an internal combustion engine in which the crankshaft is oriented along the long axis of the vehicle, front to back....

 arrangement generally found in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive, 4WD, or 4×4 is a four-wheeled vehicle with a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive torque from the engine simultaneously...

 vehicles.

Front-wheel drive arrangements


Most FWD layouts are front-engined. Historically they fall into three categories:
  • Front-engine transversely-mounted/ Front-wheel drive
  • Front-engine longitudinally-mounted/ Front-wheel drive
  • Front Mid-engine/ Front-wheel drive

Prior to 1900


Experiments with front-wheel drive cars date to the early days of the automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

. According to various sources, sometime between 1895 and 1898 Gräf & Stift
Gräf & Stift
Gräf & Stift was an Austrian manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, buses and trolleybuses, from 1902 until 2001, latterly as a subsidiary of MAN. Founded in 1902 by the brothers Franz, Heinrich and Karl Gräf, and the investor, Wilhelm Stift...

 built a voiturette
Voiturette
Voiturette is a word mostly used to describe a miniature automobile; however, it has several nuanced meanings, depending largely on the usage date.-History:...

with a one-cylinder De Dion-Bouton
De Dion-Bouton
De Dion-Bouton was a French automobile manufacturer and railcar manufacturer operating from 1883 to 1932. The company was founded by the Marquis Jules-Albert de Dion, Georges Bouton and his brother-in-law Charles Trépardoux....

 engine fitted in the front of the vehicle, powering the front axle
Axle
An axle is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to its surroundings, with the wheels rotating around the axle. In the former case, bearings or bushings are provided at the mounting points where the axle...

. It was thus arguably the world's first front-wheel drive automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

, but it never saw mass production, with only one copy ever made. In 1898, Latil
Latil
Latil was a French automaker specializing in heavy duty vehicles, such as trucks, tractors and buses, from 1898 to 1955.- History of the Compagnie Latil :...

, in France, devised a front-wheel drive system for motorising horse-drawn carts.

19001920


J. Walter Christie
J. Walter Christie
John Walter Christie was an American engineer and inventor. He is best known for developing the Christie suspension system used in a number of World War II-era tank designs, most notably the Soviet BT and T-34 series, and the British Covenanter and Crusader Cruiser tanks, as well as the Comet...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 patented a design for a front-wheel drive car, the first prototype of which he built in 1904. He promoted and demonstrated the vehicle by racing at various speedways in the United States, and even competed in the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup
Vanderbilt Cup
The Vanderbilt Cup was the first major trophy in American auto racing.-History:An international event, it was founded by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in 1904 and first held at a course set out in Nassau County on Long Island, New York. The announcement that the race was to be held caused...

 and the French Grand Prix
French Grand Prix
The French Grand Prix was a race held as part of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's annual Formula One automobile racing championships....

. In 1912 he began manufacturing a line of wheeled fire engine tractors which used his front-wheel drive system, but due to lack of sales this venture failed.

19201930


The next successful application of front-wheel drive was the supercharged Alvis 12/50
Alvis 12/50
The Alvis 12/50 is a car introduced by the British Alvis cars company in 1923. It went through a series of versions with the last ones being made in 1932...

 racing car designed by George Thomas Smith-Clarke and William M. Dunn of Alvis Cars
Alvis Cars
Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd was a British manufacturing company that existed in Coventry, England from 19191967. In addition to automobiles designed for the civilian market, the company also produced racing cars, aircraft engines, armoured cars and other armoured fighting vehicles, the...

 of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. This vehicle was entered in the 1925 Kop Hill Climb in Princes Risborough
Princes Risborough
Princes Risborough is a small town in Buckinghamshire, England, about 9 miles south of Aylesbury and 8 miles north west of High Wycombe. Bledlow lies to the west and Monks Risborough to the east. It lies at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, at the north end of a gap or pass through the Chilterns,...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 on March 28, 1925. Harry Arminius Miller of Menomonie, Wisconsin
Menomonie, Wisconsin
Two other spellings of the name appear elsewhere, see Menomonee and Menominee. For the town, see Menomonie .Menomonie is a city in and the county seat of Dunn County in the western part of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The city's population was 16,264 as of the 2010 census...

 designed the Miller 122 front-wheel drive racecar that was entered in the 1925 Indianapolis 500
1925 Indianapolis 500
Results of the 1925 Indianapolis 500 held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 30, 1925....

, which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana in the United States, is the home of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Brickyard 400....

 on Saturday, May 30, 1925.

However, the idea of front-wheel drive languished outside of the motor racing arena as no major auto manufacturer attempted the same for production automobiles. Market experiments in the United States were left to small endeavors such as the Ruxton
Ruxton (automobile)
The Ruxton was a front-wheel drive automobile produced by the New Era Motors Company of New York, New York, USA during 1929 and 1930. The car was the brainchild of William Muller and was built in the Moon Motor Car factory in St. Louis, Missouri...

 (200 cars in 1929), and the Cord L-29 of 1929. Neither automobile maker was particularly successful on the open market. Alvis Cars introduced a front-wheel drive commercial model of the Alvis 12/50 in 1928, but it was not a success either.

19301945


The first successful consumer application came in 1929. The BSA
Birmingham Small Arms Company
This article is not about Gamo subsidiary BSA Guns Limited of Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham B11 2PP or BSA Company or its successors....

 (Birmingham Small Arms Company) produced the unique front wheel drive BSA three wheeler. Production continued until 1936 during which time sports and touring models were available. In 1931 the DKW
DKW
DKW is a historic German car and motorcycle marque. The name derives from Dampf-Kraft-Wagen .In 1916, the Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Zschopau, Saxony, Germany, to produce steam fittings. In the same year, he attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW...

 F1 from Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 made its debut. Other German car producers followed: Stoewer
Stoewer
Stoewer was a German automobile manufacturer before World War II whose headquarters were in Stettin .The first company was founded by the Stoewer brothers, Emil and Bernhard in 1896 for manufacturing sewing machines in Stettin...

 offered a car with front wheel drive in 1931, Adler
Adler (automobile)
Adler was a German automobile and motorcycle manufacturer from 1900 until 1957. Adler is German for eagle.-History:The Adler factory produced bicycles, typewriters, and motorcycles in addition to cars...

 in 1932 and Audi
Audi
Audi AG is a German automobile manufacturer, from supermini to crossover SUVs in various body styles and price ranges that are marketed under the Audi brand , positioned as the premium brand within the Volkswagen Group....

 in 1933. In 1934, the very successful Traction Avant
Citroën Traction Avant
The Citroën Traction Avant is an automobile which was produced by the French manufacturer Citroën from 1934 to 1957. About 760,000 units were produced.-Impact on the world:...

 cars were introduced by Citroën
Citroën
Citroën is a major French automobile manufacturer, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group.Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën , Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that...

 of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The Cord 810 of the United States managed a bit better in the late 1930s than its predecessor one decade earlier. These vehicles featured a layout that places the engine behind the transmission, running "backwards," (save for the Cord, which drove the transmission from the front of the engine). The basic front-wheel drive layout provides sharp turning, and better weight distribution creates "positive handling characteristics" due to its low polar inertia and relatively favourable weight distribution. (The heaviest component is near the centre of the car, making the main component of its moment of inertia
Moment of inertia
In classical mechanics, moment of inertia, also called mass moment of inertia, rotational inertia, polar moment of inertia of mass, or the angular mass, is a measure of an object's resistance to changes to its rotation. It is the inertia of a rotating body with respect to its rotation...

 relatively low). Another result of this design is a lengthened chassis.

19451960


Front-wheel drive continued with the 1948 Citroën 2CV
Citroën 2CV
The Citroën 2CV |tax horsepower]]”) was an economy car produced by the French automaker Citroën between 1948 and 1990. It was technologically advanced and innovative, but with uncompromisingly utilitarian unconventional looks, and deceptively simple Bauhaus inspired bodywork, that belied the sheer...

, where the air-cooled lightweight aluminium flat twin engine was mounted ahead of the front wheels, but used Hookes type universal joint
Universal joint
A universal joint, universal coupling, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint or coupling in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion...

 driveshaft joints, and 1955 Citroën DS
Citroën DS
The Citroën DS is an executive car produced by the French manufacturer Citroën between 1955 and 1975. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS was known for its aerodynamic futuristic body design and innovative...

, featuring the mid-engine
MF layout
In automotive design, a MF, or Mid-engine, Front-wheel drive layout is one in which the front road wheels are driven by an internal-combustion engine placed just behind them, in front of the passenger compartment. In contrast to the Front-engine, front-wheel drive layout , the center of mass of...

 layout. Panhard
Panhard
Panhard is currently a French manufacturer of light tactical and military vehicles. Its current incarnation was formed by the acquisition of Panhard by Auverland in 2005. Panhard had been under Citroën ownership, then PSA , for 40 years...

 of France, DKW
DKW
DKW is a historic German car and motorcycle marque. The name derives from Dampf-Kraft-Wagen .In 1916, the Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Zschopau, Saxony, Germany, to produce steam fittings. In the same year, he attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW...

 of Germany and Saab of Sweden offered exclusively front-wheel drive cars, starting with the 1948 Saab 92
Saab 92
Saab 92 is an automobile from Saab. The design was very aerodynamic for its time, and the cW value was 0.30 . The entire body was stamped out of one piece of sheet metal and then cut to accommodate doors and windows. Full-scale production started December 12, 1949, based on the prototype Saab 92001...

.

In 1946, Lloyd Cars
Lloyd cars
Lloyd cars was a British motor manufacturer, founded by Roland Lloyd , son of a garage owner, and based in Patrick Street, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England between 1936 and 1951. Two models were made, separated by World War II; the company was unusual for a small manufacturer in making nearly all...

, the English car company, had produced the front-wheel-drive roadster, Lloyd 650. The two-stroke, two-cylinder motor was mounted transversely in the front and connected to the front wheels through four-speed synchronised gearbox. The high price and lacklustre performance had doomed its production. Only 600 units were produced from 1946 to 1950.

In 1954, Alfa-Romeo had experimented with its first front-wheel drive compact car named "33" (not related or referred to sports car similarly named "33"). It had the same transverse-mounted, forward-motor layout as the modern front-wheel drive automobiles. It even resembled the smaller version of its popular Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo Giulia
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is an Alfa Romeo automobile. Alfa was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car for mainstream production. The Giulia weighed about . The car was equipped with a light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of...

. However, due to the financial difficulties in post-war Italy, the 33 never saw the production. Had Alfa-Romeo succeed in producing 33, it would precede the Mini as the first "modern" front-wheel drive compact car.

In 1959 Austin Mini was launched by the British Motor Corporation
British Motor Corporation
The British Motor Corporation, or commonly known as BMC was a vehicle manufacturer from United Kingdom, formed by the merger of the Austin Motor Company and the Nuffield Organisation in 1952...

, designed by Alec Issigonis
Alec Issigonis
Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS was a Greek-British designer of cars, now remembered chiefly for the groundbreaking and influential development of the Mini, launched by the British Motor Corporation in 1959.- Early life:Issigonis was born into the Greek community of Smyrna ...

 as a response to the first 'oil crisis', the 1956 Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

, and the boom in bubble cars that followed. It was the first production front wheel drive car with a watercooled inline four cylinder engine mounted transversely. This allowed eighty percent of the floor plan for the use of passengers and luggage. The majority of modern cars use this configuration. Its progressive rate rubber sprung independent suspension, low centre of gravity, and wheel at each corner with radial tyres, gave a massive increase in grip and handling over all but the most expensive cars on the market. It used GKN
GKN
GKN plc is a multinational automotive and aerospace components company headquartered in Redditch, United Kingdom. The company was formerly known as Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds and can trace its origins back to 1759 and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.GKN is listed on the London Stock...

 designed Constant-velocity joint
Constant-velocity joint
Constant-velocity joints allow a drive shaft to transmit power through a variable angle, at constant rotational speed, without an appreciable increase in friction or play. They are mainly used in front wheel drive and all wheel drive cars...

 drive shaft universal joint
Universal joint
A universal joint, universal coupling, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint or coupling in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion...

s.

19601975


The transversely mounted engine combined with front-wheel drive was popularized by the 1959 Mini
Mini
The Mini is a small car that was made by the British Motor Corporation and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original is considered a British icon of the 1960s, and its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout influenced a generation of car-makers...

; there the transmission was built into the sump
Sump
A sump is a low space that collects any often-undesirable liquids such as water or chemicals. A sump can also be an infiltration basin used to manage surface runoff water and recharge underground aquifers....

 of the engine, and drive was transferred to it via a set of primary gear
Gear
A gear is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part in order to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in tandem are called a transmission and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine....

s. Another variant transmission concept was used by Simca
Simca
Simca was a French automaker, founded in November 1934 by Fiat. It was directed from July 1935 to May 1963 by the Italian Henri Théodore Pigozzi...

 in the 1960s keeping the engine and transmission in line, but transverse mounted and with unequal length driveshafts. This has proven itself to be the model on which almost all modern FWD vehicles are now based. Peugeot
Peugeot
Peugeot is a major French car brand, part of PSA Peugeot Citroën, the second largest carmaker based in Europe.The family business that precedes the current Peugeot company was founded in 1810, and manufactured coffee mills and bicycles. On 20 November 1858, Emile Peugeot applied for the lion...

 and Renault
Renault
Renault S.A. is a French automaker producing cars, vans, and in the past, autorail vehicles, trucks, tractors, vans and also buses/coaches. Its alliance with Nissan makes it the world's third largest automaker...

 on their jointly-developed small car engine of the 1970s where the 4-cylinder block was canted over to reduce the overall height of the engine with the transmission underneath (PSA X engine
PSA X engine
The PSA X engine is a family of internal combustion engines used in Citroën, Peugeot, Talbot and Renault automobiles. The X family was mainly used in superminis and the entry level models of midsize vehicles. It is commonly called the "Douvrin" engine....

). The tendency of this layout to generate unwanted transmission "whine" has seen it fall out of favour. Also, clutch changes required engine removal.

The 1965 Triumph 1300
Triumph 1300
The Triumph 1300 was a medium/small 4-door saloon car made in Coventry, England by Standard Triumph under the control of Leyland Motors. Produced from 1965 and intended as a replacement to the popular Triumph Herald, it was re-engineered in the 1970s to become the Dolomite range.The Triumph 1300...

 was designed around a longitudinal engine with the transmission underneath. Audi
Audi
Audi AG is a German automobile manufacturer, from supermini to crossover SUVs in various body styles and price ranges that are marketed under the Audi brand , positioned as the premium brand within the Volkswagen Group....

 has also used a longitudinally mounted engine overhung over the front wheels since the 1970s. Audi is one of the few manufacturers which still uses this particular configuration. It allows the use of equal-length half shaft
Half shaft
The term half shaft is another name for a front-wheel drive shaft, which is also called the constant velocity axle or CV axle. There is one half shaft per wheel. Some may further to this part as a CV shaft....

s and the easy addition of all-wheel drive, but has the disadvantage that it makes it difficult to achieve 50/50 weight distribution (although they remedy this in four-wheel drive models by mounting the gearbox at the rear of the transaxle
Transaxle
In the automotive field, a transaxle is a major mechanical component that combines the functionality of the transmission, the differential, and associated components of the driven axle into one integrated assembly....

.) The Subaru 1000
Subaru 1000
The ' was a compact car and introduced in Japan July 10, 1970, replacing the FF-1 Star. It was a front wheel drive vehicle with a typical Subaru EA61 or EA62 flat-4 engine. A fully independent torsion bar suspension and rack and pinion steering were impressive for the time. The inboard front...

 appeared in 1966 utilizing front wheel drive mated to a flat-4
Flat-4
A flat-4 or horizontally opposed-4 is a flat engine with four cylinders arranged horizontally in two banks of two cylinders on each side of a central crankcase...

 engine, with the driveshafts of equal length extending from the transmission, which address some of the issues of the powertrain being somewhat complex and unbalanced in the engine compartment.

Also in the 1970s and 1980s, the Douvrin engine
Douvrin engine
The Douvrin family was an all-aluminum straight-4 automobile engine designed in the early 1970s and produced from 1977 to 1996 by Compagnie Française de Mécanique, a joint-venture between Peugeot and Renault located in the town of Douvrin in northern France...

s used in the larger Renault
Renault
Renault S.A. is a French automaker producing cars, vans, and in the past, autorail vehicles, trucks, tractors, vans and also buses/coaches. Its alliance with Nissan makes it the world's third largest automaker...

s (20, 21, 25 and 30) used this longitudinal "forward" layout. The first generation Saab 900
Saab 900
The Saab 900 was a car produced by Saab Automobile from 1978 until 1998 in two generations. The first generation from 1978 to 1993 is known as the "classic"; the generation from 1994 to 1998 is known as the "new generation" ....

, launched in 1978, also used a longitudinal engine with a transmission underneath with helical gears. The 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
Oldsmobile Toronado
The original Toronado began as a design painting by Oldsmobile stylist David North in 1962. His design, dubbed the "Flame Red Car," was for a compact sports/personal car never intended for production...

 was the first U.S. front-wheel drive car since the Cord 810. It used a longitudinal engine placement for its V8, coupled with an unusual "split" transmission, which turned the engine power 180 degrees. Power then went to a differential mounted to the transmission case, from which half-shafts took it to the wheels. The driveline was set fairly at centre-point of the wheels for better weight distribution, though this raised the engine, requiring lowered intake systems.

19751990


The Corporate Average Fuel Economy
Corporate Average Fuel Economy
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1975, and intended to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in the US in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo...

 standard drove a mass changeover of cars in the U.S. to front-wheel drive. The change began in 1978, with the introduction of the first American-built transverse-engined cars, the Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni
Dodge Omni
The Dodge Omni and the similar Plymouth Horizon were front wheel drive cars introduced by the Dodge and Plymouth divisions of the Chrysler Corporation in North America in 1978, and were based on a European Simca-based design of the same name...

 (based on the European designed Simca Horizon), followed by the 1980 Chevrolet Citation
Chevrolet Citation
The Chevrolet Citation was a compact car sold by the Chevrolet brand of American automaker General Motors for model years 1980-1985. The Citation and its X-body siblings were among GM's first front wheel drive compact cars, following the trend of front drive compacts such as the Honda Accord...

 and numerous other vehicles.
Meanwhile European car makers, that had moved to front-wheel drive decades before began to homogenize their engine arrangement only in this decade, leaving Audi
Audi
Audi AG is a German automobile manufacturer, from supermini to crossover SUVs in various body styles and price ranges that are marketed under the Audi brand , positioned as the premium brand within the Volkswagen Group....

 (and Volkswagen
Volkswagen
Volkswagen is a German automobile manufacturer and is the original and biggest-selling marque of the Volkswagen Group, which now also owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, and Škoda marques and the truck manufacturer Scania.Volkswagen means "people's car" in German, where it is...

)alone with the Audi front drive-longitudinal engine layout. Years before this was the most common layout in Europe, with examples like Citroen DS
Citroën DS
The Citroën DS is an executive car produced by the French manufacturer Citroën between 1955 and 1975. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS was known for its aerodynamic futuristic body design and innovative...

, Renault 12
Renault 12
The Renault 12 is a family car produced by French automaker Renault between 1969 and 1980. Available as a saloon and estate , it was also produced under licence in many countries across the globe into the early 21st century....

, Renault 5
Renault 5
The Renault 5 was first unveiled on 10 December 1971, being launched at the beginning of 1972.The Renault 5 was styled by Michel Boué, who died before the car's release, the R5 featured a steeply sloping rear hatchback and front dashboard...

, Renault 25
Renault 25
The Renault 25 is an executive car produced by the French automaker Renault from 1983 to 1992. During its time, the 25 was Renault's flagship, the most expensive, prestigious, and largest vehicle in the company's line-up. It placed second in the 1985 European Car of the Year contest...

 (a Chrysler LH ancestor) Alfa Romeo 33
Alfa Romeo 33
The Alfa Romeo 33 is a small family car produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo between 1983 and 1995. It was essentially an evolution of its predecessor, the Alfasud, which was based on the same floorplan, chassis and mechanicals albeit with some minor modifications...

, Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen Passat
The Volkswagen Passat is a large family car marketed by Volkswagen Passenger Cars through six design generations since 1973. Between the Volkswagen Golf / Volkswagen Jetta and the Volkswagen Phaeton in the current Volkswagen line-up, the Passat and its derivatives have been badged variously as...

, etc.
This transition can be exemplified in the Renault 21
Renault 21
The Renault 21 is a large family car produced by French automaker Renault between 1986 and 1994. It was also sold in North America through American Motors dealers as the Renault Medallion and the Eagle Medallion...

 that was offered with disparate engine configurations. The 1.7 litre version featured an 'east-west' (transversely) mounted engine, but Renault had no gearbox suitable for a more powerful transverse engine: accordingly, faster versions featured longitudinally mounted (north south) engines.

By reducing drivetrain weight and space needs, vehicles could be made smaller and more efficient without sacrificing acceleration. Some suggest that the introduction of the modern Volkswagen Rabbit
Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is a small family car manufactured by Volkswagen since 1974 and marketed worldwide across six generations, in various body configurations and under various nameplates – as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the United States and Canada , and as the Volkswagen Caribe in Mexico .The...

 in 1975, from a traditional U.S. competitor, and also the Honda Civic
Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is a line of subcompact and subsequently compact cars made and manufactured by Honda. The Civic, along with the Accord and Prelude, comprised Honda's vehicles sold in North America until the 1990s, when the model lineup was expanded...

, served as a wake-up call for the "Big Three" (only Chrysler already produced front-wheel drive vehicles in their operations outside North America). Ford's 1976 Ford Fiesta
Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta is a front wheel drive supermini/subcompact manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company and built in Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, China, India, Thailand and South Africa...

 was its first front wheel drive car in Europe, GM was even later with the 1979 Vauxhall Astra
Vauxhall Astra
Astra is a model name which has been used by Vauxhall, the British subsidiary of General Motors , on their small family car ranges since 1979. Astras are technically essentially identical with similar vehicles offered by GM's German subsidiary Opel in most other European countries...

/Opel Kadett
Opel Kadett
The Opel Kadett is a small family car produced by the German automobile manufacturer Opel between 1937 and 1940, and then again from 1962 until 1991 , when it was replaced by the Opel Astra.-Original model :...

. Captive imports were the US car makers initial response to the increased demand for economy car
Economy car
An economy car is an automobile that is designed for low cost operation. Typical economy cars are small, light weight, and inexpensive to buy. Economy car designers are forced by stringent design constraints to be inventive...

s. Front-wheel drive became the norm for mid-sized cars starting with the 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity
Chevrolet Celebrity
The Chevrolet Celebrity is a mid-size car produced by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors . The Celebrity was introduced in 1981 for the 1982 model year. The Celebrity was the best-selling car in the United States in 1986...

, 1983 Dodge 600
Dodge 600
The 600 was Dodge's version of the Chrysler E-Class luxury car of the 1980s. It was introduced in 1982, as a 1983 model, as a small mid-size car on the Chrysler E platform and was discontinued after the 1988 model year. It was Chrysler's attempt to compete with the GM A-body, whereas the M-body...

, 1985 Nissan Maxima
Nissan Maxima
The first car to wear the Maxima name was introduced in 1981. It was essentially a Japanese-market Bluebird 910 with a longer nose. The car was offered as the 810 Deluxe or 810 Maxima that first year, and all 810s became Maximas for 1982...

, and the 1986 Ford Taurus
Ford Taurus
The Ford Taurus is an automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company in the United States. Originally introduced in the 1986 model year, it has remained in near-continuous production for more than two decades, making it the fourth oldest nameplate that is currently sold in the North American...

. By the mid-1980s, most formerly rear-wheel drive Japanese models were front-wheel drive, and by the mid-1990s, most American brands only sold a handful of rear-wheel drive models.

1990present


The vast majority of front-wheel drive vehicles today use a transversely mounted engine
Transverse engine
A transverse engine is an engine mounted in a vehicle so that the engine's crankshaft axis is perpendicular to the long axis of the vehicle. Many modern front wheel drive vehicles use this engine mounting configuration...

 with "end-on" mounted transmission, driving the front wheels via driveshafts linked via constant velocity (CV) joints
Constant-velocity joint
Constant-velocity joints allow a drive shaft to transmit power through a variable angle, at constant rotational speed, without an appreciable increase in friction or play. They are mainly used in front wheel drive and all wheel drive cars...

. This configuration was made popular by the 1967 Simca 1100
Simca 1100
The Simca 1100 is an automobile built from 1967 to 1982 by Chrysler Europe's division Simca. It was replaced by the Talbot Horizon.The 1100 was the result of "Project 928", started in 1962, finalized by engineers Philippe Grundeler and Charles Scales...

, and the 1969 Fiat 128
Fiat 128
The Fiat 128 is a small family car manufactured by the Italian manufacturer Fiat from 1969 to 1985. The engine was designed by the famous Ferrari racing engine designer Aurelio Lampredi.-History:...

. The 1959 Mini, while a pioneering transverse front-wheel drive vehicle, used a substantially different arrangement with the transmission in the sump.

Volvo Cars
Volvo Cars
Volvo Car Corporation, or Volvo Personvagnar AB, is a Swedish automobile manufacturer founded in 1927, in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Volvo was originally formed as a subsidiary company to the ball bearing maker SKF. When Volvo AB was introduced on the Swedish...

 has switched its entire lineup after the 900 series to front wheel drive. Swedish engineers at the company have said that transversely mounted engines allow for more crumple zone area in a head on collision. American auto manufacturers are now shifting larger models (such as the Chrysler 300
Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 is a full-size upscale car first shown at the 2003 New York Auto Show as a concept car. Sales in the U.S. began in the spring of 2004 as an early 2005 model year car. Designed by Ralph Gilles, the new 300 was built as a high-end sedan while the SRT-8 model was designed to be the...

 and most of the Cadillac
Cadillac
Cadillac is an American luxury vehicle marque owned by General Motors . Cadillac vehicles are sold in over 50 countries and territories, but mostly in North America. Cadillac is currently the second oldest American automobile manufacturer behind fellow GM marque Buick and is among the oldest...

 lineup) back to rear-wheel drive. There were relatively few rear-wheel drive cars marketed in North America by the early 1990s; Chrysler
Chrysler
Chrysler Group LLC is a multinational automaker headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA. Chrysler was first organized as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925....

's car line-up was entirely front-wheel drive by 1990. GM followed suit in 1996 where its B-body line was phased out, where its sports cars (Camaro, Firebird, Corvette) were the only RWDs marketed; by the early 2000s, the Chevrolet Corvette
Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car by the Chevrolet division of General Motors that has been produced in six generations. The first model, a convertible, was designed by Harley Earl and introduced at the GM Motorama in 1953 as a concept show car. Myron Scott is credited for naming the car after...

 was the only RWD car offered by Chevrolet until the introduction of the Sigma platform
GM Sigma platform
Sigma is General Motors' mid-size rear-wheel drive automobile platform. The architecture debuted in 2002 with the 2003 Cadillac CTS and is adaptable for all-wheel drive and extended wheelbase versions...

.

Records

  • London-based after-market tuner Autodelta
    Autodelta (UK)
    Autodelta is an after-market tuning company for Alfa Romeo cars, founded in 1987 by engineer Jano Djelalian. It is based in the Park Royal industrial area, northwest London, England. The company produces tuning parts and also full bodykits for various Alfa Romeo cars...

     has produced a "bored out" version of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA sporting a 3.7-litre V6, producing 328 bhp, and a split-axle differential gear for the front wheels. Autodelta has also made a Rotrex supercharged version producing 400 bhp.

  • The Cadillac Eldorado
    Cadillac Eldorado
    The 1953 Eldorado was a special-bodied, low-production convertible . It was the production version of the 1952 El Dorado "Golden Anniversary" concept car, and borrowed bumper bullets from the 1951 GM Le Sabre show car...

    , with front-wheel drive introduced in 1967, holds the record for the largest engine in a front-wheel drive production vehicle, at 8.2 L (500 in³), starting with the 1970 model, lasting until the 1976 model year.

  • A production Dodge Neon SRT-4 from RaceDeck Racing broke the land speed record for its class at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah
    Utah
    Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

     on August 16, 2006. Driven by Jorgen Moller Jr., the record was set at 221 mph average speed for both runs on the five mile course. This is the current record for a front-wheel drive vehicle.

See also

  • Automobile layout
    Automobile layout
    In automotive design, the automobile layout describes where on the vehicle the engine and drive wheels are found. Many different combinations of engine location and driven wheels are found in practice, and the location of each is dependent on the application the vehicle will be used for...

  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Four-wheel drive
    Four-wheel drive
    Four-wheel drive, 4WD, or 4×4 is a four-wheeled vehicle with a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive torque from the engine simultaneously...

  • FF layout
    FF layout
    In automotive design, an FF, or Front-engine, Front-wheel drive layout places both the internal combustion engine and driven roadwheels at the front of the vehicle.-Usage implications:...


:Category:Front wheel drive sports cars