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Thursday, October 14, 2010

My thoughts on Rear Wheel Drive

For most everyday drivers, people tend to buy front wheel drive (FWD) or all wheel drive (AWD) cars. The FWD cars are usually more economical, and AWD cars are usually for off-roading and safety. The Camaro is none of those things, it is rear wheel drive (RWD). Yes, the V6 Camaro does a rated 29 miles to the gallon, but it is by far not the most fuel efficient. Is it as safe as an AWD car? The answer to that is "No" as well. Then why RWD?

In most sports cars, RWD is a must, and here's why: Imagine yourself at the grocery store, and you have taken a shopping cart for your shopping needs. You load the cart with lots of groceries. Now pull the cart, instead of pushing it. You will soon realize, pulling the cart causes undesirable effects, but I'll let you figure that one out yourself.

Okay scrap the whole grocery cart theory, that doesn't actually work on cars lol. Well to make things as simple as possible, FWD cars are cheap to manufacture because there is no need for a driveshaft, rear axle, and differential. Everything moving is in the front of the car, which also makes maintainence and repairs cheaper. Also, not having anything reaching to the rear wheels of the car means less parts, so the car weighs less and has more rear passenger space. Since all of the weight is in the front of the car, pushing down on the moving wheels, traction is a lot better than RWD. However, if you wanted to take your FWD car up to a performance level, the results may be catastrophic. Surely you are thinking, "Having everything in the front reduces overall weight, so my car should be faster." Well, FWD cars are just not meant for performance driving, the weight distribution will always be heavier in the front end of the car, making the back very light. This makes cornering much harder because the front wheels have to do the steering, accelerating, and braking the car. Therefore, FWD cars are much more prone to understeer.

AWD cars are the most expensive cars, which is pretty obvious, because essentially you have more moving parts. Weighs just as much, or sometimes more, than a RWD car, so gas mileage isn't a strong point either. Maintanence and repairs are also the most expensive out of the 3 types of cars. The benefit of paying for AWD is mostly safety, but also tons and tons of grip, if you are a track day fan. Also because all four wheels grip, speed and acceleration isn't a problem either. However, when it comes to hard cornering, AWD cars can be quite tricky. It really depends how much power goes to which wheel, but essentially AWD cars can get understeer or oversteer, and sometimes both in the same turn. I've realized, it's based on which car you buy, and how you set the differentials.

So by now, if you haven't already known the major differences, you should have a pretty good understanding of the different drivetrains. I didn't want to sound too boring there... but what I really wanted to talk about is the Camaro's RWD system. Theoretically, the Camaro should have pretty good handling capabilities. It has the chassis from the Pontiac GTO, or the Vauxhall Monaro if you are from the U.K. The V6 Camaro also has an almost 50/50 weight distribution, weighing 52/48. GM put the battery in the back of the car to even out the weight, giving the better weight distribution and freeing up lots of space in the engine compartment. Supercharger anyone? Just had to give GM a high five for being a smarty-pants there. All in all, if you want fun, you get RWD, because it can kill you.

This morning I was doing some light driving. It was pouring rain all early morning, but by the time I was heading home, the rain was just sprinkling. The roads were still fairly wet though. I drive up to a red light. About 200 yards after my red light, there is another intersection with a dedicated left turn light, which is where I wanted to go. My light was still red when the green left turn light ahead of me had gone off. About a full second had passed before my light turned green (believe me one second makes a huge difference when driving), I hit the gas and aimed for the left turn. Much to my suprise, I lost traction on the spot and wheel spinned. Tires were squealing and I could feel the back of my car trying to get grip, then BOOM nailed into my seat, I made it. Now I want to back up here... My traction control had not been turned off, if it had, I would have had a much longer delay in traction. I've always heard RWD cars are really bad in the rain, and I have to say, after today, I really know how much power is needed before I lose control: Not much power at all. SO MUCH FUN! Drive safe everyone.

Another learning experience on my way home; I was in an empty culdesac, and I decided to see how much speed it would take for me to lose traction if I went around in a circle. Around I went, and just when I hit 25-30 MPH my car started to lose traction. Much to my suprise, I lost traction in the front wheels. ALL UNDERSTEER. Understeer is no fun at all, oversteer is where the fun is at. Oversteer looks "cooler" and is also easier to control. Understeer usually steers you into a tree, whereas oversteer can be handled with good steering control and proper acceleration.

Eitherway, to be brutally honest, and I know Camaro owners may hate me for this, the Camaro is very soft in the corners (A.K.A. Can't corner). Hey! an American car that can't corner! Suprised? No. But seriously, GM did a very good job delivering us a very comfortable ride. However, I bought this car to be more about fun and games you know? SPEED, EXCITEMENT, ADRENALINE! If I wanted comfort, I would have bought a sofa, would have saved me a lot of money too.

Before you think I'm hating the car, you're wrong, why do you think I bought it? I've said this before in one of my first or second posts, GM did a very good job on the little details. Quick example, the battery thing I talked about, I haven't seen many cars who do that. I bought the V6 version, and 312 HP is far from shabby either. If you own a V8 Camaro SS, you are pretty much in Super car category! Best of all, they are affordable! All I'm saying is, all cars have faults. My V6, I'll admit, didn't have the sound I thought a pony car should have, so I bought a new intake and exhaust system. Suspension, super soft? suspension upgrades! The way I see it, GM built a handsome looking base car for me to start making my own. At such a cheap price, it makes for an awesome project car.

I took my grandfather, which is 82 years old by the way, for a drive in my Camaro one day. He looked like he enjoyed it, it was comfortable for him, other than the super low passenger seat. With the large spongey tires, soft springs, and branch-like sway bars, the car was riding like a pillow with lots of body roll. Cheers to an awesome base car then. Wheels, coilovers, and sway bars, HERE I COME!

1 comment:

  1. Great post - very informative. i agree, this car rides makes for AWESOME hwy driving and much more relaxed than my last car (lexus). as you mentioned w/r/t RWD..i've noticed this car hydroplanes like crazy ..more than i'm used to in previous cars. i drive her fairly conservative under wet conditions now.


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