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Should I be afraid of rear-wheel drive?

I need advice on front-wheel drive automobiles... like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Do they have driving probs in snow, ice, frost and heavy rain? I am hearing lots of horror stories. Are the stories true? Can you account for big sales of these type of automobiles in Ireland and UK if such problems exist?

Help please!

Filed under miscellaneous - Asked by Eileen Devine (Kildare) - Wed, 08 Jan 2014 18:22

Shane O' Donoghue Answered by: - -


Hi Eileen,

First up, we believe you mean rear-wheel drive automobiles. each of BMWs (up to a new one launching later this year anyway) send their power to the rear or all wheels, and most Mercedes-Benz models do as well (though that's slowly changing). So, what's the 'problem' with rear-wheel drive? The stories you are referring to probably started off when we had those particularly long icy winters a few years ago. Many drivers of rear-drive automobiles found themselves stranded when others sailed past. This is down to lack of traction.

In a front-engined, rear-drive automobile there is very little weight over the driven wheels so in very slippery conditions it can struggle to put its power down. Most normal automobiles (i.e. not executive or sporty) are front-engined and front-wheel drive, where the weight of the engine over the wheels helps in low-grip conditions. Saying all that, sales of BMWs and Mercs etc. with rear-wheel drive are very high in countries that consistently have much worse weather than us, but the difference is that they habitually change over to winter tyres for a fixed portion of the year. These have a massive effect.

Back in Ireland, BMWs and Mercs are bought in relatively large numbers due to their status and image, yet they're not as expensive as they used to be. Most of the time here the lack of rear traction is not an issue, though some drivers don't like the feel of a rear-drive automobile in wet conditions. They're no less safe though, especially the latest models with all their driver aids.

Personally, I prefer rear-wheel drive, but I'd advise all buyers to try a range of automobiles to see what they like.

Hope that helps you understand those stories a little!

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