Hooniverse Asks: Have FWD Cars Ruined Us For Powerful RWD Beasts?

It seems that not a week goes by that we don’t hear about some yabbo running out of talent while leaving an auto-related meet up and ending up on the wrong side of a YouTube video. And what do almost all of those instances have in common besides an excess of testosterone? That’s right, they’re almost always something RWD, either a Mustang, Corvette, BMW, or… Ferrari.


Yeah, it happens.
The question however is why is it happening? I think I have the answer. We’ve been coddled for too long with the easily correctable understeer characteristics of FWD cars, leaving many of us incapable of dealing with oversteering traits of rear-wheel drive cars, especially those packing a ton of ponies. What do you think, is the spate of RWD car crashes a symbol of a fading social skill? Or, is it just a bunch of yahoos who will eventually get weeded out by Darwin’s Law?
Image: CarBuzz

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  1. Mike Zaite Avatar
    Mike Zaite

    No, FWD cars just hide terrible drivers. There used to be a LOT more accidents back when RWD was the only game in town.

    1. Mister Sterling Avatar
      Mister Sterling

      So then, the answer is yes. You agree.

      1. Mike Zaite Avatar
        Mike Zaite

        No, the premise was have FWD cars made people worse drivers of RWD cars. My position is no a good deal of people were always shit in RWD cars.
        They didn’t get soft, they were never going to be compitent at it in the first place.
        You’re comming at it backward.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          I kinda get where your coming from, I just don’t agree it creates more accidents, just different ones, i.e. which end of the car hits the tree.
          If I’ve only driven RWD cars for a bit, would it make me a worse FWD driver? I’ve kinda had long stints being stuck with only one or the other, started out FWD, then had a succession of RWD, including mid engined, then back to FWD out of necessity. Getting my MX5 back on the road soon (open diff for now sadly), and getting to drive an MR2 on track Friday so it’ll be interesting to see if I’m out of practice, or it just comes backs like riding a bicycle.

          1. Mike Zaite Avatar
            Mike Zaite

            It’s like riding a bike. IF you learned in the first place. Which being an enthusiast you probably had. Although I will admit, it took me a while to stop driving the FWD line after 6 years in FWD. But the car control is coordination not visualization so that comes right back.
            Non enthusiasts are the issue. They never lean anything to begin with aside from steering wheel makes car point somewhere, Long pedal = Go, short pedal = Stop. Where are the cup holders.
            So many people thought FWD was a godsend for “dangerous winter driving” because they were just bad drivers full stop. And the important part is, they were never going to be good drivers because that takes time and intentional effort they were NEVER going to put in. And most of the time they never even push their cars enough for it to even matter. Heck most accidents happen because drivers won’t use maximum braking effort because they’ve never learned how to do that. But then the kids go off to College, and the minivan gets traded in for a shiny red Mustang and hello Cars and Coffee!
            Keep in mind, someone in their late 30’s going into 40’s may have NEVER driven a RWD car. Because you had to look for those, and that meant you gave a crap which means you knew what you were doing and learned. They don’t care. “Car gets me from A to B, yay smartphone integration!”
            You have to put yourself in the NON-enthusiasts shoes to understand it. Most people are just shit drivers and RWD cars they have no right being in make that more apparent. And then there’s the Rear-Engine RWD……..oh balding Porsche guy, you’re so fast on the freeway but you slow to 20 to make even a slight turn……..

          2. crank_case Avatar

            I don’t really follow on the “coordination not visualisation”? Normal drivings chiefly visual skill, but surely coordination involves responding all the sensory cues, including the visual, and then of course there’s the “visualisation” aspect in the sense of anticipating what will happen next, which means you avoid even the situation where heroic rescue of a tank slapper is even necessary. I kinda think if you lack that aspect, of actively thinking about your driving, you’re just as likely to meet a sticky end in Hyundai as anything else.
            FWD is a godsend for winter driving, but only because the weights over the driven wheels. Trying to hillstart an E34 with no traction control on an icy road is no joke! Mid/rear engine can work quite well in the snow, there’s nothing more amusing than overtaking a over-cautiously driven Subaru, in a 3rd gen MR2, in the snow, with the roof down… ๐Ÿ˜€

          3. Mike Zaite Avatar
            Mike Zaite

            No no, Visualization as in seeing the line in your head. Where to brake where to apex. The “head work” part of driving. Coordination is the part that gets you from idea to the car being where you want it and not where you don’t want it. The Coordination snaps right back in, but adjusting the sight picture can take a bit.
            I would argue FWD isn’t a particularly beneficial thing in winter. I like being able to both go and steer at the same time. FWD doesn’t always allow that. ANd with the Subarus the weight bias is so far forward every maneuver becomes a massive understeer push until the diff sends power to the back. To drive AWD in winter means either being blissfully ignorant (most CRVs and Jeeps in the ditch), being super aggressive (STI’s in the Ditch), or driving really gentile but never getting stuck. AWD for winter is just……oh how I hate it.
            Now Modern studless snow tires, that’s where the magic happens in the snow. I drove T-birds in the snow before those were a big readily affordable thing, it’s nice to be able to turn and stop as well as you can go.

          4. crank_case Avatar

            Sure, coordination is neccesary when you get yourself into the oversteer situation, if by which you mean that sort of instinctive muscle memory where you dial in the lock etc. ..but you don’t get that unless you intentionally get yourself in a skid type situation, in a relatively safe situation, many times, and of course, due to the antics of mustang bros, or indeed, Irelands diffin’ crowd, such things are frowned upon, even when done on off the road. You need either access to a track/drift park or a very understanding land owner. Unless you live in Sweden of course and they do skid pan training as part of teaching you to drive.
            We may have of course had the odd bit of sideways “I didn’t realize it was so slippy officer honest” moments, but generally such things are frowned on to varying degrees. Australia has a near zero tolerance policy on any kind of wheelspin in public for example. “Practice” has always be a very controversial subject, there’s a brilliant Autocar article from 1934 called the ethichs of skidding, back when cars were even more mechanically challenging and low grip than even the RWD cars of the 70s/80s, which shows that moral panic about sideways moments is nothing new..
            These skills are good to have, but the truth is, while we revel in the “nailing the apex” (though of course for real world fast driving the correct line is usually wider for visibility) and catching oversteer, when you starting getting into stuff like roadcraft, which is the standard textbook for police driving in the UK, while these skills are taught, they are secondary to the head part, which is far more than seeing the line. It’s about understanding the nature of your vehicle, driving for the conditions, journey management, mitigating overconfidence in your own abilities, etc. are more likely to stop you having am accident than even Ken Block levels of car control. That’s sorta where I’m getting at with the FWD to RWD not really having that big effect on accidents, it’s attitude.
            Bros beeing eejits, maybe not, but there’s no accounting for that, dumbasses gonna be dumb.

          5. Mike Zaite Avatar
            Mike Zaite

            I think you underestimate the amount of work your Cerebellum (the muscle and coordination part of your brain) is doing when doing any level of driving. Think back to the first time you drove, when you had to Think about everything. Remember how rough things like breaking and even pulling into a nose in parking space were? That’s Coordination aka ‘Muscle Memory” That comes right back.
            Let’s talk like people who aren’t worried that the cyber crimes devision is after them. When your driving like a responsible smart person well below even 4/10th no, none of that matters because chassis dynamics are negligible. You’re just pointing a car around the road. Doesn’t matter FWD, RWD, AWD, MR, FR, RR, RF. Wheel turn, car go where wheel goes.
            That’s not what this article on HOONiverse (hint hint) is talking about. It’s talking about High Performance Driving. That is driving at or near the friction limits of the tire patch. Something that FWD cars do a very good job of not catching you off guard at (unless again Eurohatch yobbos with cut down springs and other ill advised suspension “mods”) With FWD you step on the skinny pedal, car rears up, pushes, goes funny at the steering, you let off the gas car stabilizes out.
            Now, picture yourself a big Manly MAN!! you learned to drive in your moms Minivan or more often Crossover. Cars are for going from A to B, you’ve had cursory at best driver training, and at best you were taught on a video that you steer into a skid, or was that away from a skid? Out of a skid? well whatever not that important, mom and dad never seemed to get in skids so it’s probably just the class being a pussy. Fuck it! let’s go pick up some chicks and eat in a manner that will ensure diabetes later in life!
            Now 10 years pass, you’ve date raped your way through a higher education, you work a middling middle management/and or sales. You got a fancy bonus so hey lets get one of those 400HP Must-mar-ingers to show everyone what a badass virile stud I am!! Skinny pedal makes car go, I want to go fastley to show off my mad skills at buying flashy thin….oh god I’m sideways! *Crunch*
            It’s the car equivalent of the Motorcycle rider’s “I had to lay er down” bs. No you just suck at riding/driving and nothing ever challenged you before bro.

          6. crank_case Avatar

            Different part of the brain, subconcious vs the concious. Everyone knows the unconcious brain does most of the “heavy lifting” in normal life without every realizing it, but use of the frontal greay matter can avoid completely the need to engage all that lower brain function in the first place.
            Getting sideways out of meet isn’t “high performance” driving, its just hooligan arsemongery,. Had brain been engaged, you wouldn’t let your ego get the better of you in the first place. Sure we’ve all done the naughty peel out of a junction thing at times, but it’s a pretty calculated risk, usually in more low key circumstances, we understand: big boys games = big boys rules.
            Peeling out of a meet is just a really bad move, even if you’re a drift king, too many variables, too many people around, and even if you do an inch perfect hoon, it tends to make it real difficult to organize meets, that sort of behaviour tends to kill meets. We’ve had a fair bit of difficulty getting C&C locations round Dublin, even though virtually all our attendees are usually impeccably behaved.
            Time and place… “Responsible hooning” if that’s not too much of an oxymoron.
            As for Eurohatch yobbos on cut springs, yeah they exist, but a stock 205 GTi requires as much respect as any E30 of the same era. With a wider front track than rear, short wheelbase and chassis setup to rotate on demand, it doesn’t suffer lead footed fools.

          7. Mike Zaite Avatar
            Mike Zaite

            No that’s MIND not BRAIN. Subconscious Mind. Brains are made of parts like Cerebellum, and Hypothalamus, and Amygdala that operate the body, Talking Hardware not software.
            You have legally dotted all your T’s and Crossed all your I’s so fear not of legal retribution by your nanny state and stand proud that you are a more moral man.
            Or whatever
            Fact remains it’s still what it is whether advisable or not.
            Now, I’ve written easily 4 times as much content as the person who got PAID to write this so I am officially done driving clicks to the site without a paycheck.

          8. crank_case Avatar

            Wait, Hooniverse contributors are getting paid now?
            Mind/brain – sure I know what the bits of the brain are and their basic function, I still have the pull apart model on my desk from my time in Pharma. My favorite Dad joke was to rest it on a pile of over the counter meds and then when someone would wander in and ask what the hell it was, I’d tell them – this is your brain on drugs…. anyway, you’re getting way into the semantics of neuroscience and missing the over all point.
            Legality and morality have nothing to do with it, the principles of roadcraft/defensive driving can be applied anywhere, it’s something I had to go through as part of my time working in oilfield services, even though I was office based. It’s about staying alive. Try give roadcraft a read sometime, it’s pretty much guaranteed to make anyone reassess their driving.
            Sure Ireland has an element of nanny stateism in some ways, but don’t tell me your local fuzz wouldn’t give you a ticket, and the thing you have to understand about Ireland, is there’s the laws, and the laws that are actually enforced, especially in its more rural parts.. other countries are fairly clear cut. there’s legal and illegal, but as one wry Irish standup noted, things here fall into three categories.
            1. That’s Grand, carry on
            2. Ah lads, stop the messin..

    2. crank_case Avatar

      Not sure I’d agree with this one, even if stats have improved dramatically (which I doubt).
      FWD is more predictable sure, but so many other things have changed since the days when even commuter cars were RWD (say mid 80s). Aside from highway improvements (depending on country of course, Ireland for example didn’t have a motorway network til the last decade really), there have been a lot of advances in both passive and active safety. ABS wasn’t fitted to every car, tyre tech has improved, suspensions got more sophisticated, and most cars now even have ESP and stability control. I do not see more wrecked BMWs than Audis for example (The Audi A4 TDI is weirdly the the choice of the ‘stang Bros mouthbreather cousin here weirdly enough)
      A powerful RWD car needs respect, sure, but idiots are gonna be idiots regardless. (incidentally, judging by the Parked Fiat Cinquecento in the gif, I’d say this was some overconfident Eurotrash having their first go in what they believe to be an American “muscle car”)

      1. Mike Zaite Avatar
        Mike Zaite

        Problem is until the 90’s we only have fatality data, And we know accidents of all sorts are more survivable so those numbers would be useless.
        My point is, FWD cars mask some bad driving due to their inherent over stability. The people would be just as bad in a RWD car because most people just suck at driving and will never not suck. FWD is just more forgiving so it seems like they aren’t as terrible a driver as they actually are.
        Also do you really think California “Lawyer” dude in the back is a native? Those are tourists, but also a stupid gif to use to talk about AMERICAN driving.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          I’m not sure what sort of data is collected in the US, but that’s sort of the point, there’s been too many changes in the period between RWD being dominant and FWD drive being dominant, that I don’t think you can draw any sort of conclusion. FWD is a little more forgiving, but only to a point, and not all of them are stable, case in point. Over here where the grassroots cultre revolves around fast hatcbacks, there’s one or two that gained a reputation as widowmakers that would fling you backwards into the nearest hedge if you sneezed (exaggerated I reckon, but you get the point).
          Mustangs aside, many modern RWD cars are pretty inert in their handling. A lot of BMW/Lexus/Mercedes models could become FWD and their buyers would probably never notice. Powers gone up even on mundane models though.
          I mean back in the day, we had the likes of the Ford Capri, but it rocked about 130bhp and was about as sophisticated as an ox cart. You might have had a “underpants moment”, if you drove like an idiot, but you were going about 30mph, so it kinda balanced out
          Now you have FWD/AWD cars with 300bhp, and they’re “forgiving” to a point, but when you run out of talent, you’re going a lot faster and it’s a bigger mess. Idiots being idiots, will just push til they hit that point.

          1. Mike Zaite Avatar
            Mike Zaite

            Except I grew up driving during the biggest switchover point when both FWD and RWD cars tended not to have ABS or Traction control or anything. It may seem anecdotal, but believe me hopeless shits driving and crashing their parents crappy GM A-bodies were suddenly not doing so bad when they got their first Tracell or Caviller.
            I’ve driven some of the Sin against god front wheel drive V8’s and the worst that happens with those is you torqsteer around a bit get sick of that and ease up.
            You’re still presupposing the normal rank and file is driving their cars anywhere near the edge like the Eurohatch yobbos. Ride with someone who doesn’t give half a shit about cars and see just how much skill driving like they do brings to the table. It’s not much, and when they then get in something beyond them they fuck up hard.
            Cars beyond peoples talent but are easy to purchase is the issue, not FWD cars making people crappier drivers. Crappy drivers are the rule not the exception.

          2. crank_case Avatar

            I’ve no experience of something with a V8 slung over the front axle, so fair enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Sjalabais Avatar

      More than ten years ago I was invited to the Volvo Driving Academy in Hemsedal, Norway. I arrived in my daily driver, a ’77 242. We tried lots and lots of nice cars. When I slid in a S60 with the tech dodiddies turned off, I tried to correct by teasing the rear out. Except, it was FWD. Instructor turned to me, annoyed: “I hope you don’t do that in traffic”. Eh.
      The last car I drove in that event was a V70R AWD, brand new at the time. Trying to drive home in my brick, I struggled to make it move…
      So, yeah, I see your point, but what one is used to also affects the way we drive. It’s probably working both ways.

      1. Mike Zaite Avatar
        Mike Zaite

        But again I point out, you give a shit about driving. And in your country you kinda have to since they don’t just hold a mirror up to your face to check if you fog it to qualify for a drivers license. Oh the things I’ve seen here in the USA where the big new “Mustang at Cars and Coffee” thing has been getting out of hand.

  2. Gee Nick Avatar
    Gee Nick

    Combine shit steering feel with touchy throttle tip-in, and especially a ham foot with an auto box driver, and you get the reciperfect. My front drivers would grab the wheel out of your hands if you goose it, and head straight right, so that definitely is not the cause.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    Or is it just better documentation of the yahoo-ery? We’re surrounded by cameras in a way we haven’t been before – I’m sure that makes some feel more compelled to show off, and we can better prove it when they do.
    I’d also suspect that with ESP and such, we have more drivers who are under the constant protection of an electronic guardian angel,until they want it to not be there. Because they’re used to it,and dont recognize it’s a sign they’re driving poorly when it kicks in (and didn’t start screwing up on something with little power), it’s easier for their egos to write checks their capabilities can’t cash.

    1. theskitter Avatar

      All in all, speeds are significantly higher than a 70’s movie car chase when things start going wrong. Even before we start getting into traction and stability control:
      1. the mechanical limits of modern tires and suspension geometry are much higher,
      2. body control, low wind noise, and aerodynamic stability minimize the sense of speed
      3. ridiculously overpowered (300+ hp) engines are barely trying, and if you use the sturm und drang for 10 seconds you’re at ludicrous speed
      How do you make a car feel fast? High speed instability.

    2. Batshitbox Avatar

      I’m with you on the sample size. The information Age is supplying us with a stream of YouTube videos and Vines through multiple channels… no wonder it seems like there are more tail-happy off road excursions.

  4. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    Computers do a lot of the “driving” in modern cars. Correcting our mistakes within milliseconds, so we don’t get to feel our little mistakes.

  5. GTXcellent Avatar

    I’d also add in the incredible amount of power today. Even a short decade ago, 400+ hp at the rear tires was for 6 figure super cars or a fully built race motor. Now you can get that from the factory in a 4 door sedan (hee hee hee)

  6. ptschett Avatar

    I honestly don’t know how to drive a front wheel drive car. I’ve never owned one, and the last time I regularly drove one was in the ’90’s when I was in high school and living with my parents.
    Example: my response to terminal understeer in slippery conditions is to apply throttle. Fine with RWD or AWD, inducing oversteer or a drift, but with FWD it just makes it worse.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      It’s all about suspension setup. In the wrong RWD car, more throttle still means more understeer. And in the right FWD car, more throttle steps the tail out.
      Ex: I had a Saturn SL with a stiff aftermarket swaybar and the factory front sway. It oversteered when pushed. I had a Dodge Ram 50, completely stock suspension, open diff. It understeered, and no amount of throttle would change that, only a Scandinavian flick.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        +1.. while tales of lift off oversteer are greatly exaggerated, it’s possible not simply to make a Peugeot 205 GTi go sideways, but even to adjust it’s angle a little when it does. Not quite with the grace of an LSD equipped rear driver of course.
        Generally though in a FWD car, when you understeer, coming off the throttle, which is the drivers natural instinct, tends to correct understeer, unless the weight shift is too dramatic., while booting it tends to straighten the car out. It’s more foolproof for sure.

  7. crank_case Avatar

    Nope, an idiot in a RWD is gonna be an idiot in a FWD. The sight of a two tell black lines approaching a 90 degree turn leading to a Civic gently resting on its roof only confirms this for me.

  8. The Real Number_Six Avatar
    The Real Number_Six

    Take some goddam lessons. Every male in the world seems to think they know how to drive just because MAN. But whether you’re a soccer mom in a CX-5 or a Lambo-bragging douchebag, you should take at least one advanced driving course that teaches skid control, panic braking and steering, etc. It’s really as simple as that, but there seems to be some kind of misapprehension that taking driving lessons means you’re less of a person. You don’t think Lewis Hamilton still has a driving coach, FFS?

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      Oooh, but all those hours spent playing Forza totally count as lessons, right?!

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        I also know how to use a gauntlet. Easy!

  9. Alff Avatar

    On the bright side, this phenomenon leads to the liberation of powerful drivetrains for use in other things.

  10. crank_case Avatar

    Now that yurop can officially buy Mustangs, the Mustang is now outselling the Audi TT in the UK. If there’s a practical experiment for the theory this may be it. The question though, is it RWD or simply Mustangs that are the issue? ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. crank_case Avatar

        It’s that sort of ambition that builds Saturn V rockets, you just need to add a pinch of Von Braun.

        1. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

          Once Mustang goes up/who cares where it comes down/if it’s not my apartment/says Werner von Braun

      2. Alff Avatar

        Good start. Let’s see him nail the dismount.

  11. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Idiots are idiots and sadly videos on social media provide a greater impetus to perform idiocy in search of 15 minutes of fame or a a dozen Facebook likes. The modern problem is a loss of skills due to the prevalence of “safe” handling cars with electronic nannies to save drivers form their stupidity. Thus when put into something that is outside their atrophied skills envelope they do something so stupid that traction control can’t save them , or worse they disable the nanny and get there faster.
    The old days still had stupid, just different kinds of stupid like the tendency for 70s Porsche 911s to go off the road backwards because the new owner had not adapted to trailing throttle oversteer after learning on an MGB or Camaro.

  12. oocman Avatar

    “Why is it happening?” – Everyone thinks they are Chris Harris. You are not Chris Harris. I drive a BMW M3 (yea, quick snickering). I’ve never lit up the back tires because a. they are expensive and b. I don’t turn off the ECT. I don’t turn it off because I’m not Chris Harris.