Trucking: Is front wheel drive better?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

My question does not deal with car repair or maintenance. The vast majority of new cars today are front wheel drive. Why doesn't any manufacturer make a full size front wheel drive pick up truck? You can buy rear wheel drive or four wheel drive, but not front wheel drive. Wouldn't a truck with front wheel drive have really good traction?

RAY: Good question, Jerry. The reason there aren't big, front wheel drive pick-ups has to do with balance. A vehicle handles best when its weight is distributed more-or-less evenly between the front and back.

TOM: Pick up trucks are out of balance to begin with. Even with rear wheel drive, the rear end of a pick up truck is much lighter than the front end. Think about it. In the front you have the engine, the transmission, the gun racks, and the entire cab compartment. In the back you have what? The differential and a bunch of empty space.

RAY: So if you move the differential up front too, you create an even greater imbalance. You make the back end that much more likely to slide out on corners, and you make the rear brakes that much more prone to lock up (you may have noticed that some pick ups now come equipped with rear anti-lock brakes for that very reason).

TOM: So unless you're going to radically redesign the pick up truck--like put the cab in the back--rear wheel drive is the best way to go.

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