Why do luxury cars have rear-wheel drives?

Why do luxury cars have rear-wheel drives?

classic British car on black background, close-up.
GDANSK, POLAND – September 8th. Rolls-Royce remains a symbol of a luxurious car.

For years, drivers and car manufacturers have gushed over front-wheel drive cars. From Honda to Volvo cars, FWDs enjoyed their glory days in the 80s. 

The rear-wheel drive cars, sadly, have been set aback. Pun intended. 

Now, with most luxury cars being rear-wheel drives and the continuous downpour of advanced automotive technology, things have changed. 

Rear-wheel drives are finally getting the admiration they deserve. 

Of course, they are not flawless at all—still, it’s good to see RWDs being appreciated. 

However, why do most expensive cars have RWD systems? In this article, we attempted to answer that question. We also listed the pros and cons of driving an RWD. 

Table of contents

Why do luxury cars have rear-wheel drives?

A red luxury Ferrari supercar.
Kemer, Turkey – August 05, 2016. A red luxury Ferrari supercar.

Mercedes, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, and Bentley—what words come to your mind when you hear these names? Is it expensive? Power? Luxury? 

Well, if those came to your mind, you’re right for thinking so. Most of those luxury car brands have rear-wheel drives because they are powerful. 

Rear-wheel drive cars are the dangerous bad boys in the car world. They are high-speed performance cars, which means they allow for better handling than the economic FWDs. That means you’ll have a more pleasant driving experience on the road. 

Although, it takes time and driving skills to master handling them.  

Additionally, compared to front-wheel drive vehicles, RWDs have a balanced distribution of functions to the two sets of wheels. 

In an FWD, for instance, the front set is doing way too much. They do all the steering, braking, propelling, etc. 

Meanwhile, in an RWD, the two sets of wheels each have their tasks—the front wheels do the steering, while the rear wheels propel and supply most of the power. That allows for greater acceleration, which is essential if you like showing off by going fast. 

Another key is the weight distribution. Because RWDs have 50:50 or 45:55 weight distribution, they can easily gain more traction on dry, clean surfaces, which is imperative if you like going fast or if you’re racing. 

Combining all those unique advantages and the complexity of their manufacturing process, it is no wonder why most rear-wheel drive cars are expensive. 

Best luxury cars with rear-wheel drives

These models are the creams of the crop. 

1. Bentley Mulsanne

a black Bentley Mulsanne parked at a classy area.
Bentley Mulsanne at the test drive event for automotive journalists from Eastern Europe.

Indeed, the Bentley Mulsanne is the epitome of luxury. With a whopping $300k price, what could you possibly get? 

Car enthusiasts rave about the Mulsanne’s hand-picked materials. The poshest leather, wood, and metals for a car—you’ll find it in this plush luxury Sedan model. 

The interior, strong braking, and smart trunk storage are definitely designed for maximum comfort. 

As for security, you can rely on its corner view camera, blind-spot assist for preventing collisions, and adaptive cruise control. 

2. Rolls-Royce Phantom

white and brown Rolls Royce Phantom luxury saloon car.
BRUSSELS – JAN 10, 2018: Rolls Royce Phantom luxury saloon car showcased at the Brussels Motor Show.

You think the Mulsanne is expensive? Well, get ready for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. With a 2020 starting price of $450,000, you should be expecting gold trimmings, right? 

Well, you can actually get something better. The Rolls-Royce has an elegant aluminum bodywork that envelopes a rear-wheel drive. 

And don’t let its luxurious look fool you—this model can handle tough road situations with the help of its pothole-spotting camera.  

The Phantom also doesn’t fool around with its array of tech leisures and driver assistance features. From the infotainment system and carpeted floors to forward-collision and lane-departure warning, your family can feel safe and entertained.

3. 2019 BMW 7 Series

grey BMW 7 Series car showcased at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – MARCH 6, 2019: BMW 7 Series car showcased at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show.

If you like heavy luxury sedans, the 2020 BMW 7 Series is not one to miss. With a retail price of $96,950, you’ll expect nothing less than leisure. 

It has expensive car staples—elegant wood trim, LCD monitors, sunroof, heated seats, a voice-assisted navigation system, and all that jazz. 

Meanwhile, if you’re particular about safety, you can breathe. Its Park Distance Control and added weight, because of the carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), won’t disappoint you. 

Now, if you’re not satisfied with the RWD alone, you can add an AWD system for $3,000. 

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Pros and cons of rear-wheel drive (RWD) cars

In driving an RWD, you can expect bits and pieces of restrictions and advantages. RWD vehicles are not particularly terrible—they just shine more in certain situations. So, before you buy one, check out these advantages and drawbacks.  

Pros 

1. The acceleration is more effective. 

Rear-wheel drive super sports car burning tire for warm-up before a competition to increase type temperature for good traction and grip.

In most vehicles, you need faster acceleration so you can drive faster as well. Most especially in sports, you will benefit from a car that allows you to accelerate faster.

Fortunately, in an RWD vehicle, that is no problem.

The reason is that in a heavy acceleration, the front part of an RWD vehicle will rise, while its rear part will remain planted. Because of the weight distribution in the rear part, RWD vehicles can easily gain traction. As a result, the acceleration will also be faster.

If you give more importance to acceleration, then you can definitely benefit from an RWD. 

2. High resistance against wear and tear. 

Another reason why RWDs have a faithful following is its toughness. Compared to FWD cars, RWDs are more durable because of their engine’s capacity to handle power and simplicity. 

Case in point: did you know that RWDs are famous among law enforcement bodies because they can handle demanding actions better?

RWDs have an uncomplicated bodywork and function, which is to provide a proportional amount of stress to the front and rear set. 

With this balancing feature, RWD vehicles won’t work too hard in turning and steering, unlike the FWD vehicles. In other words, your RWD vehicle is kind of resistant to wear and tear because of its “stress-coping” element. 

Additionally, because the RWD has a simple bodywork, mechanics won’t break a sweat doing tune-ups. That makes the RWD vehicles durable and low-costing to maintain. 

3. The handling is superior in an RWD. 

Man driving car from rear view on the highway.
You can expect great handling with an RWD.

Who doesn’t want safe and efficient driving, right? That’s why a lot of car owners spend on anything that can better their ride’s handling. Plus, you get to prolong your tires’ health with proper handling.

Now, if you want to improve your car’s handling, you have to look at its aerodynamics, tires, and suspension system. But with an RWD vehicle, the even weight distribution makes handling easy. 

Moreover, because the two wheelsets have separate functions, you can gain more grip. This is especially helpful when you need more traction or when you’re driving around a corner or a curve. 

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t depend on this fact alone. Note that the most effective handling with an RWD demands better driving skills as well. 

4.  You won’t have torque steer. 

Have you ever driven an FWD car and then it suddenly pulled to the other side when you accelerated? 

That’s called torque steer. Not only is it a nuisance but also a safety hazard. 

If you own an FWD, that’s too sad—torque steer is one of the common problems of FWD cars. That’s because FWD cars tend to put too much weight at the front, causing the unnecessary pull during heavy acceleration. 

In an FWD car, the engine and the transmission are all in one area, which 

Now, with an RWD car, torque steers won’t be a problem at all since the engine and the steering gear aren’t linked together. 

Additionally, uneven air pressure can also cause a torque steer. 

5. Drifting is easier and more fun.

Car drifting, sports car wheel drifting and smoking on track.
Sports car wheel drifting and smoking on track.

Want to impress people like those drivers in Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift? Well, you can rely on an RWD car. 

The RWD car is your best and maybe the only choice if you want to drift. The even distribution of functions to the two sets of wheels makes all those badass drifting actions possible. 

With an FWD car, you can still try to drift, but sustaining a technique isn’t just attainable. That’s because drifting demands a high degree of control and power, so the rear wheels will continue spinning and lose traction. As a result, the driver can still control the vehicle. 

With the RWD, this is simple to do since the rear wheels supply the power as the front wheels steer. The two sets of wheels, altogether, also make acceleration faster, allowing the driver to enjoy high-speed driving. 

If you own an RWD, you can effortlessly execute drifting techniques. For example, you can spin, slide, power slide, clutch-kick, or shift lock. 

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Cons

1. They don’t fare well in wet conditions. 

If you live in a wet country or city, then you might want to avoid RWDs. They don’t do well in rainy or heavily snowy weather since they tend to easily lose traction in wet roads. 

Even some RWD drivers reported that they almost got stuck in the snow. That’s why if you’re about to drive on a heavily snowy day, you best use another car and save your RWD for the sunny days. 

If you just bought an RWD, you can instead invest in four winter tires. With two pairs of snow tires, your RWD is now more than equipped to battle the icy road ahead. If you buy just one pair, you might not gain adequate steering grip. 

Winter tires are also more efficient than all-season tires since they help your RWD tires accelerate better in rainy conditions. Just think about a laser-focus function.

2. It’s not for impatient people. 

A woman driving a car during the day and holding two hands on a steering wheel
It takes patience and effort to master the driving of an RWD car.

If you don’t like putting in effort and time in learning driving skills, then an RWD might not be for you. Its engine design may be simple; however, unlike FWD and AWD cars, RWDs are more difficult to master. 

Just think of RWD cars as not very user-friendly apps. It might take you more time figuring out how to handle them. Nevertheless, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it very rewarding. 

On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who appreciates the “art” of driving, then RWDs might be for you. 

Also, with the modern features that allow you to control traction, you might learn how to drive RWDs faster. 

3. They are more expensive than FWD & AWD cars.

RWDs have pricier raw materials and more technology to compensate for their lackings (ex. Traction control). Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you might spend extra wads of cash to own one. 

In particular, they are costlier to manufacture because of their assembly—it takes multiple parts to assemble a rear-wheel drive car. 

Also, connecting the front drive to the front wheels in FWDs is not uncomplicated. They are less expensive to produce since the engine and transmission can be put in as one unit. 

On the other hand, with RWDs, you will need a tunnel for the driveshaft and for linking the differential to the rear wheels.

They are also pricey because they can be high performing without causing nasty oversteers and understeers, unlike front-wheel drive cars.  

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4. There is not a lot of legroom. 

Back passenger seats in a modern luxury car, frontal view, red sand leather
Don’t expect spacious interiors with an RWD vehicle.

Like a roomy interior space in your vehicle? You might not appreciate the RWD car. 

RWDs are not that spacious because of the transmission tunnel, which is between the front passenger seats and the driver seat. The driveshaft also consumes the legroom that’s supposed to be for the rear passengers.

They just take up more space. 

Just take a look at sports cars, for instance. Most of them are tighter in legroom because they are RWDs. 

Additionally, you won’t get to enjoy more trunk space in an RWD car because of the extra components under it. 

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Other related questions

Is AWD faster than RWD?

If the concern is speed, then you’re better off with an RWD vehicle. In an AWD car, you’ll have more difficulty in drifting, particularly—unless you don’t use the traction control. 

It’s also easier to drift and race in a dry, clean road using a rear-wheel drive car. 

Can you drive RWD in the snow? 

In general, it’s safer not to drive an RWD in the snow. You might probably have a hard time moving your car forward in the snow since the weight is more distributed to the rear of the vehicle.

 The alternative is to invest in winter tires for your RWD. The better option, however, is to drive an AWD car with all-season tires and proportional weight distribution. 

Are rear-wheel drive cars dangerous?

No, but they require practice and different driving skills. Also, just because they skid more frequently than 4WDs and FWDs doesn’t mean they are that dangerous. 

Although, you will have to avoid some driving habits if you don’t want to lose traction with your RWD. For instance, you shouldn’t turn and then mash the right pedal, as you will reduce the required level of grip. 

Final thoughts

Driving RWDs indeed has its drawbacks. However, if space or snow isn’t a daily problem for you, then you might just want an RWD. Please apply the changes throughout the article.

And, with the many RWD luxury cars, you might just find models with technology that compensate for its lackings. 

Do you know any other good brands or models with RWD? Share them in the comments!

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