In recent decades, almost all car manufacturers have replaced front-wheel drive with smart models. Fuel consumption is lower, there is more space in the back, production costs are lower and drivers are not just standing in the back. But it’s for electric cars in particular that automakers like Volvo are returning to rear-wheel drive. But why?
The updated versions of the XC40 and C40 will be in showrooms shortly. Entry-level electric SUVs used to be front-wheel drive, but are now rear-wheel drive. Volvo explains to TopGear Netherlands why they are switching back to rear-wheel drive after 25 years. The car is also available with four-wheel drive.
Rear-wheel drive cars drive better
According to Volvo, rear-wheel drive so that only the front steers “is particularly beneficial for improving the driving experience compared to a front-wheel drive electric car.” In simple words: according to Volvo, a rear-wheel drive car drives better.
Better acceleration, under management
According to Volvo, the new XC40 and C40 turn out to be sharper and have a lower floor. You could argue that the new generation of Volvos should suffer more from oversteer, which is probably more dangerous. But we suspect with current security systems that this is under control.
In addition, rear-wheel drive could provide more grip during acceleration. This is quite logical: if you accelerate hard, the car lifts the nose and the weight is on the rear wheels. Most drag racers are four wheel or rear wheel drive for a reason. And why do you think Porsches, with the engine (and therefore the weight behind), always accelerate very quickly?
Finally, the argument that a front-wheel drive is more economical in use no longer applies to electric vehicles. In a gasoline car, the engine is usually in the front and the power has to go to the rear through the drive shaft, where the energy is lost. With an EV, the electric motor is directly on the rear axle, so there is less energy wasted.
Maybe you can skate with it, like the Polestar
The Polestar 3, which is similar to the XC40, also has rear-wheel drive. “When you turn ESC off, you can slide with it as much as you want. We don’t have skids or anything, but you can slide with it,” Joakim Rydholm, head of chassis development at Polestar, previously told TopGear. If you can also slide with the XC40 and C40, we will know.