All About Engine Placement in Cars
Normally, a majority of cars have front engines but there are other engine placement configurations to meet specific applications. Engine placement in cars can affect performance and handling in general.
Let’s explore a bit more about the front, mid and rear engine placement in cars to understand the possible benefits and drawbacks each configuration brings to the table.
Front engines are probably most common, found in almost over 98% of cars. You can easily check the engine by popping up the hood of the car as it sits on the top and slightly forward from the front wheels.
Since most cars are designed as forward wheel drive (FWD), front-engine placement maximizes the traction and control for on-road driving. This is due to the weight of the engine on top of the front wheel. Hence, not much skill is required to maintain steering control even on slippery roads.
Additionally, the front engine also leaves more cabin space, making the driving experience more comfortable for the passengers. As a widely used engine placement configuration, it is easy and cheaper to manufacture and service as compared to other configurations.
With all the perks, front-engine cars are susceptible to understeering. This could be depicted as a benefit or a drawback depending on the user as understeering is presumed to be safer than oversteering.
During high-speed operations, the front-engine vehicles tend to lose traction as the weight shifts towards the rear wheels. This makes them undesirable for racing applications and more appropriate for the everyday urban drive.
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In a mid-engine car, the engine is located at the rear but before the rear wheels. As the engine sits in front of the rear axle, this allows for easier weight distribution in the vehicle. For instance, four tyres with even weight distribution will gain preference in terms of performance as compared to two tyres with heavy engine load.
Since the engine location is directly behind the rear passenger seats, you can expect limited legroom. On the other hand, cars with such a configuration will not likely have more than two seats.
Due to a balanced layout, mid-engine cars are agile and offer better cornering and braking performance in addition to traction during acceleration. Hence, making a preferable choice for an exotic sports car.
Unfortunately, if cars with balanced weight spin out of control, they are harder to handle due to the lower centre of gravity.
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Rear engine cars are even rarer than mid-engine cars. The engine is mounted at the rear beyond the rear wheels. The engine configuration paired with rear-wheel drive (RWD), allows the car to offer improved traction and acceleration.
However, with the benefit of increased performance, the car comes with its own learning curve. As engine weight suspends around the rear, it makes the vehicle prone to oversteering. Hence, they are harder to drive and require more expertise to tackle oversteering. This is why you are likely to spot such cars on the race tracks, rather than on the roads.
Frequently asked Questions
What is the difference between mid and rear engine?
A mid-engine is located in between the front axle and rear axle. If the engine portion crosses the front or rear axle, it is named front or rear engine respectively.
Why is a mid-engine car better?
Mid-engine cars offer better weight distribution as the engine sits near the rear axle. Since rear tyres have more weight over them, it results in increased traction. Additionally, more traction also leads to better acceleration and car performance. Mid-engine cars are more stable when cornering but if they get out of control, recovering from spin is harder and requires more expertise.
The mid-engine cars are usually expensive but take the performance to next level at cost of added price. As for rear-engine cars, they are hard to come by. As the trend for performance shifts towards mid-rear engines, rear engines are mostly available in vintage or classic cars
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