With all the different specifications and options available on cars today, it’s no wonder that many of us don’t fully understand what some of those terms mean. One of the most common confusions is between FWD, RWD, and AWD.
FWD, which stands for front-wheel drive, means that your car’s engine sends power to the wheels at the front of the vehicle. The front wheels also receive your steering inputs, so they help you steer and control the car. The rear wheels do not receive any power on their own and are more or less there to roll along with you.
This configuration surfaced in prototypes throughout the 1900s, but it became mainstream with the 1959 release of the Mini Cooper. The transverse-mounted engine and unequal length driveshafts allowed the original Mini to use more space in its body than would have been possible with a traditional layout. Since then, FWD has been the dominant arrangement in most small cars and even some midsize and full-size sedans.
Most SUVs are FWD as well, with the exception of some of the more performance-oriented vehicles like the Subaru BRZ and Toyota Supra. FWD trucks are becoming more common, too, thanks to the popularity of the Honda Ridgeline and the rise of compact, unibody pickups that use this layout. FWD remains the default for many budget-friendly models, as it allows manufacturers to offer a larger cabin and better fuel economy than other configurations.