When shopping for a new car or considering an upgrade to your current vehicle, you may be unsure of how to go about selecting the best drivetrain, engine, suspension, and tires for your needs. It’s important to make an educated decision about these parts because they affect the vehicle’s performance, handling, comfort, and safety.
Drivetrains, engines, suspensions, and tires will all be covered in this post, along with their fundamentals and some practical applications. I’ll also share some advice on how to evaluate potential purchases.
The drivetrain is the system that transfers power from the engine to the wheels. There are four main types of drivetrains: front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), all-wheel drive (AWD), and four-wheel drive (4WD).
Each has pros and cons depending on the driver’s needs and preferences. In slippery conditions, front-wheel drive is more efficient and has better traction, while rear-wheel drive has a more balanced weight distribution and better handling. Off-road enthusiasts prefer all-wheel drive for its stability and control in various terrains. Four-wheel drive, like all-wheel drive, powers all four wheels but is usually found in heavy-duty off-road trucks and SUVs.
More about their differences:
The engine only sends power to the front wheels. This is the most typical and cost-effective drivetrain out there. Although it provides excellent traction on wet pavement, it is prone to understeer (a tendency to continue straight when directed otherwise) and torque steer (a tendency to pull to one side when accelerating).
Only the back wheels get power from the engine. Drivers of sports cars and other high-performance vehicles favour this transmission setup. Oversteer (the tendency to spin out of control) and poor traction on slippery roads are the only downsides to its otherwise superior handling, balance, and acceleration compared to FWD.
The engine can either constantly or intermittently send torque to all four wheels. This transmission is ideal for driving in any condition, including off-road.
AWD provides better traction and stability on slippery or uneven surfaces, making it a popular choice for SUVs and trucks. Additionally, the ability to distribute power between all four wheels enhances cornering and handling.
It’s better than FWD and RWD in terms of traction, stability, and control. However, AWD systems tend to be heavier, resulting in slightly lower fuel efficiency compared to FWD or RWD vehicles.
The engine powers all four wheels when the driver activates it. This is like AWD but for extreme off-roading. Trucks and off-road vehicles use 4WD. It improves traction and control in mud, snow, and steep hills. 4-wheel drive, unlike AWD, allows the driver to manually engage all four wheels, making it ideal for extreme off-road conditions where extra power is needed to overcome obstacles and navigate rough terrain.
While AWD is fine for most daily commutes and errands, 4WD is made for more extreme off-road excursions. The benefits are the same as with all-wheel drive, but it can be more expensive, heavier, and less fuel efficient. Those concerned with fuel economy may find 4WD to be less desirable than AWD due to the additional power and torque it provides.
Your vehicle’s engine is its most vital component. It takes fuel and turns it into mechanical energy to run the transmission. Gasoline, diesel, hybrid, and electric are among the most popular forms of propulsion, though there are many others.
The most common kind of motor in use today. It generates energy by combusting gasoline in a chamber. It performs well, is reliable, and has fuel readily available, but it can be loud and polluting and isn’t as energy efficient as some other options.
A diesel engine is a type of internal combustion engine that uses diesel fuel to generate mechanical energy. It’s more expensive, noisier, stinkier, and trickier to start in cold weather, but diesel engines offer better fuel economy, torque, and durability than gasoline engines.
A powertrain that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (like gasoline or diesel) with an electric motor and a battery. However, it is often more complicated, expensive, and heavy than gasoline or diesel engines alone, despite providing better fuel economy and fewer emissions.
A propulsion system that combines an electric motor with a battery. It has the lowest emissions and best fuel economy of any engine type, but it also has the highest initial cost, the shortest range, and the fewest charging options.
The suspension is the mechanical system that anchors the wheels to the car’s underside. It cushions the ride, protecting the driver and passengers from the effects of rough pavement. Independent and dependent suspensions are the two most common varieties.
Each wheel is suspended by its own system, so it can rise and fall independently of the others. Compared to dependent suspension, it improves handling, comfort, and stability but comes at a higher price and requires more complex maintenance.
Suspension wherein an axle or beam runs between two or more wheels. Superior longevity, ease of use, and load capacity come at the expense of some of the responsiveness, comfort, and stability offered by independent suspension.
The rubber parts that encase the wheels are called tires. They help your car grip the road, absorb shock, and stay stable. All-season, winter, and summer tires are the most common types of tires.
All-season tires are the most adaptable tires available today. It performs well in a wide range of weather and road conditions. Year-round performance, comfort, and durability are all strong points, though in extreme weather conditions, it may not perform as well as dedicated winter or summer tires.
Winter tires can grip the road in bad weather, such as snow or ice. It has deeper grooved treads, softer rubber, and special compounds that improve traction and stopping power in cold weather. It improves safety and performance in winter conditions, but if you use winter tires in the summer or dry weather, they are noisy and wear out faster.
For use on hot, dry, or wet pavement. Improved handling and cornering in high temperatures are the result of shallower treads, harder rubber, and special compounds. It performs better and gets better gas mileage in the summer than all-season or winter tires, but it may not be as safe or effective in the winter.
How to determine what your future car needs?
Having learned the basics of each, how do you choose the drivetrain, engine, suspension, and tires that will serve your needs the best? Here is some guidance:
Think about your budget
The various components each have their own unique initial investment as well as operating expenses over time. AWD and 4WD drivetrains, diesel and hybrid engines, independent suspensions, and winter and summer tires are all examples of upgrades that may be more expensive initially but end up saving you money in the long run due to reduced fuel consumption, fewer repairs, and fewer tire replacements.
Winter and summer tires come in a wider variety of tread patterns and tread depths than their summer counterparts. You should consider the needs and benefits of the situation and weigh them against the costs, both initially and over the long term.
Be mindful of the weather and climate
Consider local road and weather conditions when making purchases. AWD or 4WD drivetrain, diesel or hybrid engine, independent suspension, and winter tires are some of the features that may be worth considering if you live in an area with severe winters.
Consider your driving style
How you drive can also affect which parts you buy. To improve handling, acceleration, and cornering, for instance, you might opt for a RWD drivetrain, gasoline or electric power, an independent suspension, and summer tires if you’re the type of driver who enjoys driving quickly, aggressively, or sportily.
To slow down, stay safe, and ride in comfort, however, you may want to opt for a vehicle with a front-wheel-drive (FWD) drivetrain, a diesel or hybrid engine, a dependent suspension, and all-season or winter tires.
Know how you intend to use the car
How frequently and for what reasons you drive may also have an impact on the components you choose. If you do a lot of long-distance or daily driving, for instance, you may want to opt for an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) system, a diesel or hybrid engine, a dependent suspension, and all-season tires due to their superior reliability, durability, and fuel economy.
A front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD) drivetrain, a gasoline or electric engine, an independent suspension, and summer tires are all great choices for drivers who do not travel far or frequently.
Get some seat time in several different configurations before committing to one, so you can gauge how they perform in your usual driving environment. Dealerships, rental agencies, and used car lots all stock many different makes and models of cars for you to choose from.
If you have friends, family, or coworkers who share your driving conditions, you can ask them for advice. Your typical driving conditions and personal preferences should be replicated during the test drives. Pay close attention to the cars’ handling, acceleration, comfort, safety, and fuel economy.