Rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD)—which one is the best? That’s really up to you and your needs. But just to define the terms a little, the FWD configuration has transmission, engine, differential and driven wheels set in the front; the rear wheels just tag along. Then you have the AWD, meaning, all wheels drive, with power coming to all from a pair of differentials at each axle. This is the type of stuff you want in snow-laden lands. Finally, you have the RWD, where power is given to the rear wheels either directly from a rear-mounted engine or through the driveshaft from a front-mounted engine.
There are two problems with the FWD, the first one being the problem of “torque-steer.” Since in an FWD, everything is in the front, when a lot of torque is applied, the front tires get overwhelmed, and the car becomes wanton, forcing you to either release the accelerator pedal or experience a belligerent steering wheel. The other problem is called “understeer,” where your car essentially doesn’t listen to you and turns less than commanded.
RWD cars can solve these problems, but they raise the cost of a car, also. These cars can’t exactly be ranked, as all those listed would've benefitted from being an RWD.
20 Ford Fiesta ST
The Fiesta is famous worldwide, having been marketed and sold in Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, China, India, Thailand, and South Africa. The design of the Fiesta ST from the years 2013 and onward was based on the Fiesta MK6/7 that were showcased at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2012. Besides the LED headlights, everything else was retained from the concept cars. Equipped with EcoBoost Turbocharged engines, the STs give good performance, all the while retaining the daily usability features—the gas mileage is pretty nice, that is.
The Twin-independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) gives a respectable 180 HP and 177 lb-ft of torque for a car of this size.
And that’s where you wonder, wouldn’t it have been better off being an RWD? It has the looks and the engine to back it up, except for the RWD part.
19 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continental is a beautiful full-size luxury car produced by the parent company Ford. Currently, it’s in the tenth generation and has everything going for it. With a 3.7-liter V6 and a 3-liter EcoBoost V6 twin-turbo, you get a decent number of engine options; with the six-speed automatic transmission, you get an efficient transmission. Move on to the interior, and you'll come face-to-face with some of the most high-tech features of the modern world. When it comes to the exterior, you'll find a dignified car reminding you of a '90s frame. It’s adapted from Ford’s CD4 platform, meaning, it’s an FWD. It has an optional AWD, but not an RWD though, which would've made the driving experience more pleasant—oh... well... for past models, but they should give it a thought for the upcoming years.
18 Nissan Maxima
The mid-size turned full-size car has a market base in North America, the Middle East, and China. Production started in 1982 and has been going strong ever since. The eighth-generation Maxima—which is where we're at—is just fabulous. The front grille, the chrome badge, and the lamplights were all part of the plan to make it look aggressive. The curves start at the hood and become more prominent as they travel the sides. The inside is also well planned. You couldn’t complain about a thing. It’s a sports car—almost—as one would be forced to hesitate a little before calling it a four-door sports car, which Nissan boasts it is. Nah... the handling could've been better with that RWD. If you want to be called a sports car, an RWD platform is a must.
17 Hyundai Veloster
Targeted for the younger folks, the Veloster replaced the Tiburon in 2011. The compact sports car looks good. It reminds you of the others in this category, including the Ford Fiesta ST that we just talked about. As far as the compactness is concerned, the interior does that very well without losing any comfort. The design and the curves of the cabin look sharp.
The list of the standard features is lengthy for a car that costs under $20K.
Reliability may be an issue, but we can perhaps condone it. It’s still a no-brainer choice. However, the engine is weak for a sports car like this. A potential solution would've been to take the six-cylinder engine from the Genesis and put that in the Veloster. And, of course, base it on an RWD platform. That’s how you end up with a compact car full of strength.
16 Buick Regal
Production of this high-end model from Buick resumed in 2011 after running its course from 1973-2004. This was GM's first attempt at creating a personal luxury car, and GM has done so-so so far.
It's not exactly an entry-level luxury vehicle, but it's for people who are looking for a little more than the average sedan.
The interior is generous, considering the number of standard features offered. The cabin stays quiet, and it's even available with AWD for rainy days. Now, there's also a Turbo that has rendered some heart-skipping acceleration. However, the Regal could improve drastically if it got the powertrain of the Cadillac ATS and the mechanical curves of the Avista. Not only would it become a better car with more power, but it would also sell more.
15 Chevrolet Impala
With the Malibu in Chevrolet’s arsenal, you start wondering what good the Impala does. The lengths and dimensions are very similar now and, most features are shared by both. The Impala already has the Alpha platform, which is the same platform found in the award-winning sedans, the Cadillac CTS and the ATS. So, what’s better than engineering the Impala on the RWD Alpha platform? Sure, Impala provides a little more power than the Malibu as of now, but once it’s based on an RWD platform, it becomes more distinct than the Malibu, which would benefit Chevrolet, as, of course, people would be excited about the new change. Chevy could also test the idea by making the RWD a trim level. That way, Chevrolet could see if that’s financially viable.
14 Honda Accord V6
This one's a bit more difficult to make happen in real life than discuss (or, I guess, write about). The Accord is one of the best models in Honda's lineup; accordingly, it's been one of the best-selling cars in the US since the past 30 years. It was compact, then became mid-size in its mid-life and is now full-size. Honda dropped the idea of the V6 due to the emissions game starting just this year. But if the V6 engine were still an option, an RWD would've made driving the already-awesome car even better.
Despite the V8 being done away with, Honda has promised an optional 2.0 turbo-four, which would provide more HP than the former V6.
Imagine if the turbo had an RWD option—although I highly doubt Honda will do that. It would go to the Acura for that.
13 Ford Fusion
Positioned in between the compact Ford Focus and the full-size Ford Taurus, the mid-size Fusion has the styling of a sports car. The full-hood—no, the whole car, honestly—reminds me of a BMW M3. Unlike the BMW M3, though, the Fusion doesn’t have the powertrain backing its fancy looks. Despite the limitations, it's done a commendable job, sure. But could things not be improved for the Fusion with the infusion of something spicy? Something like the RWD? The EcoBoost engines are great. And while most are the Inline-four engine with different amount of displacements, the V6 EcoBoost does exist but is reserved for sports—just put that on an RWD platform, and you'll have a sleek-looking car with a powerful engine. The drive would become better, and Wikipedia writers would be able to update the awards section.
12 Hyundai Sonata
This one's another mid-size sedan that could pull of an RWD. Launched in 1985, the Sonata is cruising through its seventh-generation years. With the multiple Inline-four engine options from Sonata, it might not be too radical of an idea to wonder about the possibility of an RWD platform. There's no denying that the car looks great, being, perhaps, the best-looking marque from the Hyundai brand. Its interior is also posh, the fuel economy, good, and so on. In its category, the Sonata competes with the likes of the BMW 3- and 5-Series. The 2-liter I4 is able to defeat a BMW 328i with its 245 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque. But if it became an RWD, it could take things to a whole new level.
Known as the "Mazda Axela" in Japan (a combination of “accelerate and excellent”), the Mazda3 has done well as a compact car. With a market base in more than just the US, the Mazda3 combines style, dynamic, and value in a good package, a package that's also affordable. It offers both a petrol and a diesel engine, although all of them are Inline-four. The 184 horses are nothing to complain about in a car that also has a fuel economy of 27/36 mpg, but it’s the tantalizing look that could use some equally tantalizing powertrain. A suggestion would be to take the RWD engine from the lightweight Miata and put it in the Mazda3. By doing so, you'll have the most powerful engine in the Mazda3 lineup driving the rear wheels, which will provide an amazing experience to all parties involved.
10 VW CC
The VW CC ("CC" standing for "Comfort Coupe") is just a slight variant of the Passat due to its stylized sweeping roofline, which undoubtedly limits the cargo space and the headroom in the rear seats. It’s in between the Passat and the Phaeton and seems to be more executive oriented. This car had the looks for the audience, and I’d even say the interior was right up there, but it lacked the ride that an RWD could provide.
Due to the declining sales of the 2014 model, VW decided to end the CC make in 2017 and began the production of the Arteon.
The problem with the Arteon, though, is that it’s an even fancier car, with a shinier and curvier exterior. Power to the rear wheels is needed now more than ever.
9 Toyota Celica
This one isn't to be found anymore as production ceased in 2006, having been produced for 36 years. Throughout its lifetime, a four-cylinder engine had been used, which was expected for a sports car, especially way back in the days (think the '80s). It was doing well—it was an RWD—until Toyota decided to switch it to an FWD in 1985. The Celica inspired and was the source of many other lineups that became their own entity at some point (talking about you, Supra), but things didn’t remain the same after the change. The one from '84 was better than the one from '85. The RWD just had that amazing ability to provide the driver with a finer control of the car. The Celica is being missed by fans.
8 Honda Prelude
Spanning five generations, the two-door sports coupe was derived from, believe it or not, the Accord. It looks tantalizing, not because it has the mechanical curves of the Veyron, but because it exudes the simplicity of the ‘90s. It’s plain, long, and strong. I like it. Its competition in those days was with Toyota’s Celica, Nissan’s Silvia, and Mitsubishi’s Eclipse.
I think most of us would agree that the body of the Prelude was meant to have RWD.
It’s a classic sports car of our (the millennials') past. I don't know why they didn't make it an RWD. It's not like the concept wasn't there—look at Toyota's Celica, which was an RWD until they decided to abandon that idea. I don't know whether staying away from the RWD was a thing back then or not, but it's a good car that could've used an RWD.
7 Ford Taurus SHO
This one is another offender, much like Acura's RLX. It costs a decent amount, being a Super High Output car from Ford. When it came out in 1989, it was a hit with the public. And that shouldn't have been surprising, as it was designed by the same team that built the legendary Ford Mustang SVT. And that's admirable. That was a while back, though, and the new ones aren't that fancy. An example is the RLX, for which you wonder what exactly you’re getting for that much of money. It cost nearly $45K. With that type of money, you could've had another luxury sedan that’s full-size and has an RWD, along with being a bit more aesthetically pleasing. What does that SHO brand provide us with? It doesn’t have an RWD platform. Perhaps adding that could satisfy some of the furious customers, although it still wouldn't fix the high-cost problem.
6 Pontiac Grand Prix GXPs
The Grand Prix was produced by the Pontiac Division of General Motors from 1962-2008. It was a decent car with its aggressive front. The downward-sloping hood, the lamp heads, the narrow grille, and the red triangular badge in the middle all made it a worthwhile car. And posterior to the aggressively designed front was a powerful engine. There were some 3.8-liter V6 options, but the more powerful 5.3-liter V8 was also an option. That’s where you start wondering why this full-size sedan didn’t have an RWD option. It had a good safety rating, the exterior was fancy for 2008, and the interior was likable. All you were missing was that awesome drive experience that comes when power goes to the rear wheels. Production of these stopped with GM’s Chapter 11 reorganization in 2010.
5 Volvo 850
I don’t know if you remember this or not, but Volvo also produced the 850 back in 1991. The production of these compact executive cars lasted for about five years. It was called a “dynamic car with four unique innovations,” referring to a new five-cylinder transverse engine, the Delta-link rear axle, innovating self-adjusting seatbelts, and the SIPS (Side Impact Protection System). With a variety in the transmission, including five-speed manual and four-speed automatic, customers were pleased; with an Inline-five engine in both diesel and petrol, drivers had a momentous experience. Early in its production years, a sedan was the only option, with a station wagon making an appearance later. While I wouldn’t have wanted to have an RWD option for the station wagon, I think the sedan could've benefitted from it.
4 Mitsubishi FTO
The two-door sports car was in production from 1994-2000. It was meant to be sold exclusively in Japan but grew in popularity as it found itself to be a desirable commodity through grey market import to the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand (not the US, though, as the driver seat is on the right). Grey market isn't illegal at all, by the way; both the US Supreme Court and the EU Supreme Court have upheld the lack of wrongdoing by participating in such markets. It’s essentially a seller selling the car to another seller rather than the terminal consumer.
This sports car of Mitsubishi did well, offering an Inline-four in addition to a V6.
It looks sporty from all angles. If you ever drove one, however, you could tell that driving it on rear wheels would've been something else.
3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Named after the city of Monte Carlo (France), the Monte Carlo was in production intermittently, with the last one being produced in 2007. It was your simple car. It was an RWD in its early life, but GM decided to make it an FWD after a few years, in addition to doing away with the uni-body construction due to awareness of the fuel economy after the oil crisis of 1973 and the recession a few years later. The cars from the last generation were equipped with a powerful V6, and those from the last year of the last generation even had a V8 option. You just sit there looking at the car, pointing out all the wonderful details, but deep inside, you’re just hoping it be an RWD. But to your dismay, it’s another FWD.
2 Acura RLX
Let’s get one thing straight: the RLX looks dashing—until you realize its MSRP is north of $50K. At that point, your mind wanders to other manufacturers and their lineups. If it was in the $20-30K range, the look could've been praised even more, but $50K is highway robbery. It’s not like the interior is built from wood found only in the house of the Saudi prince. And despite the luxurious interior, the drive remains rather dull. There's a 3.5-liter V6, which might be able to save the day with some help—yep, an RWD platform could make it more captivating to the prospective buyers. But even then, it becomes difficult to justify the hefty price tag. Why wouldn’t a customer proceed with an Audi instead?
1 Cobalt SS
This is probably the biggest offender on this entire list. Built only for five years starting in the mid-2000s, Chevy produced the Cobalt SS with three different engines, a supercharged one, a turbocharged one, and a naturally aspirated one. All three types received positive reviews from the public and critics alike; however, the turbocharged one garnered even more attention. Some of the critics considered it among one of the most impressive cars of the time, capable of handling the most challenging race track of the world, Nurburgring, with its machinery. And the cost? Under $25K. Adding on to the powerful engine was a beautiful exterior. Motor Trend said, with that cost, the SS stands for “Super Steal,” which anyone would be forced to agree with. Now, just imagine if all that power went to the rear wheels! Whoa! That would've been something.
Sources: motortrend.com; carbuzz.com