These days the vast majority of big power cars, from tuned Imprezas and Evos, to supercars like the Murcielago and Veyron, are all four-wheel drive. However, for performance road cars it is a relatively recent development.
The first ever four-wheel drive vehicle was actually made in 1899, and was, bizarrely, an electrically powered Porsche! The to be powered by an internal combustion engine came along in 1903 with a Spyker hill climb car. There was then a slow trickle of 4WD race cars including Indy and even F1 cars.
But the first real production 4WD sports car didn’t appear till 1966 with the Jenson FF. With its 6.3ltr V8 it was quite a monster, and was updated in 1971 to the Jensen SP with a wild 385bhp engine. From here not a lot happened until 1980 when Audi released the groundbreaking quattro.
The quattro and other legendary Group B rally cars such as the Ford RS200 showed the world the huge advantage that four-wheel drive traction offers performance cars.
From then on 4WD has totally dominated rally cars and their road going versions, including iconic machines such as the Escort RS Cosworth, Celica GT-4, Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and countless others.
Fast forward to the present day and four-wheel drive technology is full of advanced electronics sending the power to whatever wheel needs it for the best handling and grip. Even supercars, which have traditionally stuck to conventional rear-wheel drive in the past, are now quite commonly 4WD.
The simple fact is four-wheel drive gets the power down more effectively. And even though the systems weigh more than 2WD, the potential performance benefits make it the layout of choice – especially for hard fast road cars.
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