Drifting is a type of motorsports activity in which drivers slide the car, especially around the corners and sharp bends, with wheels spinning throughout. This activity is either carried out in a pattern created by the organizers or simply around bends on a racing track.
Although rear-wheel-drive cars have been the gold standard in drifting and their mechanical prowess is best suited for this, AWD cars have started to increase in number and the question arises, are AWD cars good for drifting? Let’s have an in-depth look at the drifting activity and which type of drivetrain is best suited for it.
Are All-Wheel-Drive Cars Good for Drifting?
AWD cars are not good for drifting, and neither should they be used to attempting a drift or sliding. The all-wheel-drive powertrain was invented to enhance the stability of the car, and it is almost impossible to perform a drift on the AWD car due to its mechanical layout. And the electronic safety systems in these cars also prevent any drifting motion, for safety purposes.
The basic aim behind the AWD layout is to enhance the traction and stability of the car during normal and wet conditions. Moreover, the all-wheel-drive also helps to keep a car planted on sharp bends and during an ascend or a descend in hilly areas.
In an AWD car, the engine sends all the power equally to 4 wheels in normal driving conditions and can optimize power on any tire based on the situation. For example, on a turn or sharp bend, an AWD car would send maximum power to the wheels on the outside and minimal to the inside, to provide an optimal. Such a layout and mechanism is totally opposite to what’s required for drifting, where all the power should be at the rear wheels and provide a sliding motion by spinning the rear wheels.
Also read: 3 Best BMWs for an Amazing Drifting
All the modern AWD cars have electronic stability and traction controls that prevent the car from sliding or wheel spin. Additionally, these cars also have electronic parking brakes instead of old-school hand brakes that are necessary for drifting as they throw the car outwards/inwards into a sliding motion.
Having established that AWD cars are not good for drifting, some performance cars have AWD drivetrain and are equipped with a drift mode. These cars are specially designed to perform a drift, and the engine in these cars sends 80% power to the rear wheels and only 20% to the front wheels, allowing the enthusiast to enjoy whenever they want.
When is it possible to Drift with an AWD Car?
Drifting with an AWD car is only possible if the car is factory equipped with a special drift mode. Then it is mechanically programmed to bypass the safety systems and transmit all the power to the rear wheels for a slide. It can also be done by switching these systems off manually.
AWD cars are inherently very stable cars and have superb traction to ensure a planted and safe driving experience, everything totally opposite to what’s ideal for drifting: loose traction, rear spinning wheels, and no safety systems.
Still, it is possible to drift with an AWD car. The first thing to check is that it has a conventional handbrake and not an electronic parking brake because it would not slide with an EPB, and only with a handbrake. Then check and turn off all the safety systems like electronic traction control and vehicle stability assist, or the car would resist sliding.
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If the power transmission is configurable, set the maximum power delivery to the rear wheels for a spin and propel the sliding motion. If the car is equipped with a paddle shifter and a Tiptronic transmission, drift becomes easier as the driver can keep the car in lower gears for high revving.
By applying all these changes and settings, one can attempt drifting with an AWD car.
Some performance cars that have an AWD system, are equipped with a drift mode that automatically turns all the safety systems off, and sends maximum power to the rear wheels for sliding and drifting movement. If you cannot drift an AWD car yourself, simply get one that can do all by itself.
Also read: 12 Best Drift Cars for Under $5k (For Beginners)
How to Drift with an AWD Car?
Drifting with an AWD car can be attempted by switching off all the enhanced safety systems, engaging lower gears, and using the right technique of steering movement for a proper slide. Although it is nearly impossible to drift with an AWD car, let’s see how you can try to attempt it.
Go through these steps to understand how to do drift with an AWD car;
- If it’s a manual car, then you’re not going to have any problem with keeping it in lower gears to attain a continuous higher RPM. If the car you’re gonna use is automatic, put it in Tiptronic mode (where you can manually down and upshift), or the Lower gear (L).
- Switch off all the safety systems, such as electronic traction control, or vehicle stability assist.
- If configurable, set the maximum power delivery to the rear wheels.
- While approaching a turn, put the car in a lower gear and turn the steering towards the direction of the turn. Immediately pull the handbrake and press the gas paddle.
- The car will slide to its side, slightly turn the steering in the opposite direction and downshift while keeping the gas paddle pressed.
- If you turn the steering too much, the car will just do a circle and come to a stop, because all 4 wheels are moving on an AWD car.
Note that it is a very tricky method and might not work all the time due to 4-wheel traction.
Also read: 3 Best Audi for Amazing Drifting
AWD, RWD, or FWD? Which one is Best for Drifting?
Without any doubt, RWD is the outright king of drifting and is the best system you should get if you’re a drift enthusiast. Although you can drift with an FWD car as well, it would be more of a slide than drifting. AWD cars, as discussed, are not good for drifting at all.
The rear-wheel-drive cars are best for drifting, thanks to their mechanical layout. In RWD cars, all the power is sent to the rear wheels, ideal for a drifting motion, and a handbrake to slide the car on one side. If the RWD car has a manual gearbox, then it’s the best package for drifting. All the legendary drift cars that are loved by enthusiasts and drifters themselves are rear-wheel-drive. Nissan 350z, Nissan Silvia S15, Infiniti G35, Nissan 300Zx, Toyota Mark II and so many other legends of the car drifting world are all RWD.
An FWD car has all the power going to its front wheels. Now such a drivetrain can be used to put a car in the slide but not for proper drifting. When the tires are spinning during a slide on an FWD car, it keeps a car in sliding motion in one direction only, so it makes a circle. If the steering is turned to change the direction, the car comes to a stop. So, an FWD car is also not good for drifting.
As I talked about the AWD cars and drifting in the section on top, these cars are totally opposite to what a drift car should be. It is only possible to attempt the drift on an AWD car after turning all the safety systems off and engage in a complex technique to execute the drift.
So it’s best that you stick to an RWD car if you’re a drift enthusiast and there are plenty of cheap and reliable cars on market right now.