What Is an Automobile Layout?

Dan Cavallari

An automobile layout is the orientation of the wheels, engine, and drive components in relation to each other. The front engine, front wheel drive automobile layout, for example, is a vehicle that features an engine at the front of the vehicle as well as front drive wheels. This is one of the most common layouts, as is the front engine, rear wheel drive layout, in which the engine remains at the front of the vehicle but the wheels that drive the automobile forward are in the rear.

The front engine, front wheel drive automobile layout, for example, is a vehicle that features an engine at the front of the vehicle as well as front drive wheels.
The front engine, front wheel drive automobile layout, for example, is a vehicle that features an engine at the front of the vehicle as well as front drive wheels.

Another common type of automobile layout is the front engine, four wheel drive configuration. In this case, the engine is still mounted at the front of the vehicle, but all four wheels on the car or truck are responsible for driving the automobile forward. Less common is the rear engine, front wheel drive automobile layout, or the rear engine, rear wheel drive layout. Each layout will affect the weight distribution of the vehicle, and each vehicle will consequently handle differently according to its drive characteristics. The front engine, front wheel drive configuration is popular because the much of the weight of the vehicle will be centered over the drive wheels, but the front engine, rear wheel drive car may be even more popular because the weight of the engine helps non-drive wheels track the ground better.

Many SUVs have a front engine, four wheel drive layout.
Many SUVs have a front engine, four wheel drive layout.

Front engine, front wheel drive cars also tend to have more interior space due to the automobile layout, in which drive components are concentrated in one area. This does not necessarily mean this design is the best; there are advantages and disadvantages to this automobile layout and others. The best layout will often depend on what the vehicle will be used for, how large the vehicle is, and in what conditions the vehicle will be driven.

Four wheel drive layouts have become increasingly common both on cars and trucks to add versatility to the vehicle. The problem with such layouts involves the extra components necessary to make the system work, as well as added weight and in some cases limited steering capabilities. Some four wheel drive systems are part-time systems, meaning the vehicle is a rear wheel drive system most of the time and a four wheel drive system when necessary. An all-wheel drive system is one in which all wheels are drive wheels; the four wheels are full-time drive wheels, unlike some cars and trucks that allow the four wheel drive function to be turned on and off.

The steering column is on the left side of most automobiles.
The steering column is on the left side of most automobiles.

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