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Front vs mid vs rear-engine cars compared — Pros and cons

Team Ackodrive22, Dec, 2021

Generally, if you need to look at the engine of your car, you open the bonnet in the front. But did you know that there are cars with engines at the rear or middle of the vehicle? Yes, we are talking about mid and rear-engine cars. Car manufacturers use various engine placement configurations to get the maximum performance out of the car. In this article, we throw light on one of the most interesting topics in the automotive world, which is front vs mid vs rear-engine cars.

Front, Mid and Rear-Engine Cars

Why does engine placement matter in a car?

The engine placement is not just about finding the right location to mount the engine. There’s much more significance to the location of the engine in a car. Whether it’s a front, mid or rear, each configuration affects the key aspects of a car.

Here are the key aspects of a car that are influenced by the placement of the engine.

  • Interior space (rear passengers)

  • Traction

  • Steering dynamics

  • Acceleration

  • Braking performance

  • Weight distribution

  • Serviceability

  • Boot space

If you are wondering how exactly these parameters are affected by the engine's location in a car, we will cover all these things in the following sections of this article.

Front, mid and rear-engine cars

The names are self-explanatory; they describe the location of the engine in a car. Refer to the points below for a better understanding of these terms.

  •  A front-engine vehicle has an engine at the front of the car (in front of the driver). 

  • In a mid-engine car, the placement shifts to the rear of the driver or, say, behind the front seats.

  • Similarly, in a rear-engine car, the engine moves further away from the front, that is, behind the rear passenger seats. 

The following sections will give you a detailed picture of each type of engine placement.

Front-engine cars

It is one of the most common configurations in the world of cars. It is a configuration where the engine is at the front of the driver. To be precise, the engine is mounted above the front axle. You can find this arrangement in almost all commuter passenger cars. Some of the highlights of front-engine cars are affordability, comfort, practicality and ease of maintenance.

List of front-engine cars in India

Almost all the passenger cars in India, hatchbacks, sedans, SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) and MPVs (Multi-Purpose Vehicles), are front-engine vehicles. So, you can assume that all the mass-market cars in the country have the front-engine layout.

Advantages of front-engine cars

Here are some of the pros of the front-engine arrangement in cars.

  • The front-engine vehicles are easy to drive. Since the engine's weight is on the front wheels, there's no chance of understeer. It can only oversteer, which is easy to manage.

  • The layout offers ample space for passengers. It also results in enhanced boot space.

  • Generally, font-engine cars are front-wheel drive vehicles. So, it eliminates complex mechanical parts. The overall arrangement is compact and also cost-effective.

  • The cooling system also works efficiently in a car with a front-engine. When the vehicle moves forward, the air helps efficient engine cooling.

  • Lastly, the engine is easily accessible, leading to easy service and maintenance.

Disadvantages of front-engine cars

Below are some of the cons of cars with front-engine configuration.

  • Front-engine cars have a high centre of gravity due to the poor weight distribution.

  • They do not offer superior high-speed handling.

  • High body roll due to the high centre of gravity.

Mid-engine cars

It is an arrangement in which the engine is behind the driver’s seat. Now, you may be wondering what happens to the rear passenger seats. This arrangement is used in sports cars with only front seats. Hence, the engine is in between the rear axle and the driver. Some of the main highlights of mid-engine cars are uniform weight distribution and impressive handling.

List of mid-engine cars in India

Here’s the list of cars with a mid-engine arrangement.

  • Audi R8

  • BMW i8

  • Ferrari 488 GTB

  • Ferrari F8 Tributo

  • Lamborghini Aventador

  • Lamborghini Huracan Evo

  • Porsche 718 Boxster Cayman

Advantages of mid-engine cars

Here are the pros of mid-engine layouts in cars.

  • The cars deliver superior handling due to the balanced weight distribution.

  • A mid-engine car has equal weight distribution, resulting in a low centre of gravity. Hence, the high-speed handling is excellent.

  • The cars have enhanced traction and braking performance due to the balanced weight distribution.

Disadvantages of mid-engine cars

Below are the cons of cars with a mid-engine layout.

  • There's no room for rear passenger seats.

  • The mid-engine arrangement is complex and expensive.

  • Maintenance costs are high due to complex repair work.

  • The engine is behind the driver. Hence, there's no engine to absorb the frontal impact in case of an accident.

Rear-engine cars

The engine is mounted above the rear axle or wheels in this type of arrangement. Generally, rear-engine vehicles have a rear-wheel-drive system. This configuration is commonly seen in performance sports cars. Some of the highlights of rear-engine cars are better initial acceleration, superior handling and high-speed stability.

List of rear-engine cars in India

Cars with rear engines are rare in India. Currently, the Porsche 911 is the only rear-engine sports car in the market. The Tata Nano also used the same layout, but it is no longer in production.

Advantages of rear-engine cars

Here are some of the pros of cars with rear-engine cars.

  • They offer excellent handling due to good traction.

  • Since the engine's weight is on the rear wheels, the traction is high. Hence, the initial acceleration is also better (for rear-wheel-drive cars).

  • The power delivery and steering are split between rear and front wheels. Hence, they do not undergo high loads as in a front-engine car.

Disadvantages of rear-engine cars

Below are some of the cons of cars with a rear-engine setup.

  • Rear-engine cars are prone to oversteer as the rear wheels get all the power.

  • Like mid-engine cars, the rear-engine arrangement is complex, and costs are high.

  • Complex engine cooling system since the engine is in the back of the car.

  • The maintenance and repairs are expensive.

  • The engine eats up the boot space at the rear.

  • The danger of heavy frontal impact is high in case of an accident due to the absence of an engine at the front.

Also, read: CNG or petrol car, which is better?

Which car engine is best in India?

To answer this question in one line — front-engine cars are best for mass-market buyers. They are affordable, practical and easy to maintain. That’s the reason why almost all commuter passenger cars come with a front-engine configuration.

Mid and rear-engine configurations are best when it comes to pure performance. Here practicality and affordability take the rear seat. Hence, the mid and rear-engine cars are expensive, but they deliver excellent performance. These configurations are only used in high-performance sports cars.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions related to front, mid and rear-engine cars.

Are front-engine cars better than rear-engine cars?

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From a consumer perspective, front-engine cars are always better as they are easy to drive, practical, and easy to maintain. However, front-engine cars are no match to rear-engine vehicles when it comes to performance.

What is the advantage of having the engine at the car's rear?

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Generally, the rear-engine arrangement is ideal for getting the best performance out of the car. And fittingly, you can see this type of configuration in performance cars. Having the engine at the rear improves acceleration and high-speed stability.

Do mid-engine cars have rear passenger seats?

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There's no room for rear passenger seats in a mid-engine vehicle. Hence, most mid-engine cars have only two doors.

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