Continental Car Lab: Is reverse faster?

With all the weight and traction under the bonnet, do front-wheel drive cars accelerate faster backwards?

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One of the reasons Porsche’s two-wheel-drive 911 is so fast off the mark is because it positions the weight of the engine directly over the driven wheels which, critically are at the back of the car. It’s the perfect recipe for grip and acceleration from a standing start.

Surely then, you could effectively simulate (perhaps even fake) the same formula by reversing a front-engined, front-wheel drive? In this Car Lab we asked the question - can front-wheel-drive cars accelerate faster in reverse?

For the test we chose Honda's blistering Civic Type R firstly because it has a manual gearbox which is more durable in reverse than CVT and auto transmissions. Secondly, its reverse gear is about the same ratio as first (forward) gear so there would be no gearing advantage in either direction.

Finally, the Type R is equipped with sticky tyres and is a high-performance model designed to get up and go.

To set a benchmark, Dan managed the best launch he could using only first gear with warm tyres and on dry asphalt. The result of 51km/h in exactly 3.0 seconds aligns with the Civics’ 0-100km/h acceleration of 5.7s with a little slip off the mark.

Amazingly, when the same test was conducted in reverse, the same terminal velocity was achieved in just 2.8 seconds. An improvement of 7.0 percent.

Turns out front-wheel-drive cars can be faster in reverse but the experiment also revealed that its much easier to use the forward gears if you're looking to get somewhere in a hurry.


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