Back where it be­longs

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Showroom - STUART MARTIN stuart.martin@carsguide.com.au

IT’S a bit like blokes try­ing to multi-task — most can do two things at once but nei­ther job is go­ing to get done well.

Many still be­lieve it’s also the case with cars — drive from the rear and change di­rec­tion through the front, weighed down by the power plant.

Eco­nom­ics and pack­ag­ing have seen rear-driv­ers in the af­ford­able realm fast be­come the mi­nor­ity, to the detri­ment of ap­peal­ing road man­ners and driv­ing dy­nam­ics.

What’s so good about fron­twheel-drive? Car com­pa­nies like it be­cause they can be made lighter (no drive shaft and rear diff), qui­eter (for the same rea­son, fewer mov­ing parts be­neath pas­sen­gers) and more spa­cious for the oc­cu­pants.

But the in­her­ent bal­ance and drive­abil­ity of a ve­hi­cle with the rear wheels driv­ing and front wheels only con­cerned with steer­ing has long been a de­sir­able driv­e­train lay­out.

While a cloud looms large over the lo­cal in­dus­try, the crew out at El­iz­a­beth have built some of the more amus­ing reardrivers of re­cent times, the lat­est be­ing the $52,000 SS V Red­line edi­tions of the VF Com­modore.

Pick your body style — sedan, wagon or ute — and fire off onto your favoured back road with elec­tronic back-up and a chas­sis that won’t re­quire it, short of rank fool­ish­ness from the driver.

It’s not the most pow­er­ful rear-drive sedan around — HSV or the now-en­dan­gered FPV mod­els boast more brawn, the lat­ter more white-knuckle mo­ments — but the Red­line makes the most of its mumbo.

An hon­ourable men­tion also goes to the Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core, re­cently slung across sod­den Ade­laide Hills roads in the Targa Ade­laide event. It was kept straight and true by chas­sis dy­nam­ics de­fy­ing un­in­tended side­ways slew­ing, de­spite the best ef­forts of 347 kilo­watts and 631 Newton me­tres.

Man­ual gear­boxes might well be on the en­dan­gered list but rear-driv­ers are not dead yet.

The lat­est in­car­na­tion of the Mazda MX-5 — the rev­o­lu­tion­ary two-seater drop­top that ar­rived in 1989 un­der $30,000 — has stayed true to the light­weight bal­anced recipe of its fore­bears, even if it has got­ten a lit­tle ritzier.

Pric­ing on some oth­ers has made the lit­tle Mazda look a bit rich, but it re­mains one of the truly great sports car drives of the past cen­tury.

Toy­ota and Subaru joined forces (Toy­ota owns a large chunk of Subaru par­ent com­pany FHI) on a two-door coupe project that has brought front-en­gine rear-drive amuse­ment back to the masses ... or at least as many who were pre­pared to wait months for the priv­i­lege.

The 86/BRZ (last year’s Carsguide Car of The Year win­ners) is the 21st cen­tury cut-price cor­ner carver that has eroded the Mazda’s price point pedestal.

Lithe and en­thu­si­as­tic, the flat-four -pow­ered coupe has re­sus­ci­tated the realm of af­ford­able sportscars. The Subaru BRZ is the more sports-fo­cused while Toy­ota’s ver­sion of­fers a broader range of op­tions, in­clud­ing au­to­matic vari­ants.

“Fun to drive, again” was the mantra from Toy­ota’s mar­ket­ing boffins and for once they weren’t shov­el­ling the end prod­uct.

Mak­ing the most of its mumbo: Holden’s Com­modore VF

SS V Red­line

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