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Best rear-wheel drive cars

The SS V Redline is not the most powerful rear-drive sedan around but it makes the most of its mumbo.

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 front-wheel-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.

Holden Commodore SS V Redline

Despite the cloud looming large over the local industry, the crew at Holden have built some of the more amusing rear-drivers 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 347kW and 631Nm.

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.


There are sports cars, muscle cars and supercars - and then there is the 911. It's rear-engined rear-drive layout wasn't what you'd call mainstream thought, unless your surname was Porsche, but when it started, even the most optimistic of the family wouldn't have believed the longevity of the 911.

Traction off the line was considerable, given its rear-biased weight balance, but engineering persistence has allowed it to not only survive but thrive. Once slated for the history books with the 928's arrival, the 911 has seen its supposed replacement bite the dust and its reign as an icon continue.

Nowadays, for not much more than the price of an SS V Redline wagon, you could get to grips with your own example of the breed, and there's even a back seat ... of sorts. The 996 series launched in August 2001 and you can find 2002 model Porsche 911s for between $59,000 and $65,000, some with under 100,000km on the clock.

Fitted with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed auto, the 3.6-litre flat-six claimed 235kW and 370Nm, which was enough at the time of manufacture to hit 100km/h in 6.2 seconds. Or, if you are feeling even more adventurous, there are a number of older options for similar price tags, including turbocharged options.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Evoke 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,913 – 19,990 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 Evoke Pricing and Specs
Evoke (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $9,990 – 21,550 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 Evoke (LPG) Pricing and Specs
International 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,900 – 14,960 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 International Pricing and Specs
International (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $10,900 – 15,950 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 International (LPG) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist