Five Powerful Front Wheel-Drive Classics
Front-drivers aren’t universally loved by enthusiasts for a number of reasons. Their inability to perform a good, old-fashioned smoky burnout, coupled with handling defined by benign understeer rather than hairy-chested, opposite-lock oversteer, make front-wheel-drive cars — in the eyes of some — appropriate only for family sedans and econoboxes. But there are some exciting cars in the FWD realm, and the ones on this list would be members of the torque-steer hall of fame (if one existed).
- 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado: Ponder this America’s first volume-produced, post-war front-driver had a 425-cubic-inch Rocket V-8 that put out 385 horsepower. Amazingly, the front-drive system (which utilized a massive chain to connect the torque converter and the gearset) was utterly bulletproof. It was so stout that the engine and transmission package were used to power the massive, iconic GMC motorhome of the 1970s.
- 1968 Cadillac Eldorado: The Eldo shared the Toro’s front-wheel-drive platform but carried and even larger (although slightly less powerful) Cadillac V-8. From 1968, it was available with a 472-cubic-incher that put out 340 horsepower — just 10 hp fewer than the most powerful small-block Corvette available that year.
- 1986 Shelby GLHS: The only FWD hot hatch on this list was the hottest one available in North America in the 1980s. During his exile from Ford, Carroll Shelby worked with Chrysler, and this heavily breathed-upon version of the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon was a blast to drive. With a 175-horsepower 2.2-liter intercooled turbocharged engine, the GLHS (“Goes Like Hell Some-more”) was a Mustang’s worst nightmare.
- 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio: Until the 8C supercar appeared, the last new car Alfa sold in the U.S. was the pretty Pininfarina-styled 164. Alfa’s last ditch effort in North America was the 24-valve sport version of the 164, known as the Quadrifoglio, an Italian reference to Alfa’s four-leaf clover competition logo. In addition to being perhaps the prettiest engine ever to be installed sideways, the 3.0-liter V-6 made an impressive 230 horsepower. The torque steer that resulted when you mashed the throttle in first gear was nearly sufficient to make the car perform a U-turn, if you took your hands off the wheel.
- 1989 Ford Taurus SHO: The first-generation Ford Taurus helped to usher in the smooth, aero “jelly bean” look. While revolutionary, once you got past the styling, it was kind of dull. Nothing that a five-speed and a 24-valve Yamaha-engineered V-6 with a 7,000 rpm redline couldn’t cure. Amazingly, the original SHO could go 0–60 mph in 6.6 seconds, only about a second slower than a Ferrari 328 GTS.