Hint: It's not a foreign hot hatch.
We recently debated front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive and our talking points were time-honored ones. The terribleness of torque steer, the fun of oversteer etc… One point we didn’t really touch on too much is power, because FWD cars will always be less powerful than RWD vehicles. But this omission got us wondering about something. What’s the most powerful (engine output) FWD car on sale today in the US? Shockingly it’s not a hot hatch. And no, we didn’t give all-wheel-drive vehicle’s consideration. So, what car is the winner?
That would be the Lincoln MKX crossover. Yes, the MKX packs a 2.7-liter EcoBoost-six good for 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Of course the MKX isn’t designed for performance. It’s a luxury CUV that seats five and has a curb weight of two tons. But, its engine is more powerful than the V6 in the Mustang, which is good for 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Of course that engine isn’t turbocharged and comparing an SUV and a sports car is the definition of apples and oranges. So Lincoln sells the most powerful FWD car. But what about the powerful front-drive vehicles you’d actually want to get behind the wheel of?
The Volvo S60 might fit that bill. The Swedish sedan utilizes a turbocharger and a supercharger to squeeze 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque out of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Of course the V60 is, like the MKX, more about practicality and luxury. It does 33 mph highway and 23 city and starts at $39,450. A cheaper alternative is the new Nissan Maxima. The four-door sports car boasts 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft courtesy of its 3.5-liter V6. That engine is standard in all trim levels, meaning you could skimp and get the base level Maxima S with 300 horses for a starting MSRP of $32,510. Last summer we heard that a NISMO Maxima was a possibility, or at least a rumor with legs, so maybe that power will soon see a bump.
Again, we know that numbers aren’t everything but it is interesting to see which front-wheel-drive cars boasts the biggest engines. In terms of cars with FWD that are the most fun to drive, well that’s a realm dominated by hot hatches and wagons. What’s crappy is that the FWD car that best mixes power and driving fun in a FWD package isn’t even sold in America. We’re talking about the Seat Leon Cupra 280, aka the first production car packing front-wheel drive to run a Nurburgring lap in under eight minutes. Its time was 7 minutes 58.1 seconds and it beat out the V8-powered and AWD Audi RS4 Avant for the title of fastest wagon ‘round the Ring.
The speedy wagon gets its power from a 2.0-liter turbo-four good for 276 horsepower. Since America loves crossovers much more than it loves wagons we'll probably never see anything like this Seat stateside. Of course that could change if enough people whine and complain to the right automakers. Volkswagen, if we settle Dieselgate will you agree to bring the Leon Cupra 280 to the US?