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Even though the engine classification thread was closed, I thought it was worth examining different philosophies of engine/transmission placement regardless of semantics. I've spoken with some good folks at Aston Martin and they seem to be passionate about getting their new cars (DB9 and AMV8) dynamically stimulating.

Thanks to Erik for pointing the article out to me.

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From "EVO" Magazine

"Front mid-engined: Is this the future?"

"The arrival of the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti reveals the depth of radical thinking going on at Ferrari-Maserati. Like the new Maserati Quattroporte, the 612 S has an unusual mechanical layout. The engine is set right back in the chassis behind the front axle line, while the gearbox is mounted onto the back axle. The result is a weight distribution of 46/54 per cent front/rear - remarkable for a front-engined car, particularly for a genuine four-seater.

Ferrari has staked its future on this unconventional approach - one which will be extended to Alfa Romeo's flagship (see page 14). Intriguingly, Maserati's technical director, Roberto Corradi, told evo that he regards the ideal weight distribution to be 42/58 front/rear. 'This is the value we are trying to achieve when we build a rear-mid engined car.' The front-mid-engined Quattroporte and 612 S aim to get as close to this as possible.

'The layout guarantees similar performance to a rear mid-engine car,' said Corradi. 'Tests with the Quattroporte have shown that its maximum performance on high-speed bends is very close to what can be achieved with a good front-engined, rear-drive coupe. The BMW solution of 50/50 distribution is the best without a transaxle and we think it gives good performance when, say, a bend is a constant diameter and speed is constant. But in real life you rarely see this ideal scenario. Our transaxle system is complex and expensive, but a valid solution once it is developed.'

Audi is known to be interested in the system. Its cars currently suffer from a layout which (A3 aside) has the engine ahead of the front wheels. Having so much weight so far up front is undesirable in a performance car.
However, engineers within other companies are surprised that Ferrari-Maserati is aiming for such a rear-biased balance. 'Surely the Quattroporte will become very tail-heavy carrying four people and a bootful of luggage,' said one engineer.

Aston Martin has adopted a front-mid-engine/transaxle layout but a senior engineering source said 50/50 was best: '45/55 or worse is a bad idea. What I really want to achieve is to get the car's yaw axis [that's the vertical axis about which the car rotates] as close to the driver's stomach as possible.'

If the axis is too far in front of the driver, for example, the car would feel slow to turn into a corner. Such sensations dictate whether a car feels responsive to the driver's inputs. 'Too much weight at the back and you start to get the pendulum effect' our source claimed.

Senior Lotus sources told evo that they also regard 50/50 as the optimum distribution. 'Ideally, we'd want 50/50 with low yaw inertia [the amount of effort needed to get the car to turn from straight ahead] and the same size tyres front and rear. If a car's responses are too fast, the driver can't cope. If the initial turn-in is too quick, it's not a secure feeling. You need to feel a build-up of lateral force as you turn.'

Interestingly, the Lotus experts also said that rear-wheel steering - expected to appear on future Maseratis and the new Alfa - has huge potential for both safety and driving pleasure when combined with rear-drive and active suspension. Siting the engine behind the front wheels will also help with upcoming pedestrian impact regulations which demand plenty of crush space between the bonnet and the engine.

Only when we get behind the wheel will we know whether Ferrari-Maserati's radical approach is the right one."
 

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'Evo' is a great magazine

Perhaps the engineers out there can comment on the concept of unequal weight distribution being desirable?

I would think it would depend on the application (what types of conners the car taking), as the write-up states

In tracking my old 911, I found that there were corners where I gained time by getting the tail to slide out (turning into a tight radius at the end of a long straight, for example)

Then again, making the best of unequal weight distribution is not the same as finding the distribution that works best...
 

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Come on guys, no need to gloat.

Besides, this is a very rare case of a transmission / transaxle being located over the rear axle. That is hardly the case for 99% of front engined vehicles.

(And very costly, compared to the normal front engine/ front transaxle car.)

Thomas
 

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Vantage said:
Senior Lotus sources told evo that they also regard 50/50 as the optimum distribution. 'Ideally, we'd want 50/50 with low yaw inertia [the amount of effort needed to get the car to turn from straight ahead] and the same size tyres front and rear. If a car's responses are too fast, the driver can't cope. If the initial turn-in is too quick, it's not a secure feeling. You need to feel a build-up of lateral force as you turn.'

What's the weight distribution of the Elise??
 

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tranny at rear axle

not a new idea. Porsche's 924/944/968 series is set up that way, since 1980....and yes they're nicely balanced.
 
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