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Best rear-wheel drive cars 2024

Rear-wheel drive is often praised as the drivetrain that delivers the most fun. Here are 10 cars that do exactly that

​Once a common set-up on many types of car, rear-wheel drive has gradually found itself taking a back seat and becoming more of an exclusive find on cars that like to put an emphasis on driving pleasure. Our team of experts have driven every RWD car on the market extensively and we’ve rounded up the best rear-wheel drive cars right here.

So what makes rear-wheel-drive cars so entertaining for their drivers? The main benefit is that the front wheels are only dealing with the steering, while the rears are getting the power to the road. In front-wheel drive cars, everything is happening up front, while the rear wheels are essentially just along for the ride. With rear-wheel drive, there’s no compromise.

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The other benefit of a rear-wheel drive layout is that a car in this configuration should have better balance, with the car's weight more evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels. Whether the car is mid or front-engined, having some of the mechanical pieces at the back will deliver this improved balance.

The best rear-wheel drive cars

These are the best rear-wheel drive cars on the market right now, as chosen by our experts.

10. Ford Mustang

While many of the cars on this list are agile, European sports cars, sometimes all you need is a good old-fashioned American brawler. The Ford Mustang has been a staple of the muscle car world for decades, but the latest car is a much more sophisticated machine than its ancestors.

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Naturally, there’s still a full-fat V8 under the ‘hood’ producing up to 447bhp and 540Nm of torque — depending on your chosen spec — and this drives the rear wheels to create a car that can still pack a serious punch on the drag strip.

It gets better, though, as additions such as a limited-slip differential and adjustable Magneride dampers make this particular Mustang equally capable when you point it towards the corners. 

9. BMW M2

While many of BMW’s M performance cars are becoming ever more complex, the M2 takes a bit more of a traditional approach to things. At the front is a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, in the middle is a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox, and at the back is an active differential. 

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This classic recipe results in a coupe that’s hugely entertaining to drive thanks to its exquisite handling and blistering pace. With 453bhp and 550Nm of torque on tap, the M2 will sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds when fitted with the manual ‘box. This time drops to just 4.1s if you opt for the automatic. 

8. Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica

It’s often said that you should leave the best till last, and that’s exactly what Lamborghini has done with the long-serving Huracan. There have been plenty of special editions that specialise in a variety of areas — the Sterrato, for example, is an off-roader — but the best all-rounder has to be the Tecnica.

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At its heart is a 5.2-litre V10 engine, which means this Huracan could very well be the last of its kind, and this is accompanied by the brand’s integrated vehicle dynamics management system. This setup combines the traction and stability controls, anti-lock braking system and active-suspension systems into one, allowing them to kick-in at the most opportune moments and respond at the quickest speeds.

Even with the ‘Strada’ driving mode engaged, a setup which is designed for road use, the Tecnica’s chassis is an incredibly enjoyable one. and the smile it’ll put on your face will almost be as big as the one resulting from the soundtrack of ten screaming pistons.

7. BMW i4

BMW is no stranger to the electric car market. In fact, the i3 was one of the first mainstream electric models to go on sale in the UK. The i4 was another milestone for the brand, too, because it’s the first fully-electric car to be closely related to the 3 and 4 Series.

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This means the i4 had to make a serious impression from day one, not only to live up to its siblings’ reputations, but also to compete with rivals such as the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3

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The hottest car in the range is the M50. However, the standard rear-wheel-drive i4 should prove plenty for most people, and it’s just as user-friendly as its combustion-powered cousins. A high level of build quality, excellent refinement, plenty of on-board tech, the ability to rapid charge from 10-80 per cent in 31 minutes, a 470-litre boot, and a generous amount of space for both front and rear passengers all go towards making the i4 a great choice as a usable but highly-entertaining electric car. The tax savings should be tempting for company car users, too.

6. McLaren 750S

It may look very similar to the 720S which it replaced, but the McLaren 750S has been improved where it counts in order to make it even more ferocious to drive.

Power is provided by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine producing a mammoth 740bhp and 800Nm of torque. While this delivers plenty of raw performance, McLaren’s engineers have also applied the usual technical trickery in order to squeeze the very best out of this rear-wheel drive supercar. 0-62mph is dealt with in a mere 2.8 seconds, and it’ll then storm on all the way to 206mph. 

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Once you’re finished annihilating the competition at the track, the 750S will then settle down into a refined and reasonably practical road-going car.

5. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Petrolheads waited a long time for Alfa Romeo to deliver something like the Giulia Quadrifoglio.     

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The BMW M3 had the sports saloon segment wrapped up until this hot Giulia came along in 2016. With a thundering 503bhp being produced from its 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, this Alfa was never a slouch, but a series of updates in 2024 made this Italian performance car even better.

The V6 is as monstrous as ever, and it still fires the Giulia QF from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, and then on to a 191mph top speed. The difference now, though, is that the flawed e-diff has been replaced with a proper limited-slip differential, and the suspension has been given some highly effective tweaks.

There’s copious amounts of carbon-fibre to keep weight down and rigidity up. The steering is pinpoint and there’s lots of front-end grip, turn the traction control off and you’ll have to keep your right foot in check to restrain the tail-happy nature. With 50:50 weight distribution, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is a well-balanced car and a rewarding car to drive, if you’re confident with the supercar-baiting performance on offer.

4. BMW 3 Series

It’s no secret that BMW’s 3 Series has been one of the best handling saloon cars ever since its inception, but the current one is better than ever. The 3 Series is now in its seventh iteration and is still a proper driver’s car. It offers a great combination of performance, driving dynamics, low running costs, on-board tech and improved refinement.

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There's the usual strong lineup of petrol and diesel engines, as well as a frugal plug-in hybrid version, while the latest car's interior reflects the excellent, high-quality feel of the bigger, more expensive 5 Series and 7 Series.

The 3 Series is a more driver-focused proposition than its Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class rivals, with BMW managing to create a comfortable ride without sacrificing any of the driving entertainment its compact exec is famed for.

3. Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 has been designed in homage to the original 1960s car of the same name, so naturally it had to follow a similarly straightforward formula; two seats, rear-wheel drive, low weight, and a relatively small but energetic engine, in this case a turbocharged 1.8-litre unit. 

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this combination results in a lot of fun. All A110s weigh less than 1,200kg, while double-wishbone suspension, strong brakes, and a mid-mounted engine all go even further towards making the Alpine a highly engaging and balanced car to drive – enough to truly worry established rivals such as the Porsche 718 Cayman.

2. Porsche 911 

Porsche’s most famous nameplate sits on the upper end of the sports car pricing scale, but it’s largely worth it thanks to a mix of practicality, refinement and supercar-rivalling performance.

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The current 992-generation 911 was released in 2019 and is now available in multiple guises ranging from the standard to the hardcore and track-focused GT3, GT2 RS and GT3 RS.

The standard 911 Carrera offers enough performance for most. The Carrera’s 3.0-litre, flat-six, twin-turbocharged engine is detuned to 380bhp in this entry-level model, but it’ll still crack 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds. 

In terms of driving engagement, not much comes close to the 911. The electronically-assisted steering is one of the most communicative systems on sale, and the ride quality is excellently balanced between compliance over rough roads and the stiffness needed to be precise when you push on. 

1. Mazda MX-5

If you’re in the market for a cheap, small, rear-drive sports car, the Mazda MX-5 is probably at the top of your list. Since its introduction in 1989, Mazda has honed the MX-5 across four generations but retained the same formula which made the original version so popular. 

The current generation was released in 2015 and has received a number of updates throughout its lifetime. While many cars become larger and heavier as each new generation arrives with the addition of safety technology and on-board gadgetry, the Mk4 MX-5 is actually 100kg lighter than its predecessor. 

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There are two engines to choose from, and the most powerful is a 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated petrol that pushes out 181bhp and revs up to 7,500rpm. In short, it boasts more than enough power for the MX-5, and with no forced induction it’s happy to rev. With the sweet-shifting six-speed manual gearbox and nicely weighted steering, it’s hard to pick fault with the powertrain. 

Due to the MX-5’s tiny proportions and focus on lightweight design, the ride can feel quite firm on long drives and the boot isn’t the most practical. The interior also feels quite dated, but these issues are quickly forgotten once you’re on a good road and making the most of the wonderful chassis Mazda has developed over 30 years.

Best rear-wheel drive cars to buy

  1. Mazda MX-5
  2. Porsche 911
  3. Alpine A110
  4. BMW 3 Series
  5. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
  6. McLaren 750S
  7. BMW i4
  8. Lamborghini Huracan Tecnica
  9. BMW M2
  10. Ford Mustang

Controlling a rear-wheel drive car

Although a rear-drive layout can easily deliver driving fun, it can also be more tricky to handle on the limit. While a front-wheel drive car will tend to turn to understeer — the front end of the car pushing forward instead of turning — when it loses grip in a corner, a rear-drive car will get unbalanced at the rear, causing the tail of the car to swing out into oversteer.

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Oversteer is controlled by applying lock in the opposite direction of the corner you're taking. Braking can amplify oversteer, which can cause the car to spin out if you're not fast enough to react. If you do catch it in time, you might be tempted to apply more power to turn a potential skid into a drift, although this is a lot trickier than the sideways antics of various TV shows and YouTube videos would lead you to believe.

However, with the advent of smarter electronic driver aids, rear-wheel-drive cars don't necessarily need to be lairy on a trip to the shops. Keep all the assistance systems on, and you're never likely to encounter oversteer in even the slipperiest of conditions.

Rear-wheel drive options

Do a search for rear-wheel-drive new cars, and you'll discover a wide variety of models on offer. The front-engine/rear-drive Caterham Seven 160 is a great introduction to sports car driving at the bottom end of the scale. It's the classic two-seater roadster, and its small Suzuki engine is easily powerful enough for you to have some serious fun.

The Mazda MX-5 delivers a similar experience in a far more modern package that you could use every day, and it only starts from a couple of grand more. 

Elsewhere, BMW and Mercedes are renowned for favouring rear-wheel-drive layouts in their executive cars, and there are plenty of high-end rear-drive sports cars on sale. Whether they're front-, mid- or rear-engined, they have all been designed with driving thrills at the top of the agenda. Many come with a manual gearbox to maintain a pure driving experience, but the best auto-equipped models don't lose any of their engagement due to the fitting of a self-shifter.

Looking for more of the fun factor from your next car? Check out our list of the best sports cars

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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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