What are the advantages of a mid-engine car?
A lot of famous cars seem to put the engine not in front of the driver, but behind the driver in what is typically known as the mid-engine format. Why is this? What are the advantages of a mid-engine car? We may be able to shine some light on this conundrum.
What car configurations are there?
There are a lot of places car manufactures could put your engine, but ultimately it comes down to three typical arrangements. You have front-engine, which is what most cars are, with the engine right under the hood and in front of the driver.
There’s also the rear-engine arrangement. This one can get kind of confusing, especially as both mid-engine and rear-engine have the engine behind the driver. Rear engine though means the engine is arranged behind the rear axle. This is typically considered an unstable format, but miraculously the Porsche 911 has been pulling it off for decades. Most supercars prefer the mid-engine format though.
A mid-engine car has the engine behind the driver but in front of the rear axle. You can get cheeky with this though as certain cars, like the infamous Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, keep the engine in front of the driver, but park it behind the front axle. These long-nosed cars could be considered mid-engine by some, but most will just laugh and wonder how they are going to change the rear spark plugs.
Why do supercars have the engine in the middle?
Supercars like the Huracan, Aventador, 488, R8, NSX, and even the more rare and exotic models like Bugatti and Koenigsegg love putting the engine in the middle behind the driver and there’s a good reason for that.
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For one, putting the engine right near the rear axle ensures that you have weight over the most important axle during acceleration.
Secondly, all supercars are trying to achieve a near 50/50 weight distribution between the front and the rear. A 50/50 weight distribution makes for a better handling car overall.
This is difficult to do when the driver, engine, and steering gear are all tucked around the front axle. However, it becomes a lot easier when manufacturers push that engine back.