How to Choose a Car for Tactical Driving

This is an assistance article to the How to Drive Tactically (Technical Driving) article on how to choose a vehicle that is right for tactical driving.


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    Choose your vehicle type; different types of vehicles will have a huge effect on the handling during certain maneuvers. In general, smaller, lighter cars are best for maneuverability, but too small of a car may result in car with a weak engine.
    • Large vehicles (e.g.: SUVs, trucks, muscle cars) may get you horsepower and torque, but the weight of the vehicle will reduce acceleration and handling capabilities.
    • Tall vehicles (e.g.: SUVs and trucks) will tend to have worse body roll and slower suspension response than standard suspension setups on cars.
    • Lowered vehicles (i.e.: vehicles with body kits) have reduced ground clearance. While these might have benefits on the track or for aesthetic reasons, on standard roads with bumps, curbs, potholes, etc, reduced clearance can cause problems. Off-street usage (off-road) is greatly reduced or impractical as an emergency option.
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    Wheel-drive is a critical issue when a vehicle is driven. It affects handling a great deal and performance as well; many shortcomings of certain wheel-drives can be overcome by the driver’s ability to compensate.
    • Front-wheel-drive (FWD)
      • This is the most common vehicle type in North America (almost all "family sedans" and minivans are FWD, as well as many SUVs (if AWD or 4WD is not an option on that specific vehicle).
      • Pros: FWD is the easiest car to drive in extreme situations. Generally, no fear of spin-outs (unless manually induced). Better traction in snow and ice than an equivalently weighted Rear Wheel Drive car.
      • Cons: Not the most efficient drive-type. Lots of squealing tires around corners, but not much speed. Bad under-steer while under power. Generally weaker vehicles use FWD for a minor weight savings, but also for additional safety with inexperienced drivers. Maximum of about 300BHP, before most power goes to waste below 40 mph (64 km/h) if a limited slip differential is present.
    • Rear wheel drive
      • Generally sports cars and SUVs with AWD or 4WD will be rear wheel drive. Some Japanese and European sedans will also be rear wheel drive, but this is more rare outside of their respective countries.
      • Pros: rear wheel drive vehicles are generally superior in acceleration to FWD vehicles. It also leaves you more manoeuvring options than a FWD. Maximum of about 800BHP, before most power goes to waste below 40 mph (64 km/h) if a limited slip differential is present.
      • Cons: These cars are a bit more difficult to handle under extreme situations. There is potential for a spin out while giving too much gas in a corner. More experience is required (more practice) to handle a rear wheel drive vehicle safely while trying to do it speedily.
    • All-wheel-drive (AWD, a.k.a. full-time four-wheel-drive)
      • This is the most rare outside of SUVs, but some sedans such as Volvo and Audi have AWD; Subaru's entire lineup is AWD.
      • Pros: Greatest stability in low-traction situations (e.g.: wet roads, dirt, snow, ice, gravel on road, off-road). AWD vehicles are able to put the most amount of power to the ground in and out of a corner. Easier to handle than a rear wheel drive vehicle. Reduced probability of a spin out. An AWD vehicle with an active center differential (usually only rally-bred cars) will behave with the best of all worlds. Maximum of about 1200BHP, before power goes to waste below 40 mph (64 km/h).
      • Cons: A transfer case (center differential), drive-line, and additional differential all add weight to the vehicle. Without an active center differential there is a great chance of severe under-steer. Most AWD vehicles (rally-bred cars are an exception) are FWD or rear wheel drive until one of those tires slip, at which time the other drive-line will activate, this may cause less predictable manoeuvrability.
    • Four-wheel-drive (4WD, AKA part-time four-wheel-drive)
      • This is often an option on SUVs and trucks. Some trucks like Dodges have auto-lockers which will allow 4WD to be activated on-the-fly (usually below 55MPH). But other vehicles may require a person to exit the vehicles and lock in the front two hubs. Many vehicles with AWD and 4WD will activate an open-differential to the normally un-powered tires.
      • 4WD should only be activated while on very low-traction surfaces (e.g.: dirt, snow, ice, or off-road). If activated on asphalt, wind-up can occur and damage the transfer case or the differential (regardless if it is a locking differential).
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    Examples of some of the best cars in each category. These are mainly based on balance in performance (i.e.: acceleration and handling).
    • FWD: (This is a hard choice) The 2006 Honda Civic Si, with its standard helical-type front-differential and almost 200BHP; and the 2007 Mazda Speed 3, with 18-inch wheels and 215/45 performance tires to adequately put its 263BHP to the road are both excellent choices.
    • Rear wheel drive: The BMW M3. This car has almost perfect front-rear wheel balance (51-49%), over 330BHP and is light and nimble.
    • AWD: Audi's sport model cars such as the S4, RS4, S5 and new R8 combine impressive horsepower numbers with track ready handling. Rally-bred cars such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Both are around 300BHP, have active or manual center differentials, and limited-slip differentials front and back. These vehicles give you great options as they are excellent on and off roads.
    • Tactical driving does not usually include 4WD trails, but possibly while on low-traction surfaces (and a vehicle with auto-lockers is involved) 4WD will give better traction and should be activated if possible. As for the best for tactical driving, an SUV would be superior to a truck in most cases, but something light, yet powerful would be good, such as a Jeep Cherokee or Wrangler. Nonetheless, a 4WD-bred vehicle is a poor-choice overall, if doing tactical driving on streets or even dirt roads.


  • Many light, but underpowered cars, might be a bit lackluster in a straight line, but have the surprising ability to impress with handling. With minor alterations to tires and a bit of skill from the driver, these light cars can compete with many higher-end cars while cornering (see "How to Drive Tactically (Technical Driving)" for advice to use this to your advantage).
  • While muscle cars may look good, they are usually over-burdened with large engines, low-efficiency drive trains, and generally poor handling characteristics (though they have the potential to go fast in a straight line, which is by no means tactical driving). Some muscle cars might be an exception, however. Fourth generation Camaros and Firebirds can generate considerable cornering force.
  • Many of the above-stated "Cons" characteristics of the vehicles can be overcome with some skill from the driver, though some make take more practice than others.


  • Always drive safely. Be observant of other pedestrians and other vehicles.
  • Any practicing you do should not be done on public streets! Your own private property is the best.
  • Never break the law! Obey speed limits, research state and local laws, and be sure to obey all the laws.
  • Driving (especially tactical or technical driving) can be very dangerous, and it should only be done in emergency situations, when no other choice is given.

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Categories: Defensive Driving Skills & Safety