About Cars Wheelbase
What is a wheelbase?
The wheelbase of a car is the space between its front and rear wheels. This means that it is usually shorter than the full length of the car, from end to end.
Wheelbase is the distance between the centers of two wheels mounted on a common axle. It's measured in millimetres, or sometimes centimetres and inches in North America.
What are the different wheelbase sizes?
There is no average wheelbase for all cars, however a city car might have a Wheelbase of 2,430mm. On the other hand, a family hatchback could have a wheelbase around 2,700mm and large SUVs' could be close to 2,980mm. With this in mind, you can understand how mammoth the Rolls-Royce's wheelbase actually is.
Why is a car’s wheelbase important?
Many people are surprised to learn how many of a car's qualities are affected by its wheelbase. For example, interior space is often one of the most important factors for consideration. This is because the vast majority of any car's interior sits between the wheels. As such, a car with a long wheelbase will typically have more spacious and comfortable interiors than those with shorter wheelbases - even if they are otherwise comparable in length.
Most car designers opt for a long wheelbase to ensure an interior that's one large, open space. This allows more freedom for both people and things.
Long wheelbase cars usually have a better ride quality than those with shorter wheelbases. The main reason for this is that there's more time between when the front and rear wheels hit any bumps, so the car isn't as likely to become unsettled. Longerwheelbase cars also generally have a larger footprint, which gives them greater stability in corners and makes them feel safer to drive.
Not only do long wheelbase cars often look better, but the extra space between the wheels allows for a more elegant and flowing shape. This can make the car appear longer than it actually is, so don't write off a car just because it looks too large for your driveway. It may just be an illusion created by itslong wheelbase.
Should I compare wheelbase sizes when choosing a car?
If you're having trouble picking between two cars, their wheelbase sizes might help you make a decision. For example, the Skoda Superb has a long 2,841mm wheelbase and is therefore famed for its interior space. This extra room makes the Superb better value than the Volkswagen Passat (with a 2,786mm wheelbase), which isn't quite as roomy in the rear despite being slightly more expensive.
Is it only big cars that have a long wheelbase?
No. Plenty of small cars have a long wheelbase to maximise interior space. What you need to pay attention to is the wheelbase to length ratio.
Here’s an example: the Phantom we saw at the top is 5982mm long and has a wheelbase of 3820mm. So, the wheelbase accounts for nearly 64% percent of the Phantom’s total length.
Contrast that to the Toyota Aygo city car. At 3455mm long, the Aygo is actually shorter than the Phantom’s entire wheelbase! The Aygo has a wheelbase of 2340mm, which gives it a wheelbase-to-length ratio of nearly 68%. Proportionally at least, the Aygo has more interior space than the Phantom.
Do all long wheelbase cars have big interiors?
No. Some front-engined sports cars have a long wheelbase so that the engine can go behind the front axle to improve weight distribution and handling. Take the Mercedes-AMG GT, for example. It’s a two-seater sports car and interior space isn’t exactly important to AMG GT buyers.
Do all short wheelbase cars have small interiors?
No. Taller cars in particular can get away with a relatively short wheelbase because the seats can be mounted higher which creates more space. Car packaging designers are clearly very clever people with a lot of tricks up their sleeves! The Suzuki Ignis (above) is particularly good at this.