5 Of The Best Rear-Wheel Drive Cars You Can Buy In 2023

For many decades, rear-wheel drive was commonplace, but the fuel shortage of the 1970s created the need for a more efficient alternative. Because most cars already had their engine mounted at the front, it was simple to connect the front wheels to the powerplant. Automakers picked up a few extra miles-per-gallon by implementing front-wheel drive, but there were other benefits as well, including lower manufacturing costs and better traction in slippery conditions like snow (since the engine's weight was directly over the wheels).

If front-wheel drive seems so advantageous to the average driver, why do car enthusiasts prefer rear-wheel drive? The first reason is weight distribution: Because the drivetrain components are more equally divided between front and rear, the weight distribution of a RWD car is typically closer to balanced weight distribution, which improves handling and ride quality.

Also, accelerating hard in a RWD car, like when drag racing, transfers weight to the rear axle, which increases traction on dry surfaces. The front wheels can remain focused solely on steering, eliminating a phenomenon known as torque steer, which can make it difficult to control a high-horsepower FWD car. 

Lastly, skilled drivers can use the throttle in a rear-wheel drive car to control understeer or oversteer tendencies, or in extreme cases, drift or slide a car around corners. Front-wheel drive has become so pervasive that it almost seems like rear-wheel drive only exists in the realm of sporty, performance-oriented cars, of which there are still plenty in 2023.

Dodge Challenger and Charger

Technically the four-door Charger and two-door Challenger are two different cars, but they share enough similarities that they're lumped together. It's no exaggeration to say that these two Dodge cars played a massive role in rekindling the modern muscle car movement.

While they're available with an adequate six-cylinder engine, enthusiasts will want to pony up for one of several V8 options: ranging from the base 5.7 liter HEMI that produces 370 horsepower, up to the insane 807 horsepower supercharged 6.2 liter Hellcat Redeye.

Dodge has made it clear that 2023 is the final production year for these old school bruisers, but they're being retired with a bang. No less than seven special editions, known as "Last Call," will be offered in limited quantities. Even if you're not lucky enough to snag a Last Call edition, the more pedestrian HEMI-powered R/T trim packs a solid value at $42,480 for the Charger, and $39,480 for the Challenger. 

In an increasingly EV world, you'll literally be driving history — and having a blast doing it.

Chevrolet Corvette

For 66 years, America's sports car maintained its front engine, rear-wheel drive layout. Until the 2020 model year, that is, when the long anticipated mid-engine Corvette burst onto the scene and was instantly dubbed one of the best Corvettes ever. Starting at $65,895, the 2023 C8 Corvette is truly a supercar for the masses. The base 6.2 liter V8 engine cranks out 490 horsepower that propels from 0-60 mph in under three seconds.

Besides performing like a supercar, it also looks the part and is often mistaken for something more exotic on the road, like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. If 490 horsepower just isn't enough, Chevrolet has you covered with its flat-plane crankshaft Z06 that revs to 8,600 RPM and makes 670 horsepower — the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 engine in the world.

The only drawback of buying a Corvette may be the difficultly in acquiring it. Chevrolet's pricing is perhaps a little too great of a value proposition, leading to excess demand and long wait times to purchase one. As a result, some unscrupulous dealerships and car flippers are adding thousand-dollar premiums to the 'Vette's MSRP.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

If you're shopping for a fun, inexpensive, RWD sports car, the Mazda Miata is probably near the top of your list. Now in its fourth generation, Mazda has kept the Miata true to the same formula that made the original version so popular nearly 25 years ago.

While many cars grow larger and heavier with each new generation, the fourth-gen Miata is actually more than 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. As always, a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine lives under the hood, pushing out 181 horsepower in its latest guise. 

While that's not pavement-melting horsepower, it's enough to propel the lightweight Miata from 0-60 in a very respectable 5.7 seconds. Best of all, buyers can still opt to shift their own gears with a standard six-speed manual transmission, something that's being phased out by many automakers.

Besides the classic "ragtop" roadster, Mazda also offers a handsome Retractable Fastback (RF) version that has a rigid roof and swept-back buttresses that mimic a fixed-roof coupe. The Miata is an affordable indulgence, too, with prices starting under $30,000.

BMW 330i

The BMW 3-series sedan has always been the Swiss Army Knife of automobiles. Sporty, but still family friendly. Luxurious without being pretentious. Able to carve through your favorite windy mountain road like butter, but still rock solid and quiet on the highway at 80 mph.

Model year 2023 is a particularly fortuitous time to pick up an iconic 3-series. BMW just gave it a mid-cycle refresh that includes updated exterior styling and a stunning new all-digital dashboard similar to its higher priced sibling, the 7-series.

Regrettably, the classic BMW inline six-cylinder has been out of the picture as the base motor for over 10 years now for the sake of fuel economy, but a turbocharged four-cylinder makes a fine replacement and behaves more powerfully than its 255 horsepower would indicate. 

In fact, the base 330i accelerates from 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, and seems quite the bargain at $43,800. That's almost six grand less than the average price for a new car, especially for BMW pedigree.

Ford Mustang

As other manufacturers are killing off their "pony cars" in the near future, such as Dodge's Challenger and Chevy's Camaro, you have to give Ford credit for sticking it out with a traditional rear-wheel drive, V8 powered coupe. Right now represents an interesting time for the Mustang, as Ford transitions between the outgoing model — internally dubbed the S550 — and the new seventh-generation S650 Mustang.

The S650 brings a new version of Ford's Coyote 5.0 liter V8 with 480 horsepower, which is a modest improvement over the 2018-2022 Coyote engine. For the value-conscious, there's also a new four-cylinder EcoBoost on tap with 315 horsepower, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Once again, that figure is similar to the outgoing model's EcoBoost with 310 horsepower.

What will definitively be different is styling. The S650 has a longer and lower hood line with totally redesigned headlights, which are both slimmer and more rectangular compared to the S550. The interior also received a total restyling and is, for lack of a better word, less retro than the S550.

The order banks for the S650 Mustang officially opened on March 27, 2023, but if you prefer the more classic styling of the S550, they're absolutely still sitting in dealership showrooms for the taking. Either way, kudos to Ford for keeping the Mustang as the last man standing. Extra kudos for retaining a six-speed manual transmission to boot.