Automotive Terms and Acronyms

In the world of auto mobiles there are a cornucopia of words and acronyms used to describe cars. But few people actually know what all of them mean, and even fewer understand how they affect the cars being advertised in today's market. This page was written as an attempt to decode all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) and lengthy terms auto manufacturers use to describe their cars. Because these terms are often universal, you'll have an easier time evaluating a car's merits once you understand their significance.

Use this list as a resource whenever you come across auto terms you're unfamiliar with, and never let a dealer talk up a pointless feature or sell you features you won't use. Take control of your automotive experience right from the beginning!

4WD - Four Wheel Drive.

ABS - Anti-Lock Brake System. Braking hard from the panic of an emergency can slow a car's wheels to the point where they stop turning yet the car is still travelling forward. This means that your tires will slide on the road and the friction between the tires and the road is reduced. When friction is reduced it takes longer to bring the car to a stop and this can be fatal in an emergency. Furthermore, by locking all your tires you will lose the ability to steer the vehicle. Anti-Lock Brakes reduce the pressure applied to callipers when a wheel locks so that it may  turn fast enough to stop the car effectively and also hampers the steering less than conventional brakes. While braking hard in an ABS equipped car you'll notice a vibration in the brake pedal, don't relax the brake, nothing is broken or malfunctioning, you are only experiencing the ABS in action. This is standard on the majority of modern vehicles, even entry level Hyundais should have this equipment standard.

Cd - Coefficient of Drag. This refers to the car's aerodynamics and how much resistance it will experience from wind or when travelling at high speeds. This number isn't very important for most consumers, but if you're buying a sports car for drag racing you may want to consider this number as an x factor to break ties between to high hp models.

CUV- Compact Utility Vehicle. These are similar to their larger cousins in their versatility and mobility, however they are fitted to a platform similar to a car's as opposed to an SUV's truck platform. These vehicles are seen as feminine by comparison to SUVs, and although they will easily fill the needs of many male drivers with optional AWD and 4WD transmissions, few will actually buy them.

FF- Front engine Front wheel drive configuration. The engine is located at the front of the car and drives the front wheels. FF is the most common drive configuration today.

FR- Front engine Rear wheel drive configuration. The engine is located at the front of the car and drives the rear wheels. This is a common drive configuration for modern sports cars.

FWD - Front Wheel Drive. The car's engine drives the front wheels through a trans-axle. This affords additional interior space compared to RWD vehicles and is also cheaper to build. Although there are some merits to FWD on the track most sport enthusiasts will appreciate the versatility of RWD.

Hp - Horsepower. This refers solely to the power of the engine under the hood of your car. More horsepower generally means that the car will move faster but honestly just means that the engine produces more power than others. If speed is important to you, other factors like the weight and size of tires, weight and resistance of moving engine components, transmission systems, and aerodynamics will decide how much of that power makes it to the pavement.

MB- Mercedes-Bens.

MPV- Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Another name for the very versatile minivan.

RWD- Rear Wheel Drive. The engine turns the rear wheels through a drive shaft or trans-axle. This provides a versatile configuration for sports cars that allows moderately balanced performance over variable track conditions, divides tire wear throughout a race by splitting the wear from acceleration and braking between the front and rear tires, and allows the driver to perform manoeuvres unique to RWDs like power slides. RWD also provides more effective towing in trucks and SUVs.

RR- Rear engine Rear wheel drive configuration. An engine at the rear of the car turns the rear wheels through a trans-axle. This configuration is the least common; it was more often used in European models in the distant past and is rare today. This configuration provides a unique weight distribution within the car. The VW Beetle and MB Smart fortwo are a few examples of cars that use the RR configuration.

SUV- Sport Utility Vehicle. A vehicle designed for both off road use and to carry large amounts of cargo or passengers. SUVs use the same platform as light trucks and inherit their off road prowess. These are generally owned by individuals that need to move a combination of people and cargo through rougher terrain and are often used to visit remote locations, or distant cottages. They are also purchased by individuals that need the practicality of a Minivan with the towing ability of a light truck to move boats, trailers, and tow other vehicles. Outside of these reasons, SUVs are also purchased by people who are too self conscious to be seen driving in a more efficient utilitarian, yet boring and uncool vehicle like a minivan.

VW- Volks Wagon.