A car’s wheelbase is one of the main dimensions buyers tend to overlook when choosing the vehicle. It is the distance between the two axles in a vehicle. In cases where there are more than two axles, the manufacturer takes the first and last one, not any other axles in the middle.
The wheelbase plays a massive role in how a car can drive, how good the ride can be, and how practical it can be in specific scenarios.
Cars with short wheelbase are usually smaller, meaning the space in the interior is sacrificed, so the leg room and trunk capacity is not as good as cars with bigger wheelbase. On the positive side, you will be getting a car with a sportier driving experience where it will turn on a dime. That would also mean that close the wheelbases are to each other, the ride may be a bit harsher.
Keep in mind that modern suspension manages to eliminate that, but you may find yourself in a case where you may notice it. A car with a short wheelbase means that it will probably be a hatchback or a compact sedan, so city driving and navigating in tight spots will be more comfortable.
Cars with a longer wheelbase are usually the more comfortable options because, due to the length, the ride feels much smoother. As for the driving experience, adding more inches to the wheelbase distance means that you will start sacrificing the feel of a sporty car.
When you turn the front wheels, it takes a little more time to get the rear end turned. That is why modern cars with a longer wheelbase have rear-wheel steering to help with maneuverability. Even with that, navigating a car like that through tight spaces may be difficult.
Manufacturers have short and long-wheelbase models in their lineup. Some luxury manufacturers offer more extended wheelbase models of their existing long-wheelbase models. Take Audi, for example. Their A8 is a sedan with a long wheelbase, but they also provide A8 L with an even longer wheelbase. Overall, you are getting more interior and trunk space.
A car’s turning radius is the radius of a circle that a car could hypothetically draw on the ground while having the wheel at a full lock, left or right. This is where vehicles with short wheelbase come in handy because, due to the distance between the axles, the turning circle is smaller.
Cas with longer wheelbases tend to have wider turning circles, and even with the introduction of rear-wheel steering, they are still unable to reach those numbers. To put things into perspective, the Smart ForTwo has a very short wheelbase, and it has a turning radius of almost 23 feet. On the other hand, the Audi A8 L has a turning radius of nearly 39 feet.