A transaxle is the major component in the transmission of a vehicle. It integrates the transmission, the differential, and other parts of the drive axle to one assembly. In almost all vehicles transaxle configurations are universal. The engine is placed at the same end of the vehicle as the drive wheels. For example, a front wheel drive car has a front engine and a rear wheel drive has a rear engine. Those vehicles that have a rear mid engine have rear wheel drive layouts.
The majority of cars that have mid and rear engines also have a transaxle and transverse engine similar to a front wheel drive car. Some other cars use the longitudinal engine plus transaxles. It has an arrangement that is shaped like a ‘t’ with a longitudinal engine that is connected to a transverse transaxle. One example of this is the Ferrari 1989 Mondial. A similar layout is found in Audis and several cars built by the Volkswagen Group.
There are some rear wheel drive vehicles with a front engine. These cars have the transmission in front of the engine however, the front engine could drive a rear mounted transaxle. Most of the time this is done in order to distribute the weight of the vehicle evenly, like in sports cars. An advantage to this setup is that the driveshaft only has to withstand the torque of the engine. This is instead of the torque multiplied by first gear ratios. Some examples of vehicles that use this configuration are listed below.
- 2003 - Present Aston Martin
- 2004 - Present Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
- 2004 - Present Maserati Quattroporte
- 2005 - Present Aston Martin V8 Vantage
- 2006 - Present Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
- 2009 - Present Lexus LF-A
- 2009 - Present Porsche Panamera
Four wheel drive cars use a transaxle that is located right behind a front mounted engine. It contains a gear box as well as the centre, front , and final drive differential units.
If you are planning to work on your vehicle it is important to locate and understand the transaxle. This integral part of the engine is what can either give your optimum performance from your vehicle or completely destroy it. There are many books available to guide you through working on your transmission and transaxles. There are websites dedicated to the discussion of repairs and variants in transaxles that can be helpful to anyone intending to repair a transaxle or purchase a sports car.