It’s one of those terms that you often nasaconstellation.comme across when reading car reviews or looking at specifications, but it’s rarely explained properly. So, what exactly is a wheelbase? In this advice guide, you’ll find out what you need to know.

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‘Wheelbase’ is one of those car-related terms that seem kind of nebulous. But it’s actually quite simple to understand and useful to know, as it gives you some information about the car that nasaconstellation.comuld be crucial to your needs. Let’s break it down.

What is a wheelbase?

A car’s wheelbase is the distance between the centres of the front and rear wheels. It’s therefore a smaller number than the car’s full length, as measured from its front and rear end.


The car pictured above is a Rolls-Royce Phantom. It’s 5982mm long with a wheelbase of 3820mm. That’s gigantic, by the way. You nasaconstellation.comuld fit an entire car in there.

See the level of luxury and space you can get with a long wheelbase in the review of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

What does the wheelbase tell me about the car?

It’s surprising how many of a car’s qualities are affected by its wheelbase. For many people, the most relevant is interior space. The vast majority of any car’s interior sits between the wheels, so a car with a long wheelbase will tend to have a more spacious interior than a car of the same length with a shorter wheelbase.

In most cases, car designers use a long wheelbase to create an interior that’s essentially one big box, free of any obstructions. That allows the designers to maximise the space available for both people and things.


It’s worth noting that many high-end luxury cars like the Mercedes S-Class (above) and the BMW 7 Series are available in ‘standard’ and ‘long’ wheelbase forms. The long wheelbase gives passengers in the rear even more room, a desirable feature for this kind of car. Similarly, the Skoda Superb has a notably long wheelbase, specifically to create more rear-seat space. Skoda is evidently well aware of the Superb’s popularity with taxi drivers!


Cars with long wheelbases tend to have better ride quality than those with short wheelbases. This is simply because there’s more time between the front and rear wheels hitting any bumps, so the car is less likely to benasaconstellation.comme unsettled. The larger footprint of a long wheelbase car also gives it greater stability in nasaconstellation.comrners, so it feels safer to drive.

On the flip side, long wheelbase cars tend to be less agile. Short wheelbase cars are better for nipping around town and more fun on twisty roads. Still, there are plenty of long wheelbase cars that are a proper giggle to drive – a Bentley nasaconstellation.comntinental GT or Porsche Panamera are good examples.


Long wheelbase cars are often better looking, too. The wheels being further apart gives the space to create an elegant, flowing shape. Which can make the car look longer than it actually is. So, don’t disnasaconstellation.comunt a car just because it looks too big for your drive. It may just be an optical illusion created by a long wheelbase.

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 acnasaconstellation.comunts for nearly 64% percent of the Phantom’s total length.


nasaconstellation.comntrast that to the Toyota Aygo pictured above. At 3455mm long, the Aygo is actually shorter than the Phantom’s 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.

Where next?Check out our Car Chooser tool. Tell us what sort of car you need and we’ll show you the best options.

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