A transverse engine is an engine with the crankshaft sitting in the chassis from right to left. The traditional engine has the crankshaft placed from front to rear in the chassis. Most of the common front-wheel drive vehicles employ a transverse engine placement within the chassis. The design of this engine allows the automobile manufacturers to engineer added room into the interior of the vehicle.
The typical construction of the transverse engine vehicle includes a sub- assembly that installs from the bottom of the vehicle. This sub-assembly contains both the transverse engine and transmission as well as the entire front suspension system. Due to the clearance limitations on the engine, many of the engine's components must be affixed to the engine prior to its placement within the chassis.
Unfortunately, the repairs of many of the transverse engine's components, such as the water pump, are only possible from the bottom of the vehicle with the vehicle on a lift or hoist. This makes it difficult for the shade tree mechanic to perform repairs on the vehicle without the aid of a well-equipped shop. Despite this, the advantages in safety and weight distribution make the transverse engine a design that will not soon be replaced.
The sub-assembly of the vehicle's chassis allows it to be engineered with a high safety factor as compared to complete chassis designs. In the event of a frontal impact, the vehicle that consists of a front sub-assembly is less likely to injure the occupants. The design of the sub-assembly is engineered to break away and be deflected under the occupant's cabin, creating a safer passenger compartment.
Vehicles with complete frame rails and longitudinally-mounted engines or engines sitting between the frame rails with the crankshaft facing front to rear, as in most typical rear-drive vehicles, inflict more injury to passengers during a frontal impact due to the reduction in crumple zones. This design characteristic removes much of the energy-absorbing room between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment.
With the space savings offered by the transverse engine design, some of the world's most powerful sports cars have implemented the transverse placement in a mid-engine design. This design not only takes advantage of additional passenger room within the vehicle's cockpit, but it also takes advantage of a better front-to-rear weight ratio, helping to better balance the vehicle. This increase in more positive balance characteristics allows the vehicle to take better advantage of the engine's power without breaking traction.