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Why aren't modern cars fitted with freewheeling devices like that found on the Rover P4?

Rover fitted a selectable free wheel device to its ‘Aunty’ models in the 1960s. I recollect my father using it for most of his driving. Why has something like it not been resurrected as fuel prices have risen? Did it have a major mechanical or safety flaw?

Asked on 27 August 2011 by PH, Manchester

Answered by Honest John
I had one in a 1949 Rover 60 P3. It was activated by a Bowden cable. It was lethal descending hills with no engine braking and lousy brakes. Saab adopted it for a different reason; no torque reaction when lifting off on ice and snow means much less likelihood of a skid.

VAG has introduced a freewheel to a new DSG, but freewheels will not now save fuel with manuals because a modern engine shuts off its fuel supply entirely on deceleration, or if you lift off while descending a hill. The engine is turned by the powertrain. An idling engine (which it would have to be while freewheeling) uses some fuel.
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