Weight Distribution Is Very Important
For many people, a lighter curb weight is what makes a car better on the track. For others, more horsepower is the best bet for drag racing.
My answer to both sides: NOT ALWAYS. Especially if your car has front- or rear-wheel drive. Weight distribution also affects all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars, but to a lesser extent (much more so on a corner-craving race track, but much less so on a dragstrip).
For example, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has a weight distribution of 56% to the front wheels and 44% to the rear wheels. The third-generation Cadillac CTS-V, on the other hand, has a weight distribution of 53% to the front wheels and 47% to the rear wheels.
It may not seem like there is a difference, but man is there such a huge freaking difference.
Using Vimulator.com, a vehicle simulation website which I have briefly mentioned in my previous car article, I have used static friction figures of 1.0 for both of the American super-sedans. I have had set the mechanical efficiency to 1.0 for both cars.
With static frictions of 1.0 and mechanical efficiency ratings of 1.0, the bone-stock, 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V and 707-hp Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat are around 0.5 seconds apart from 0-60 mph (5.03 for the CTS-V, 5.5 for the Hellcat). Throughout the 1/4-mile, the CTS-V browses at 131.45 mph in 12.61 seconds, seeing 140 mph in 13.9 seconds. The Hellcat clicks in at 127.6 mph in 13.11 seconds, hitting 130 in 13.48.
Using static frictions of 1.5 and setting mechanical efficiencies to dictate the speeds rounded up after their 1/4-mile trap speeds (rounded up to the next 0; be it 140 for CTS-V and 130 for Hellcat), the Hellcat has a mechanical efficiency rating of 0.76 while the CTS-V has a mechanical efficiency rating of 0.8. However, their 0-130 (Hellcat) and 0-140 (CTS-V) times remain roughly the same.
I use the same procedure for all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars, but use a mechanical efficiency rating of 0.83 and remain static friction of 1.0; however, I also base mechanical efficiency ratings on the time a car achieves after hitting the next last-digit-of-zero speed (for example, a car trapping 122 mph in the 1/4-mile is going to need to hit 130 for me to add 0.5 worth of static friction and reduce mechanical efficiency. If a car hits 0-130 mph in 12.6 seconds, even if it has a 1/4-mile time of 12.5 seconds at 129 mph, I am still going to use the same procedure as I would if it had a 1/4-mile time of 10.9 seconds at 121 mph.
The Hellcat completes the 1/4-mile in 11.85 seconds at 122.61 mph after hitting 60 in 3.61 seconds, however its 0-130 time is 13.45 seconds (nearly identical to its previous run). Mechanical efficiency rating is reduced from 0.83 to 0.82.
The CTS-V completes the 1/4-mile in 11.28 seconds at 126.83 mph after hitting 60 in 3.14 seconds, however its 0-140 time is 13.92 seconds (nearly identical to its previous run). Mechanical efficiency rating is reduced from 0.83 to 0.8. 0-130 mph is 11.87 seconds.
And yes, there is a huge difference between 122 and 126 mph in the 1/4-mile. There is also a huge difference between 11.28 and 11.85 seconds. But all-wheel-drive would add around 150 pounds to both cars.
With an additional 150 pounds (all-wheel-drive), the CTS-V has a 1/4-mile time of 10.99 seconds at 126.2 mph, with a 0-130 time of 11.72 seconds (0-140 mph is almost equal to its last RWD run at 13.85 seconds). An all-wheel-drive Charger Hellcat would have a 1/4-mile time of 1/4-mile time of 11.5 seconds at 125.03 mph, with a 0-130 time of 12.51 seconds (around a second better than its last RWD run).
Even with those 1/4-mile times in mind, the current-generation BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S are much quicker. This is because the torque of these twin-turbocharged German machines are produced at around 2000 rpm's (and their transmissions have closer gear ratios).
An AWD CTS-V, with a static friction of 1.5, still suffers from traction issues than an AWD Hellcat due to the maximum torque being managed in the lower-rpm range (3600 rpm for CTS-V versus 4800 rpm for Hellcat).
Weight distribution shows the true potential of a two-wheel-drive car. For rear-wheel-drive cars, a low front-to-rear ratio (53% or less) is important. For front-wheel-drive cars, a high front-to-rear ratio (around 60% or more) is important.
Even the 467-horsepower Lexus GS F nearly matches the Dodge Charger Hellcat in a drag race, thanks to its weight distribution of 53:47 (front-to-rear ratio). It hits 0-60 mph in 3.61 seconds (with hardly a burnout, if any) and completes the 1/4-mile in 11.9 seconds at 120.3 mph. 0-130 mph is completed in 14.01 seconds, which is only 0.56 seconds away from the Hellcat despite having 240 horsepower less. Mechanical efficiency rating is set to 0.89 after simulation/traction procedure.
For your information, the GS F weighs in at 4,034 pounds, versus the CTS-V's 4,141 and the Hellcat's 4,575. Going by my use of the simulator, the GS F produces 416 horsepower to the rear wheels, while the CTS-V and the Hellcat produce 512 and 537 rear wheel horsepower, respectively. The curb-weight-to-wheel-horsepower ratios are 9.7, 8.1, and 8.5 to 1, respectively. The GS F also takes 2.14 seconds longer to sprint to 130 mph than the CTS-V.