Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Advice What Is All-Wheel Drive And How Is It Useful?

What Is All-Wheel Drive And How Is It Useful?

We look at the difference between AWD and other powertrains, and why AWD is better

  • AWD uses the gearbox to send power to all four wheels
  • All-wheel drive offers better traction in every situation
  • AWD no longer the burden on fuel economy it once was

You’ve been hearing about all-wheel drive for years now, and you’re thinking of making the switch with your next vehicle. Or perhaps you are already an all-wheel drive enthusiast, but you’re worried about fuel economy. This article on all-wheel drive may clear some common misconceptions while also helping you decide if AWD is right for you.

All-wheel drive refers to the wheels on your vehicle that receive the engine’s power. In a front-wheel drive car (FWD), the front wheels “pull the vehicle”. In a rear-wheel drive car (RWD), the rear wheels get the engine’s power and “push” the vehicle. With AWD, every wheel can receive engine power.

There are are a variety of AWD systems on the market. Some are RWD- or FWD-biased and only transfer power to the other wheels when slippery conditions are detected. Other more advanced systems will send power to both axles in real time. Called full-time all-wheel drive, these systems are rarer, but a lot more useful in difficult conditions. Full-time AWD provides immediate traction and performance on snow, ice or wet roads. You don’t have to wait for the system to detect the loss of traction, calculate the appropriate response and then send power to the wheels. With full-time AWD, you have grip immediately on ever corner.

2020 Subaru Outback First Drive Review: Sticking With A Winning Formula

Subaru and Audi are two automakers that create full-time AWD systems.

“The biggest thing that happened to AWD in the last 10 years was the reduction in fuel consumption through improved engineering. Full-time AWD systems used to consume a lot more than part-time AWD systems and a lot more than FWD or RWD systems. Now, you look at a Subaru Impreza, it’s fuel consumption rating despite having full-time AWD is roughly the same as your average FWD compact sedan”, says a sales representative at Stratford Subaru.

It’s true that you no longer have to compromise on efficiency to enjoy all-wheel. It’s also true that AWD vehicles aren’t more expensive to maintain or break more often.

2019 Mazda CX-9 vs 2019 Subaru Ascent Quick Comparison

Personally, we’ve driven hundreds of cars in the dead of winter. Some people on the team may take RWD cars from time to time, but the overall consensus here is that we want a full-time AWD car to take on a storm.

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