Another FWD/AWD/4WD Thread

Status
Not open for further replies.

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
Messages
51,346
Location
New Jersey
Went to the Phila. Auto Show tonight. Sat in a lot of utility type vehicles. Lots of these vehicles that are midsize sedan variants, like the RX350, Highlander, Explorer, Equinox, CRV, etc. Ive always had great luck with traction in FWD vehicles, especially with snow tires. The issue in snow (ice isnt overcome with any drive system, so is a moot point), is ground clearance if trying to get through certain uncleared areas. Now, Im not a great advocate for going out in bad winter conditions, but none of those vehicles are really off-road nor sportscar vehicles, where more driven wheels give off road prowess or better handling and acceleration at the limit. So, is there any real, practical benefit anymore between a FWD SUV and an AWD SUV? Take the equinox, explorer or any other as an example. Is anyone really going to crest a hill covered in snow better in one versus the other? More control accelerating or decelerating? Where does the benefit from AWD lie in these vehicles at this point? More of a sales gimmick?
 
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
Where does the benefit from AWD lie in these vehicles at this point? More of a sales gimmick?
I believe it is a sales gimmick. A few years ago, I had a G.M. "all-wheel" drive SUV. The amount of front wheel spin required to "engage" the rear wheels was excessive and not practical when I needed it most. I was thoroughly disgusted I paid the premium for "AWD". You live...you learn, I guess. Subaru is the way to go if you want AWD, but like you said, you still have to deal with clearance issues in deep snow and rugged terrain.
 
I think the Jeep's 4WD system when in "part time" is awesome. I believe it drives 3 of the 4 wheels by locking the rear diff. and putting power to both axles. It provides significantly better traction than FWD or AWD. I think when a vehicle has a real transfer case (with its own shift) is where its a serious 4WD system.
 
I think FWD is good for snow if your car is heavy enough and has the ground clearance. Had a Chevy van, FWD, handled snow fine. Had a Honda prelude fwd.. Kept getting lifted up by the snow under the car, that the tires couldn't make contact with the road. So maybe AWD is more beneficial for lighter cars. Or, you can do what I did. Move to Los Angeles. Lol.
 
FWD sucks in snow trying to climb hills. Mainly because the front end "lifts" just when you need some added downward force. FWD downhill in snow is OK and fine on most curves.
 
Originally Posted By: Pablo
FWD sucks in snow trying to climb hills. Mainly because the front end "lifts" just when you need some added downward force. FWD downhill in snow is OK and fine on most curves.
One of course backs up a snowy hill with AWD.
 
Gimmick. I've conquered snowy roads just fine in FWD cars with snow tires. Carmakers sell AWD as a "security blanket" in inclement weather. It's not the going that's important in snow, it's turning and stopping. No AWD system will help one turn/stop better when the all-season tires aren't gripping. I can do some very nice 4-wheel drifts in a Subaru when none of the tires grip.
 
Well, I have had maybe 10x in the past 11 years that the AWD was beneficial to me in the CRV. Of those 10x, I don't think FWD would have stopped me, just made it a little more difficult. Meanwhile, 100% of the time, I pay a penalty for fuel mileage. I suppose in a more mountainous or worse weather climate I might disagree. If you live in NJ, I am sure your weather and roads are close to mine. ref
 
4WD/AWD > FWD in snow. It's a no brainer. Most of the big storms we saw last year had folks at work fail to make the last hill into our facility. Most of what you saw in the parking lot were trucks, Jeeps, and AWD vehicles. My wife's Maxx does pretty well in the snow, but not as well as my truck or my kid's Cherokee. I pulled many of my neighbors up our hill with my trail Jeep during the surprise Halloween storm we had. In compound low, the rear spool and front locker didn't miss a beat.
 
Front wheel drive can't do this:
Is "this" necessary for snow or inclement weather? Maybe, maybe not. Is it more fun? Yep.
 
4 grippy tires on a real AWD system trumps a FWD system around here any snowy day of the week. Sure none of these helps you stop, but usually that involves too much speed in the first place. I frankly like getting home from work and man, two weeks ago I almost didn't make it. I have a FWD Volvo with snow tires and I used every ounce of my driving ability to get up the steep hills. I'll concede a bit - If AWD wouldn't have helped me then it truly would be a gimmick. But I'll bet my toasted oats some rear wheel action would have helped the front wheels.
 
Originally Posted By: Pablo
I'll bet my toasted oats some rear wheel action would have helped the front wheels.
crackmeup The quote of the week.
 
My Subaru legacy climbed our driveway with 8" of fresh snow on it, 10% grade for 500 feet, with tires that were at 3/32nds tread depth. Guarantee a FWD would not have stood a chance! Before you get all excited, I had new tires mounted that afternoon! My Suby is a tank in the snow, I will never go back to FWD!
 
I think one phrase sums it up: It's not necessary, but it's nice. I've owned an AWD Subaru (2002 Impreza 2.5 RS) and I've owned a vehicle with GM's "inferior" AWD on-demand (2006 Saturn Vue). Depending on the type of driving, I'd rate both about the same in terms of practicality. For unpredictable surfaces at higher speed (snowy freeway), I would take stability control and FWD/RWD over an unassisted AWD system. From my experience, the AWD system in the Vue doesn't have the response necessary and the Subaru can be as dicey as a RWD car. Of course, stick AWD and stability control together and you've got a nice match. For surface streets, I'd say both are pretty equal at getting you where you need to go. The biggest obstacle I've always found in FWD/RWD vehicles is crossing choppy ruts when turning. Both vehicles would gobble them up without drama. My in-laws live in an area that receives an average of 150" of snowfall each year. Until about 5 years ago, they never owned an AWD or 4WD vehicles. They've never owned a set of snow tires either. Neither of them have ever missed work or worked from home because of the weather. They'll tell you the same: Nice, but not necessary. I always find it funny when people say that Subaru's AWD system is so orgasmic when driving in the snow or GM's is so useless. The Subaru was capable of see-sawing between the worst of a FWD car to the worst of a RWD car. Too much throttle and it will oversteer like a RWD car. Too little throttle or too much steering input and it will plow ahead like a FWD car. The GM system works best when you drive it like a normal human being. There is an anti-abuse valve in the gerotor pump, so if you start jamming on the throttle and generator too much front wheel spin, it avoids lock up as a self-preservation measure. A little finesse with the accelerator on the slick stuff and you can make the rear drive engage and disengage at will. If you drive like you don't have AWD (you should be doing this anyway), it will be there to give you a little bump from the rear when needed. The Subaru was a fun car to go out and "play" in, but both provided the same utility when it came to getting you to work in the morning.
 
I can tell you that during our last severe snowstorm, I was leaving fwd cars at intersections spinning their tires like mad. By the time they were through the intersection, I was 300 yards down the road, lol. My Suby is a 5 speed model, so I've got the 50/50 torque bias with a rear lsd, it works really good! My opinion.....fwd sucks.
 
Last edited:
I understand the need of AWD/4WD for snow belt states, but I don't understand why people in Southern California bought MB 4-Matic (MB's AWD), Audi AWD and BMW AWD ... We never have snow here (may be once a century at less than 1/4") and less than 10-15 rainy days a year. What are the advantages of AWD/4WD over regular 2 wheel drive(rear) on dry and smooth road ? None that I know.
 
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
So, is there any real, practical benefit anymore between a FWD SUV and an AWD SUV? Take the equinox, explorer or any other as an example. Is anyone really going to crest a hill covered in snow better in one versus the other? More control accelerating or decelerating?
AWD is a feature that some may never benefit from, but when a challenge presents itself, I believe the extra cost/mpg for the feature is 100% worth it. I was coming home from work one evening last year. The roads were pretty icy. See, we get as much ice as snow in North Carolina, so the roads get genuinely dangerous. Traffic (fairly light, thankfully) was stopped at a light, and the road was at a slight uphill climb. In front of me was something like a Hyundai Elantra and in the right-hand lane was a souped-up F-body. As the light turned green, nobody was going anywhere, and fast. I think the Elantra was sitting still, peg-legging it. And as soon as the F-body let off his brakes, the two rear tires would turn over and he'd slide sideways a bit. I steered into the left turn lane to go around the Elantra, gave it about 1/2 throttle, and I was gone (this was in the MDX, when "my" car was a 2011 Camry). No slipping, no sliding, no drama. I was outta there. Later that trip, traffic was stopped on a downhill incline, and I was afraid that someone was going to come from behind and slide into me. So I got off the main road and took some neighborhood streets home. It was entertaining to come to a stop on a pretty moderate uphill rise, and be able to climb up, almost as if the road wasn't icy at all. AWD itself should not offer any additional stability when braking. The caveat is that AWD is often paired with light-truck/SUV tires that might offer better winter traction than a typical passenger all-season tire, but in and of itself, the AWD drivetrain's main benefit is forward traction. Even in North Carolina (or maybe I should say especially in North Carolina, with the amount of ice we seem to get), AWD is too much of a traction aid for me to pass up, especially now that I prefer smaller SUV-type vehicles now over sedans (for other reasons, like having a hatch back, roof rack, etc). The next day, I did take the Camry out to try it. It was workable, but far inferior to the MDX. On an icy hill, it would struggle to maintain speed. And I could not stop on the hill and start again. The traction control helped, but couldn't overcome the physics at hand. I can't wait to try the CR-V out, but wouldn't you know it...no winter weather yet this year.
 
So perhaps the discussion has to take 4wd out. It seems that REAL 4wd systems have their place (ive experienced that in my truck). So let's say the auto AWD systems. be they the CR-V, Highlander, RX350, explorer, etc. As I read, some of these dont really put any appreciable power to the rear wheels. How does one discern the utility of the AWD system versus its FWD baseline?
 
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
How does one discern the utility of the AWD system versus its FWD baseline?
FWD would not do this inline from a stop.
 
How about throwing locking diffs into the equation? Or the GM (and others) style of traction control where the ABS grabs the spinning tire? I've experienced both and they help a bit. My olds silhouette van did pretty darn well on aggressive all seasons-- heavy 7 passenger van on cookie cutter 205/75/15. If I had to rank what I want in the snow it'd go 1) good driver 2) good tires 2a) skinny tires 3) good control (stick shift, no ABS, decent steering feel) 4) good forward traction 5) good ground clearance 6) lots of weight 7) multiple wheels propelling
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top