By on May 15, 2020

Once upon a time, it was expected to find the driven wheels of a car aft of the rear seat. In this writer’s recollection, the coming of winter would see the addition of a few bags of concrete mix or sidewalk salt added to the trunk for extra traction. Most pickups, usually of the wholesome regular cab variety, boasted the same setup.

Eventually, front-wheel drive replaced RWD as the go-to way to put power down, while in the background four-wheel drive gathered steam.

Would it surprise you to learn that the majority of 2020 model-year vehicles sold in the U.S. thus far eschewed front- or rear-drive?

That seems to be the case, according to data compiled by JATO Dynamics. It’s no secret that SUVs and crossovers are now the default purchase of most Americans, and with that purchase comes — usually — the all-weather benefit of AWD or 4WD.

As of April, 50.8 percent of 2020MY vehicles sold in the country boasted such a system, JATO claims. If that figure holds for the remainder of the year, it would be the first time in history that a majority of American buyers took home a non-2WD vehicle in a given model year.

Image: Subaru

Last year came close, with U.S. buyers choosing AWD or 4WD to the tune of 49.4 percent. The trend is clear. For the 2018 model year, this figure was 47.3 percent. 2017? 42.3 percent. You’d only have to go back to 2016 to see a figure lower than 40 percent. Those were long-ago times.

Helping the four-wheel-grip cohort in JATO’s calculations is the pesky coronavirus; as U.S. sales plunged in mid-March, passengers cars fell faster and harder than pickups, which retained much of their pre-pandemic buoyancy. Detroit Three automakers were quick to unleash incentives and zero-interest/84-month financing, keeping full-size pickup volume afloat. According to J.D. Power data, even during the depths of the lockdown (late March/early April), retail sales of full-size pickups never fell more than 25 percent below pre-virus projections.

And what retail buyer takes home a 2WD pickup these days?

This segment also recovered faster than others, bolstering the AWD/4WD group’s take rate in 2020MY stats. Compact cars are still struggling to return to normal, while small and midsize SUVs have come closer to regaining their earlier volumes.

Given this trend, as well as how close last year came to the 50-percent threshold, it would be easy for the transfer case crowd to pull off a majority win once everything’s said and done.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler, Subaru]

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144 Comments on “Gaining Traction: Americans Shun Two-wheel Drive In Record Numbers...”


  • avatar
    Duaney

    We’re all well aware of the 4 wheel drive mania. It’s ridiculous though, because 95% of the time no one needs 4×4. Very few of us are on Jeep trails, most winter travel requires 4×4 only a few days out of the season. In snowy Colorado, I only needed 4×4 3 years ago for two days. Those with 4×4 are carrying hundreds of pounds of useless weight, useless extra driveshafts, transfer case’s, and wasting hundreds of gallons of fuel to motivate all that stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Duane:
      “It’s ridiculous though, because 95% of the time no one needs 4×4.”
      I WOULD SAY 99%

      ” Very few of us are on Jeep trails, most winter travel requires 4×4 only a few days out of the season. ”
      A FEW DAYS AND ONLY A FEW 1000 FEET OF A 20 MILE DRIVE

      • 0 avatar
        KevinB

        Of that 1% requiring 4WD/AWD, most of it can be handled with a FWD CUV or a 2WD pickup/SUV with traction control.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          *defeatable* traction control, if you want to get anywhere in snow.

          A proper LSD would be best.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “FWD CUV” Front-wheel-drive can be a huge problem on hills. The weight shifts off of the drive wheels and to the rear. That’s where an AWD system on a normally FWD car can be a big win.

          On Teslas, AWD is used as a way to implement sort-of a 2-speed transmission. On the Model 3 the rear motor is a permanent magnet and optimized for efficiency. The front motor is an induction motor and optimized for acceleration. The S has two induction motors with the rear optimized for acceleration and the front for cruising.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            My parent’s driveway is a slight incline from the street to the garage and every winter they struggle with their FWD cars to get them up that driveway after a couple of inches of snow. My 4WD CUV has no trouble at all. This always reminds me of these TTAC 4WD vs 2WD debates. It ain’t much, but even a simple aggravation like pulling in your garage is eliminated by 4WD

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Multiply that by the whole fleet, and rarely if ever used 4/AWD adds up.

      ’95-’96 I drove Vail pass daily for work, in Citation with all season tires. In my 43 years here near Breckenridge, that turned out to the the snowiest winter by far. I never had any problem getting there and back, well except for highway closures.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Love Breck – one of my favorite ski towns. While I don’t live where there is a lot of snow (sadly, but retirement is near) the reality is AWD is mostly not necessary. It adds the burden of weight, inefficiency, and cost. Added weight is never a plus in my book. Sure there are those who really need it – I hope to become one of them – but the vast majority who do purchase it either got it because its standard, or they have been brainwashed to think the “added security” is needed when there is a heavy rain. A fool and their money are soon parted.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      I have needed AWD and 4WD far more often than I have needed seatbelts.

      I still want seatbelts in my car.

      Even though my commute involves paved roads, there are times when the snow falls at exactly the wrong time. Having AWD and snow tires makes that a minor issue, as opposed to the times I have dealt with it using FWD or RWD.

      I will vote with my dollars, and you can vote with your dollars. All I ask is that when you’re having trouble driving down the road, to please pull over and let me continue past you.

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        “I will vote with my dollars, and you can vote with your dollars. All I ask is that when you’re having trouble driving down the road, to please pull over and let me continue past you.”

        And all I ask in return is an understanding that I may not be able to stop for you as you overconfidently drive into the ditch.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          The only vehicles I see in the ditches are two wheel drive ones. And I see a lot of them.

          Meanwhile, I have snow tires, AWD, and drive a safe speed, except when doing the occasional Scandinavian flick when there are no cars around and plenty of room to recover.

          The folks with two wheel drive seem to have two speeds: way too slow to be safe, and way too fast to be safe.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        Garrett, lets be real here. In Minnesota I see more 4WD vehicles in the ditch than any other vehicle. Whether it is a 2WD or 4WD car they both have 4 wheel braking, and now stability control. AWD/4WD doesn’t automatically make you better at stopping. A lot of luck of not sliding into the ditch is probably your snow tires. People driving too slow? That has nothing to do with 4WD/2WD as I can see it from both kind of vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      So true, this has to be one of the biggest marketing successes of all time.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        Subaru did a masterful job of convincing people that you need AWD just to drive in the rain. I owned a Subaru once (and never again) and my experience was that if anything AWD made me overconfident. I nearly lost my tail a couple times. At the time I also fantasized about numerous ski vacations and cold-weather jaunts that never materialized.

        That being said I have been window shopping for Mazda CX-30’s and I live in the Wash DC metro area. Within 100-200 miles, there are only a couple FWD models not in the base trim. Once you widen the search into Norfolk and into the Carolinas, there are a lot more.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          If you are nearly losing the tail in a Subaru, you aren’t overconfident. You’re getting lift off oversteer.

          The cardinal rule of driving a Subaru is never lift.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        well…but they only make it if the people demand it.
        or the enthusiast’s car reviewer’s cars are the only ones we would see on the dealer lots.

        wagons are gone…no matter how many times we are told they are the best “suv” out there.
        they still make em…but nobody is buying them

        • 0 avatar
          bobbysirhan

          I’m old enough to remember that the reason why people stopped buying station wagons is because they are useless unless they’re so big that you’d might as well get an SUV that is better at everything anyway.

          Very few three-row wagons could carry both people and stuff at the same time. Were they just meant for carpools, when their dangerous designs would make modern ambulance chasers salivate? The rest of the time they were a combination of elevated centers of gravity without increased visibility, elevated interior noise levels, and elevated levels of squeaks and rattles. The lack of body rigidity made liars of everyone who claimed they were cargo haulers that could handle, much like ‘driving enthusiasts’ with big hatchbacks from VW.

          Still, I don’t begrudge people who buy cars that I don’t like as long as I’m not expected to subsidize their purchases. I just have a problem with people who want others to buy what they claim they want. Stop. We’d have all the choice in the world if aspiring totalitarians would have just played Dungeons and Dragons instead of inflicting bureaucracies on the American people.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Very few three-row wagons could carry both people and stuff at the same time.”
            — The same is true of most three-row SUVs as well, except for the absolute largest of them. I was at the local mall one time and a family in a 3-row had all but one seat taken and they couldn’t figure out how to fit a folded up baby stroller inside after some modest purchasing by the crowd. I helped them re-arrange the load and managed to get the baby stroller across the top of the load right behind the third-row’s head rests. Total available cubic footage?… About three, if they were lucky. The area behind the third row was about 9″ deep at the bottom of the seat, tapering as you moved upwards to about 4″ deep at the top of the seat back. The hatch was about four feet wide and the seats maybe 28″ tall from floor to headrest. It was a Lexus, I think, but I’m not certain any more.

            My point? A 3-row SUV is worthless unless it’s built like a truck that actually includes cargo space behind that third row.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      OK…but

      IS there a difference in AWD and performance, or better, stability?

      If you take an Acura SH AWD with the vectoring and speed of wheel control, is this a BETTER cornering and vehicle control system than just 4WD?

      Is the braking safety systems, on say the Mazda cars and how they add braking if a wheel is spinning to fast or to control the turn, as good at controlling or aiding in performance or safety when cornering?

      This needs to be addressed when discussing AWD vs 4WD or FWD and AWD systems.

      They ain’t all the same.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @TrailerTrash: The answer is… Yes, there is a difference. A little research into the history of European “Saloon” racing (Saloon meaning Sedan, here in the US) and you will find that Audi’s Quadratrac AWD cars were banned from the series for several years simply because they could accelerate faster out of turns because they could hit the accelerator sooner. Garrett, above, is only half-right about the Subaru… you do lift to slow down, but BEFORE the turn, not after you’re already in it. Where others are still braking, you’re now on the gas and pulling away. They were even more effective in the rain as with all wheels pulling, the risk of spinning on a turn drops significantly and the car was able to hold the track better.

        Most modern AWD systems offer similar capabilities but most DRIVERS don’t understand how to handle them. Driver training today should emphasize the differences and give those novice drivers real-world experience in how to handle the different systems under different circumstances.

        Me? I grew up on RWD… I can handle snow and ice surprisingly well in one where so many 4WD and AWD people end up in the ditch. In a snowstorm that dumped more than 6″ while I was at work, had me get home in a low-slung Camaro where so many co-workers were off the road in their pickup trucks and Jeeps (almost all 4×4), despite my having more than 60 miles to drive and them only 10 miles or less from the workplace. The next morning I was back into work, on time, with my co-workers absolutely amazed, considering we were in Pennsylvania and I still had Tennessee plates on the car.

        Those old RWD habits did work against me a few years later, when an FWD vehicle I was driving got hit by a crosswind that sent the tail swinging out and I let off the gas instead of accelerating. That only happened once, but was a very clear reminder of how differently you have to drive FWD from RWD. AWD/4WD requires another set of habits that are a combination of the different 2WD platforms. Yes, it is easier to get moving with 4WD AND it does give you a greater sense of control… but you’re still limited by the amount of total traction you have and you need to drive accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Duaney: 50 years ago, all of that was true. 25 years ago, it got simplified significantly by the addition of automatic locking hubs and differentials. Nowadays it goes a lot farther with AWD systems by having the “transfer case” being fully automatic, locking in the secondary driveshaft and hubs as needed and not running all that parasitic drag until demand requires it. Almost certainly, the newest 4WD systems have a similar ability while still including a true low range that isn’t just another transmission gear. My ’19 Colorado does have an Auto mode, but as you’ve noted, does run the front axles and driveshaft, even though the wheel hubs are not locked until the system detects front-to-rear slip, whereas another turn of the dial takes me to 4Hi and, once stopped and in neutral, another turn takes me to 4Lo. I definitely understand the benefits of every setting, even if my use of 4Lo is minimal to non-existent (but also to which it is available if the need ever does arise.) I bought 4×4 because I have a regular need for better control in adverse weather conditions but with my Wrangler I did use it in places where asking another vehicle’s owner to move it was… an annoyance rather than an issue. It was simply easier to back up a few feet and climb a steep embankment to a farm access road than it was to ask several vehicles to be moved so I could get out. (Said vehicle owners thought I would be trapped into doing something with them I didn’t want to do. And like a fox, I simply avoided them.)

  • avatar
    Duaney

    We’re all well aware of the 4 wheel drive mania. It’s ridiculous though, because 95% of the time no one needs 4×4. Very few of us are on Jeep trails, most winter travel requires 4×4 only a few days out of the season. In snowy Colorado, I only needed 4×4 3 years ago for two days. Those with 4×4 are carrying hundreds of pounds of useless weight, useless extra driveshafts, transfer case’s, and wasting hundreds of gallons of fuel to motivate all that stuff.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Would it surprise you to learn that the majority of 2020 model-year vehicles sold in the U.S. thus far eschewed front- or rear-drive?”

    No. Everyone north of Valdosta wants AWD/4WD. I know a few people that believe *every* CUV/SUV comes with AWD standard and I wouldn’t be surprised if the “utility vehicle = AWD” mental connection is at least a partial driver of CUV-mania (though not as much a ride height).

    Here on the FL peninsula, AWD/4WD is still somewhat rare (15% of new Tahoes, 35% of Ram 1500s, 28% of Explorers) but I know we’re an outlier compared to the rest of the country.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Wow that is a serious difference from around here at the opposite end of the country. My local Ford dealer has 137 F-150’s listed and only 2 of those are RWD. Of the 21 Rangers only 1 RWD and none of the CUV/SUVs are 2wd.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I’ve driven 2WD at either end and 4WD. When you put your foot down, even in vehicles with limited power, 2WD scrambles to find traction. Clean, dry pavement still has enough dust on it to compromise traction. In contrast, with 4WD, you just leave without drama.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I think you are overstaing things.
      I could go make a video right now of my 365hp RWD car (limited-slip, 255 rear summer tires) where I sidestep flat onto the throttle with the TC off and it is still pretty drama-free. And even more so from a roll.
      Even in the rain I’d need to be acting relatively carelessly to get into trouble. Snow may be a different story.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I agree, any FWD car that has a bit of power and torque will spin those front wheels from a dead stop. On my 4WD crossover hitting the gas from a dead stop sends 40% of the power and torque to the rear wheels which eliminates front wheel spin completely in my car

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        This is what makes pocket-sized FWD EVs like the Chevy Bolt or Spark or Fiat 500e so much fun to drive with traction control off: massive instant torque = weight transfer = front tires smoking like Cheech & Chong. Stupid fun, but fun. (Also explains why all Teslas are either RWD or AWD.)

  • avatar
    redapple

    Some need for 4WD has to do with vanity and image. As ajla says, 4 WD goes with the image of SUV CUV.

    Do you need 4WD. Probably not. I lived in Buffalo and for many years had an open diff rear drive car. I never missed a day of work.

    My family has a 1000 ac farm. I worked it in my teens.
    Had a F150 , I 6, 4 on the floor. Rear Drive open differential Never missed a beat and worked fine.

    AWD- nice to have – yeah. Must have?-no -in my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinB

      I live in the Southeast U.S. where 4WD/AWD is probably the most useless feature of a vehicle. Whenever I ask someone why they bought 4WD/AWD the common answer is “just in case”. Just in case of what? A once every 3 year snowfall of 2 inches or less that melts completely the next day?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I was living in Atlanta when I bought my first 4X4 Jeep, a week later Atlanta had one of the biggest snowstorms in it’s history. I had more fun that day with my Jeep then I’d ever had with a car before :)

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        I live in a very temperate climate where it never snows, but I’m a frequent visitor to a mountain community where it snows a lot, with the thought of maybe moving there one day. I figured my front wheel drive Volvo XC60 would handle it fine: all season tires plus obscene front weight bias plus agonizingly expensive Centrac cables (not enough clearance for old fashioned chains) and we’re good, right? Well, not when the mountain is really steep, the drive wheels are caught in a driveway ditch, there’s been two feet of snowfall, and the Centracs decide to fling themselves into a nearby tree when they can find no purchase. Took two days to get dug out and backed out. AWD would have been really nice to have.

        The nicest AWD system I’ve seen in smallish CUV is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s, since it’s got independent electric motors. You don’t have to lose traction in front before the rear kicks in, like in the comparable Toyota RAV4; instead it just silently motors out of the situation, no drama. Make mine brown with chocolate leather interior, thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The Ford AWD system as used on the Escape and other FWD based systems are of the gas and go variety. In other words it applies the clutch when you hit the gas regardless of any wheel spin, the greater the throttle input the greater the duty cycle of the clutch. Much better than the common slip then grip systems.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Yes, and it’s been my experience that for automatic 4WD the Ford system works very well. Hard acceleration from a dead stop feels very RWD because of the amount of power and torque transmitted to the rear wheels. At cruising speeds it becomes almost a 100% FWD. It also preforms very well on muddy trails

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Scoutdude: I don’t think I could trust that Ford AWD system… it sounds too much like a centrifugal clutch which suggests the possibility of slip just when you need it most.

            I’m probably wrong but now I have another reason for continuing to avoid Fords.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Vulpine, I’ve been driving 4WD Fords for 14 years using that system and they’ve never let me down

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @ Vulpine, the system as used in the Escape is mechanically similar to the systems used in many slip then grip systems. That is an electromagnetic clutch that applies power to the secondary axle.

            Where it differs and what makes it superior is the programming. When the vehicle senses that you are accelerating it applies the clutch in proportion to the acceleration requested.

            So if you are pulling away from a stop slowly the clutch for the rear axle will get low duty cycle, say 10%. Stomp the throttle to the floor and it will send a high duty cycle signal to that clutch, say 70%. Once you are up to a more or less steady speed then the duty cycle drops to zero.

            However it still has slip then grip programming too. So say you are accelerating slowly from a stop and you do get wheel spin because that front tire is on ice and 5% of the torque going to the rear wheels isn’t enough to move the vehicle. Then the system will increase the duty cycle, as required, up to 100% sending a full 50% of the torque to each end of the vehicle.

            The slip then grip programing will also engage the rear axle if you are at a steady state cruise and slip is detected.

            It works very well in practice allowing you to accelerate from a stop and climb hills in pretty slippery conditions with zero or at least undetectable wheel slip.

            Meanwhile those common slip then grip systems require a minimum amount of slip before they engage and quickly revert to 2wd once the system has equalized the wheel speeds.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            And before you say all that clutch engaging and disengaging is going to wear it out. Yes that clutch will eventually wear out but they do seem to last a very long time. The Escape I had was at ~175k when we got rid of it. Yes I was the second owner but I bought it from my state and was able to download the full maintenance and repair history. It is very detailed down to things like flat repairs and light bulb replacements. The state bought them by the truckload and I looked at many before I got the one I did buy and none of them had any issues noted with the rear diff which is where the clutch resides.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I’ve never heard of any issues with the clutch in the Escape 4WD system, if they wear or break it’s rare

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Lie2, @Scoutdude: That’s good to know. My history with Fords is why I don’t like them (outside of the BoF trucks). What you describe makes it possible I may own another Ford truck… eventually.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Vulpine, I’m not sure if there is gas and go programming on the newer pickups that have the Auto position on the transfer case dial. I know it didn’t on the RWD Explorers they were pure slip then grip programming. Of course a quick test drive on gravel or a wet road will tell the story.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Scoutdude: A lot of pickups today have auto-locking rear diff… at least, that’s what they’re calling it. Not sure if mine does but so far I haven’t managed to get the rear wheels to spin on acceleration and with 300 horses under the hood, she certainly has the power and the torque to do so, even on a dry road, if it were possible.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Just like the whole CUV/SUV craze its all about having that reassuring feeling that your vehicle is safe and can overcome any obstacle that you might encounter. The marketing push that AWD is needed to survive your trip to the mall is strong. Everyone dreams of bouncing down a dirt road in mountains on the way to a lakeside campsite using their new “off roader” but very few people actually do this. And those that do enjoy the outdoor lifestyle tend use older vehicles, not new shiny things with leather interiors.

    I have a 2WD truck and use slimy, steep and sometimes crappy boat ramps every weekend. In two decades of doing this I can honestly think of maybe 4 or 5 times when 4WD would have been nice. Just once I had a bunch of guys jump in the bed for extra weight to help me out.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I live in the upper midwest and I would say about half the newer vehicles I drive behind have a “AWD, 4WD,4X4” sticker or badge on it.

    Does everyone NEED 4WD? Probably not, but just like power steering, ABS disc brakes, traction/stability control it’s just something else to make driving a little bit safer and easier

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      True, but those features you mentioned don’t come with a weight, handling, cost, and fuel penalty. You are always paying a penalty to drag around hardware.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Probably weighs no more then that 3rd row seat that I’d never use

      • 0 avatar
        bobbysirhan

        Power steering carries a weight and fuel penalty. Where do you think the assistance energy comes from? So do power seats, power mirrors, wide tires, noise insulation, sunroofs, and Clemson flags. The only thing that will definitely make the world a better place is if we stop paying attention to people who think they know what other people should do that doesn’t require the demi-gods’ consent.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I live where having AWD/4WD is beneficial for at least part of the year. Until I moved here from points well south, AWD/2WD wasn’t necessary and was simply an added expense for almost every purpose. Pretty much anybody living south of I-40 really has no need for AWD/4WD except in higher altitudes where snow may become an issue during the winter. Beyond that, only people who go off road on a regular basis either for hunting or for sport actually have a need.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    A friend of mine told me once that you buy a vehicle to fit the lifestyle you WISH you had – I can relate to that.
    He promptly bought a 4WD F150 crew cab with 6.5’ bed that has never left the road. If he’s ever engaged 4WD it was just to mark it off the list.
    I bought an AWD CRV with a stick in preference to an Xterra I was looking at because I thought the AWD system would be more useful than a part time 4WD system (and better mpg). Why pickup trucks don’t offer simple automatic AWD systems (with no low range) is beyond my understanding, they would be so much more practical.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    There are a few, and I mean very few people who absolutely have to be at work on time; first responders, people in the medical field, utility workers,whoever makes the breakfast sandwiches at Sheetz.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The posters on this board kill me:

    With respect to trucks:
    “You don’t need 4WD, a fancy radio, leather (or cloth), carpet, a back seat, or whatever other common options people get on trucks”

    With respect to cars:
    “That 300+ motor just isn’t enough. And the engine note is all wrong…I need a proper V8 Rumble. And the leather isn’t soft. And I saw some non soft touch plastic on the dash. And yes, I need sub 3 second acceleration in my Tesla and a lighter Hellcat because reasons”

    Trucks are no more about need than car purchases, or are you all driving 80’s Sentras? Heck, that is excessive…I mean at the end of the day, all you really need is a bus pass, eh Comrade?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Exactly, as a northerner I maybe use my A/C 10 days a year, it’s nice, but I could probably live without it. Do you southern guys HAVE to have A/C? You bet you do :)

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Lie2me- Agreed. I use 4×4 way more than A/C.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Californian here. I remember life before every car had AC. We had tons of Light, flingable, RWD, topless sports cars from around the world. Sheer delight on a back road. I enjoyed my share of them: 914, 850 Spyder, MGB, Spitfire, Bugvertible. (Lusted after a nice 124 Spyder or Graduate with two whole twin-cam liters of power but never made that happen.)

        And ya know what? Given how the majority of an adult’s driving hours are spent, I prefer my anesthetized, air-conditioned road capsule…though I’ve been thinking a nice used Miata or Z3 could split the difference.

        I hear snowbelt guys talking a similar way: in their day you put a couple of sandbags in the trunk of the Nova and knew how to drive a damn car, yadda yadda. But I bet there’s an AWD CUV in their driveway, and I bet they wouldn’t go back.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      It’s some kind of weird virtue signalling/bragging thing.

      “Look at me, I can drive in 8 feet of snow with 2wd and I’ve been doing it for 40 years”

      I consider myself a fairly conscientious driver. I’ve never been in a crash more serious than a fender bender. But the simple fact is 4×4 makes my truck safer and easier to drive in the winter time. I’m humble enough to admit that I want the help. Yeah I could probably get by with 2wd 360 days of the year. But why would I settle for that?

      Same reason why I don’t want to settle for vinyl seats, manual locks, base stereo, or all the other things you listed that commenters say I don’t need.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Right, why should I white-knuckle it to work 25 miles on a snowy morning in a 2WD car when 4WD makes the drive so much easier, I’m not and that’s my point

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I think understeer is bad. I can’t imagine buying something like a Genesis G70 and then knee-capping it with an AWD system but it’s your money.

        With trucks/utilities it is more of a cost thing. In a Ranger it is something like $4K to get a 4×4. Personally, no way I’d pay that up front just to deal with occasional snow but again YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          If I lived in FL I wouldn’t bother either.

          But a used 2wd truck is basically worthless in the Midwest. $4k up front seems like a lot but even after 10 years you’ll get most of that back when you sell.

          And I’m with you on a “fun” car, give me RWD every time there. I just don’t drive that kind of vehicle during winter.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Basically if I’m spending winter in a place that’s 12 or under on this map I’d do 2WD on any truck/SUV.

            tinyurl.com/yc4c5de4

            On FWD/AWD I’d probably stick with FWD everywhere unless I lived around mountains or there was a performance gain to the AWD system.

            On RWD/AWD cars I’d be RWD everywhere and either have a second vehicle or be willing to risk grizzly ice death.

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          Not all AWD systems are created equal.

          My Stelvio is AWD, and it really feels as RWD as any AWD system can. Much less noticeable than the BMW systems are.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Art Vandelay
      EXACTLY my fellow comrade!
      Glad to see i have a friend here!
      And this thing about colors!
      We should be in black or white and keep production costs low.

      The reason why communism failed in the seventies is they really could not keep up with the vibrant colors and big, bold square patterns in out sports coats!
      It wasn’t reagan…it was the fashion industry and our shopping choiuces that made them go broke

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Google “What the man who drives the snowplow drives”.

  • avatar
    eCurmudgeon

    For many, it seems that AWD is more convenient than having to change to/from Winter Tires twice a year.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Its no big deal. Two hours out of your life a year and 60-70 bucks each time. I am saving gas the rest of the year and in most situations (like stopping, turning) snow tires will give you better handling than AWD with all seasons.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @thegamper: You just pointed out the drawback of snows, too. Sure, they give you better traction in almost all circumstances than ‘regular’ tires but they’re also more expensive and their typical life span in everyday use OUTSIDE of winter driving is roughly six months.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Winter rated snow/muds are the answer. I got a new set this year, wow what a difference, they’re amazing coupled with my 4WD and the good news is I don’t have to change them out

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        Whoa – you are paying a ton.

        When I get mine swapped, it runs me $20.

        I can’t believe I wasted time doing it myself.

        • 0 avatar
          bobbysirhan

          I’m guessing you have two sets of wheels Garrett. If you have one set of wheels, you’d have to be a time-traveler or have a friend with a tire mounting machine to get the job done for $20. How much did your extra set of wheels that you’ll probably not see much of when you turn in your car cost?

          I live in the middle of the eastern seaboard. The first winter weather can arrive here in October or November. The last winter weather…so far it was last week. In between, we’ve had days hot enough for my living room to hit 78 degrees and prompt me to turn on my A/C. Should I have swapped my winters and summers half a dozen times to avoid vulcanizing the soft rubber of the winters, or should I have run all season tires?

          What works best is dependent on where you live and what resources you have at your disposal. I respect your right to have two sets of wheels to get through the year, even though manufacture and disposal of those extra components probably consumes as many resources as running AWD with long-lasting all-season tires. Maybe you shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing. I find that the people complaining the loudest about 27 mpg combined CRVs and RAV4s are often driving 23 mpg combined luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Brumus

      AWD does little, if anything, to help you stop on the snow and ice.

      All cars have four-wheel braking, hence the need to replace no-season tires with winter rubber if you live in an area where temps. regularly drop below freezing and the snow flies for a few months / year.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Brumus: That’s not completely true, for as long as all four wheels are traveling at the same speed, you have better control, including slowing down, as long as you’re not riding the brakes. A combination of downshifting (yes, you can still downshift an automatic transmission) and light, judicious use of the brakes can make stopping on snow and ice more controlled. Going into a panic stop, even with anti-lock technology, will still see tires lock up and throw off the car’s balance when trying to brake.

        And believe it or not, a true 4×4 can brake even better than a 2WD when both vehicles are carrying snows all around BECAUSE all four wheels try to maintain the same speed.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I agree with @Brumus. 4×4 or AWD has no effect on braking. It can help if you use “compression braking” but at the end of the day, ABS is much more effective than that and superior to the biological behind the wheel (despite what it’s ego tells itself).

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I forget the name of the video I watched earlier in the winter but they clearly demonstrated that 4×4 DID help in braking, stopping something like three or four car-lengths sooner than the same vehicle in RWD.

          • 0 avatar
            bobbysirhan

            That would have been a part-time 4WD vehicle, almost certainly without a center differential. The benefit in braking would come from the axle speeds being synchronized, preventing one axle from locking up before the other. It would also have had to be on a slippery surface, or my physics instructor would have stroked out over his insistence that a locked wheel stops as fast as a perfectly modulated one. Apparently his physics doctorate didn’t require him to understand that a locked tire’s contact patch can become molten.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Had a proper transfer case, not a center diff. But many cars that use a center diff do have the means to lock it… as my wife’s Renegade has demonstrated; the ‘clutch’ in it is called a ‘dog-tooth” clutch, literally locking the front and rear driveshafts to the same speed. The difference becomes one of typically open front and rear differentials allowing either wheel to power the vehicle and the distributed braking actively brakes a spinning wheel on loss of traction while accelerating and if any ONE wheel gets solid traction, the axle speed of that wheel is mechanically pushed to the other axle, where one of those wheels will turn at the same speed. It’s not quite as effective as having limited slip on both ends (which is more common than you would think but still an option, not standard) but it does still help with slowing the vehicle by controlling wheel rotation better than braking alone. With anti-lock braking, if the system senses all four wheels are stopped, it believes the car is at a full stop and locks down. With a locking center diff, if any wheel carries traction, anti-lock will free up the other wheels to regain traction, if they can.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Which is a mistake. Winter tires are more effective than AWD.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    I think Art Vandelay nailed it. I was all set to go on an anti-4WD rant about living in a state that used to have bad winters with no need for more than two driven wheels, but so many others beat me to it, which got me thinking about the whole market-delivers-what-buyers-want, versus the sellers-push-what-makes-them-the-most-money arguments. No question people feel more secure with AWD (my experience with a rental Hyundai SUV with a completely useless AWD system in a Vermont winter leads me to feel otherwise), but I think many buyers drink the advertising cool-aid. No one wanted front wheel drive in the 80s, but many bought it because of benefits they were sold by automakers who were really just trying to simplify and cheapen the manufacturing process and eek out a few extra MPGs to lower their CAFE numbers in the process. I’ve had all different kinds of vehicles with every drive system, and as a mechanic, I’m convinced of the benefits of front-wheel-drive for everyday use (fuel economy, maintenance costs, ability to replace two tires if one is ruined and the other tires are not new, etc.) I don’t begrudge anyone their choice, but I think it’s important to think about the difference between needs and wants and how our views are manipulated by marketing to avoid being lemmings for corporate greed.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      Exactly. 90% of people would be driving Hyundai accents based on needs.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Well said. I certainly harbor no animosity to one who chooses to by AWD even if they live in Georgia. I will add though, that the move to FWD in the 80s came with weight savings, efficiency in both fuel use and interior packaging, and helped in modest snowfall. All but the last one provided benefits every single time you used the car.

      Your point about the quality/type of AWD system is especially true. A lot of these systems will let you down when you are expecting them most. Having spent nearly 40 years of winters in Vermont or Colorado, many of the systems I’ve experienced in rental vehicles were of questionable efficacy. The best? My brother’s K5 Blazer was amazing in the deep stuff during one particular trip to Jay Peak. Had proper winter tires as well. Somebody in a vehicle with highway tires and a FWD biased system will be in for a rude awakening when they try to drive on 8 inches of snow on unplowed roads. Not an uncommon occurrence when you want to make first tracks on the mountain.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The Irony is that my F150 is 2WD. I did spring for the locker to get it up and down the boat ramp without drama though. I purchased it in South Georgia and now live in Alabama so I just didn’t feel the need for 4WD. It is a long term deal so I wasn’t worried about resale. For the record there were plenty of 2WD trucks on the lot.

      I am an oddball though. I drove a Miata on all seasons year round at Fort Drum (Well in the snow belt and 30 minutes south of the Canadian border). Then I moved to Augusta, GA and promptly purchased a Land Cruiser.

      Either way, I don’t get the animosity towards people buying what they want and the posters on this forum for the most part apply a different standard to trucks. Anything nicer than Fred Sanford’s Ford F1 from Sanford and Son and you are a poser (And don’t be springing for that flathead V8…The 6 is all you need). But they will go on and on about “cheap” plastic in GM products and that whatever turbo motor they end up with doesn’t sound right even though it makes more power than the freaking Lambo they had hanging on their wall as a kid.

      So long as you aren’t overextending yourself there is no reason to drive around in a penalty box unless you just want to. If it’s what you can swing, then great, get the Versa. If you just don’t care at all and want to drive a Maytag, get that Corolla. Nobody cares.

      But don’t buy one and then jump on places like this and try to convince us how much smarter than the rest of us you are. If you were that smart you’d have made life choices that didn’t involve you agonizing over shelling out that extra 300 bucks for cruise control on your Sentra.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    When I lived in Canada I understood, to some extent the AWD and 4×4 mania. Since I came back to Florida and I still see lots of them, I don’t get it…but hey, it isn’t my money. To each his own.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Have you never driven on a beach or an old logging trail in Florida? AWD makes both a lot more fun

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      If you live in a major city in Canada or even a smaller one you don’t really need AWD or 4×4. It is handy but if the highways are bad one is better off staying at home. It is rare that I use 4×4 in town. Sometimes it is necessary since many idiots in 4×4’s or AWD vehicles polish the street in traffic stop areas with unnecessary wheel spin. If I’m in the back-country alone I’ll leave it in 4×2 and then if I get into trouble I’ll use 4×4 to get out. I’ve had to use 4×4 quite a bit this spring since many of the back-country roads were very muddy or still had snow on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        There’s a lot of personal satisfaction in getting out and tackling the elements in a vehicle that’s equipped to do so. I don’t want to stay home because the roads are covered in snow, so I bought a vehicle that allows me to do just that

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Lou, I’ve lived in Halifax for 5 years. My job required me to be there, rain or shine, snow or not, at 0500. Most of the time, the snow removal people did an excellent job, particularly during the weekdays. During the weekend, since most people weren’t going to work, they didn’t start cleaning until 0600. By that time, I was at work for one hour. Every time we had a snow storm during the weekend, my ride to work ( 24 miles) was possible because of my AWD Honda Ridgeline. Often times, on Saturday mornings, at 0400 I was the first one out on the hwy.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Im just otside Salt Lake City. Utah in general does a great job of plowing streets in the winter. However-private parking lots take a while.

    That’s when you need 4WD or AWD.

    Yes-the majority of the time you don’t need it.

    But when you need it-you need it.

  • avatar
    bkojote

    It’s simple really – with the increases in overall efficiency, the added MPG penalty isn’t so hard to swallow.

    And if you’re already buying a CUV that’s got a weight penalty for something mostly useless (ride height) , what’s the difference? When you can get a small CUV that gets bettter MPG than a midsize sedan 10 years ago, a 1-2 mpg penalty is pretty easy to swallow.

    As for “you don’t really need AWD” soapboxers I beg to differ. And these arguments all follow the same dumb logic:

    1. Most only need it 2-3 weeks a year! – Ok, but how many other safety systems do you only need 2-3 weeks a year where you’d feel a measurable difference. Hell I can’t remember the last time my ABS activated, but I’m sure as hell glad I have it. I’ve had rental cars (including one this past year) where a freak snowstorm hit and I had to ditch the car in an unsafe location and walk 2 miles back to shelter (actually, the other person in a Nissan Rogue rental came and picked me up.)

    2. “Snow tires! They only take an hour at most to swap out!” – 4 extra wheels, 4 extra tires, a place to store them, a shop + time to change them, and you’re SOL if you get a freak May snowstorm. Don’t get me wrong they work great if you’ve got that setup, but most people don’t.

    3. “I can get up any winter mountain pass in my 2WD truck!” – Sure you can. Whatever you tell the internet to deal with the resale value hit.

    4. “AWD doesn’t make any real difference.” – Boy yes it does.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    People buying new vehicles usually have enough money that the extra cost of AWD/4WD is negligible.

    If I weren’t poor, I’d have an AWD/4WD vehicle for winter driving and a RWD car for summer use. Not for any practical reason though. It’s just more fun.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    4WD/AWD vehicles have a higher survival rate in Apocalypse/Zombie-type movies. And many buyers go for 4WD because it’s “the best”/the top of the range. So it’s a perceived safety thing, a capability thing, and a status thing. (And likely a resale thing for some buyers.)

    My family has owned exactly one 4WD vehicle (wife’s 1995 XJ Cherokee – purchased used of course and just happened to come with 4WD). I engaged the 4WD exactly once, on grass in the backyard, to try it. I liked the idea of the extra capability. (I did not like the idea of more things to possibly go wrong.)

    “All vehicles have 4-wheel brakes.” Personally, I like to disable the front brakes on my vehicles. Rationale:
    – The front wheels can steer better when they are not asked to do double duty as braking wheels.
    – This forces me to better anticipate my braking needs and makes me a better driver – definitely much more engaged in the driving process.
    If you are not a true enthusiast, you may regard this last paragraph as satire.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I know you jest, but a front brake inhibit switch was available from IH from the factory on MD trucks. Mico, best known for their line-lock products also used to offer a version intended to shut off the front brakes. The purpose of course was to better allow the front wheels to steer the vehicle, and only be asked to steer, when it was really slippery.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @ToolGuy: There is a reason why race car drivers have the ability to adjust the fore-aft braking bias on their cars… and you just described it. If a car is understeering under braking, then too much of the braking is being done by the front wheels.

      Now, personally I wish ABS could recognize this and turn off braking for the front wheels when it recognizes the vehicle is driving on pure ice (almost literally no traction available for both braking and steering.) I experienced this kind of issue with a previous car where even though the road looked clear, it was the morning after a snowstorm and I was on the descending side of a bridge with a curve down towards a traffic light at the foot of the slope. In the car I had, I could either steer or turn… not both. The instant I applied even the lightest-possible braking effort, the car stopped turning but when I let off the brake, it would steer cleanly under delicate handling. I didn’t dare try the hand brake because that is mechanical and offers no ABS and could have caused me to oversteer, losing ALL control of the vehicle. I was able to get stopped but I ended up directly under the traffic light… in the middle of the intersection.

  • avatar
    bd2

    More and more family midsize sedans are being offered w/ AWD (the Optima will be the latest to join the fray).

    Basically, AWD has become the go-to “band-aid” for those too lazy/inconvenienced to change to winter tires (and back).

    Of course, for the places which get copious amounts of snow, AWD/4WD + snow treads is the best bet.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Why do almost all AWD luxury cars come with low profile tires? Keeping on that theme, why do I need a luxury SUV with AWD/4WD to travel down a dirt road? Your vehicle won’t sink to its axles if you leave pavement. Many, many people have done this and did need a tractor to pull them out. Also, how many/what percentage of people buying an “AWD” SUV/CUV don’t understand that their “AWD” is a kinda-sorta, maybe, could-be AWD that only kicks in when a vehicle computer detects tire slippage?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      • Why do almost all AWD luxury cars come with low profile tires?
      — Lower rolling resistance. Sure, the Donk scene has been around a while but if you really bother to look, the ultra-low-profile tire was made first for the incredibly-tight handling they offered (almost no sidewall flex) and hard ride/nonexistent rolling resistance compared to 65-85 profile tires.

      • why do I need a luxury SUV with AWD/4WD to travel down a dirt road?
      — Dirt roads tend to have soft surfaces. 2WD tends to slip and slide, especially on a grade (whether vertical or transverse travel.) On Snow and/or ice the traction issues are similar, where in one case (when I was a teenager) the big, heavy, RWD luxury car in which I was riding couldn’t make it up the access road to my home. My dad, at 6′ tall got out to try and push the car’s tail sideways while my mother tried to ease the car up the road as the slope and curve kept trying to swing the tail into the ditch. I got out to help my dad and between us we could push the tail of the car away from said ditch… but because I was shorter than dad, I had to try and reposition myself once the tail slid out of my reach… and the car would slide back before I could get footing to keep pushing the tail away. —- Had the car been 4WD or even AWD (not available at the time) the car may have been able to pull itself on up the hill, at which point all my dad and I would have needed to do was stay in the ditch and keep the car on the pavement.

      My dad very nearly bought a big Jeep Wagoneer that summer and let mom talk him out of it. I think you can guess who was the boss of THAT household.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Moms can be such killjoys. When I think of all the cool cars my mom talked my dad out of (he actually bought a Corvette after one too many beers, mom made him take it back the next day and exchange it for an Impala) I could cry :(

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        If low profile tires improved fuel economy, the Prius would have them.

        Tread mass is the big factor when it comes to rolling resistance.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @rpn453: Take another look under that Prius and tell me exactly what tires it wears. If their profile is higher than a 55 I’ll eat my hat.

          With tires, as with all aspects of fuel economy, there is no ONE solution for avoiding drag. Rolling resistance comes from how soft the tires are in so many ways it’s silly, including sidewall height, sidewall stiffness, air pressure and yes, even tread compound. The harder the tire is, the less it will resist rolling… That’s why trains use steel tires on steel track. (Yes, those 33″ and 36″ wheels under the locomotives and cars DO have a ‘tire’ around them as well and those ‘tires’ have been known to break and punch up into the body of the car or locomotive and even kill passengers when they do.)

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            The most efficient Prius’ are the L Eco and Prime, which have 195/65R15 tires. Lower profile tires are available on other trim levels that use more fuel.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @rpn: I would need to see the full spec sheet for every Prius model before I respond to that, due to the fact that as I said earlier, there is no ONE solution. Your own description suggests different engines, gearing, motors, etc, that all would have an affect on the models’ fuel mileage.

            I am surprised that it’s wearing 65-series tires but compared to other cars, that’s still a relatively low profile. I’ve owned cars and trucks that rode on 75 and even 85-series tires. The higher profile is intended for a softer ride which is good for comfort and easier on the suspension but unless you run 45# plus pressure, the rolling resistance is notably higher. I’m betting on 50# in those 65s but I don’t know for certain and I certainly don’t care, since I never plan to own one.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            Toyota recommends 39/36 psi for the Eco and 36/35 psi for the rest of the Prius models, including the Prime.

            Theoretically, you should be able to decrease a tire’s hysteresis with a shorter sidewall, if you can reduce the mass of rubber involved in deformation. But in practice, low profile tires tend to need thicker sidewalls. The 195/65R15 tires on the Prius probably have very thin and flexible sidewalls that absorb little energy during deformation.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I can think of one example where all/4WD is just about absolutely necessary. Pick up trucks in any snowbelt. I draw this conclusion from the 4×4 Ranger at work in rear drive, and my ’03 Suzuki Vitara. Both had inadequate to near non existent acceleration, and treacherously quick to snap oversteer under load going up grades and / or curves. Engaging 4 high turned them into sure footed mountain goats.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Drove Infiniti G35 rwd for five years and G35 awd for 5 years and I would never go to RWD in snow again. The difference between the cars was striking. In snow the RWD was a white knuckle experience while the AWD was a a relaxed drive. The RWD was more fun in wagging it’s tail but I prefer the awd for stability. Apparently most buyers have the same idea.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    People shouldn’t be allowed to do stuff like that. There should be some kind of test or something. Four-wheel-drive is the most pointless and counterproductive thing ever for almost everybody.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Well duh. It’s the resale value yo. No different than suffering through Tacoma ownership til you can’t take it anymore. Pass it on to the next masochist.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Yet strangely, the Tacoma keeps one of the highest resale values of almost any vehicle, even out to ten years. Why is it such a pain to own one that you would WANT to keep it that long?

      Or… like one woman I know… she flat refuses to buy a Tacoma newer than a 2000 model and at least up to now, refuses to own anything BUT a Tacoma.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I just get the impression Tacoma owners don’t quite enjoy the experience. Yeah there’s incredible resale value (although they paid a high premium), and it is a Toyota.

        But I get more aggressive passing by Tacoma drivers than any other vehicles when in my F-150. Yeah it’s bright red with 20″ FX4 wheels and 33″ MTs.

        Are Tacoma drivers the biggest pr!cks out there? I doubt it. So when they come up in a hurry, most cars will give you a decent chance to speed up or move over, even when I’m already 5 to 10 mph over the limit.

        I had a Taco pass me this morning with a load of mountain bikes, passing over the double yellow like they’re late for the riding trail?

        And I always go out of my way to not p!ss anyone off.

        I always say get what you truly want, taking a bullet on all other potential issues or drawbacks.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The AWD craze is just more proof that Americans, on average, are pretty dumb.

    I lived in Northern New England for 48 of my 51 years – you don’t need AWD, you need proper tires and the brains to NOT put your foot in it when you don’t have sufficient traction available.

    AWD costs X3 – up front, in gas, and God-forbid you ever have to fix any of it. Until the snow gets too deep, my *RWD* BMW on snow tires is better in snow than my AWD Land Rover on snow tires, because while it won’t accelerate as nicely (who cares?) it turns and STOPS one heck of a lot better. When the snow is that deep, stay home, because some idiot on all-seasons is going to slide into you and ruin your day. Last time that happened said idiot was driving a Subaru… Time before that, a Jeep. AWD helps you go, it does nothing to help you stop (and the extra weight is detrimental), and is only very marginally helpful in turning. Proper tires help with all three.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @krhodes1: I live on a hill and RWD BMWs with snows all around are awesome. I never had a problem climbing that hill with the BMWs I owned. The scary part about front drivers is on a traverse, if the drive wheels slip, the car wants to point downhill.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ krhodes – To those three owner-borne costs, I’ll add two more society-borne ones: increased pollution and increased wear & tear on roads because of heavier vehicles. There’s also the interior packaging advantage (tip of the hat to golden2husky, above) that manufacturers have thrown away by tweaking FWD platforms to accept AWD hardware. (Granted, they’ve also done a good job throwing away interior space with consoles and sloping rooflines.)

      I get it: There are some conditions under which AWD provides a benefit, but the truth is they comprise something very close to 0% of American driver-miles in a given year. I don’t begrudge that AWD vehicles exist, but it’s irksome when Americans make dumb choices and more so when the dumb choices create some degree of negative externality.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Oh, please, what may seem a dumb choice to you may make total sense to me. Judging others by what they drive is silly. You can’t possibly know each driver’s situation by the few seconds you encounter them on the road

        Just like those who judge a pick-up driver because his bed is empty. How do you know that he didn’t just drop a load before you saw him, or maybe he trailers a boat on weekends. You can’t tell, but it all boils down to his money, his choice and it’s nobody’s business but his

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Congrats if AWD provides an objective net benefit to you; that’s exactly why I said that I don’t begrudge that AWD vehicles exist. But it also puts you in a small minority of US drivers. The vast majority of new vehicle buyers who’ve opted for AWD have done so, objectively, to their own and to society’s detriment. They’ve been duped by marketing, and that’s some flavor of dumb. It’s not “lick a public toilet dumb,” but it’s on the dumb side of neutral. I’m also specifying new vehicles because the used market is so saturated with AWD and 4WD vehicles that sometimes the price/condition/location equation entails AWD/4WD the buyer doesn’t want or need.

        Regarding trailering a boat on weekends, if you can’t afford the slip or the waterfront property, you shouldn’t be buying a boat bigger than one that can be carried on a roof rack. Living beyond one’s means also is some flavor of dumb, even if it’s the American way.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          “[M]any of those AWD models get fuel economy (ergo pollution reduction) similar to their 2WD versions–within about one mpg at 30+mpg.” Someone invariably posts a comment to this effect every time AWD fuel economy gets discussed after one of Steph’s click-bait articles.

          #1 – *Any* fuel economy/pollution penalty is bad when AWD provides no tangible benefit to the owner. As I’ve said, if AWD provides an actual benefit to you, have at it. That justifies the purchase. But that’s not the case for the vast majority of owners. For these owners, the vehicle is driven in high-traction situations virtually 100% of the time, and both the AWD and FWD examples are tuned for benign understeer. The AWD owner has bought it purely for marketing reasons, and all he’s achieving is up-front expense and a fuel economy loss versus the FWD version.

          #2 – The ~3% mpg difference you cite is wrong. Fueleconomy.gov has figures for multiple configurations of multiple vehicles (e.g., http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=41526&id=41524&id=42182&id=42185). The efficiency penalty for AWD usually is more on the order of 5% to 7% – not a zillion percent, but almost always higher than the AWD apologist claims. For the umpteenth time, if you or Lie2me or someone else has a legit need for AWD, fine. But for the median owner and for the thousands of drivers who *don’t* have a legit need but who are burning 6% more fuel for no reason? That’s not good, and it’s really not defensible. It’s waste to no good end other than that they’ve scratched some psychological itch created by an advertising firm.

          And you’ve wildly missed my (admittedly somewhat snarky) point regarding boats, which was not that there should be more docks but that there are too many people in the US living beyond their means. I wouldn’t care too much but for the fact that their more responsible peers end up subsidizing them sooner or later. Lie2me says, “[I]t all boils down to his money, his choice,” but no one lives in a vacuum. Decisions affect *our* money and *our* environment. If you and Lie2me and I am subsidizing someone, I want it to be for his children’s schools, his fire department, his Medicare, and so forth. I don’t want it to be for extra gas money or for a boat he can’t actually afford. Or, on a different part of the socioeconomic ladder, so an ultra-rich person can get an additional tax break.

          Look, I’ve gone to great pains here not to flame the individual. For the umpteenth-and-first time, if the individual B&Ber derives an objective benefit from AWD, that’s fine, and it’s some flavor of a net positive. But the majority of the “anonymous they” aren’t deriving a benefit from AWD; they’re just wasting money and resources.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Featherston, you’ve spent a lot of time judging the needs/wants of others according to your vision of the world. How about we examine your situation and we’ll decide whether you drive the right car based on what WE perceive your needs to be. How about your house? Do you really need so much house? How much money do you make and what do you spend it on? I may think you’re wasting money on things you don’t really need.

            So how ’bout it? Open up your books and your life and let us decide if you’re living your best life

            Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? It should

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Featherton: How about we tear down your vitriol a bit and answer some of those statements:

            • *Any* fuel economy/pollution penalty is bad when AWD provides no tangible benefit to the owner.
            — The assumption here is that it provides no tangible benefit. Maybe it doesn’t for YOU, but obviously you aren’t average, are you?
            • For these owners, the vehicle is driven in high-traction situations virtually 100% of the time,
            — The statement as it stands is impossible. They may not be driving in snow or ice but even rain–especially rain–is treacherous and EVERYBODY drives in the rain at least once, if they own a car. And when that rain first starts, the roads tend to be as slippery as ice as oils and dust rise to the surface and literally lubricate the road until enough has fallen to start washing it into the drains. Even then, as the water starts building up on the road’s surface, you begin to experience hydroplaning, which is where one or more tires may literally lift off the road’s surface. Why do you think so many crashes occur in the rain, hmmm?
            • and both the AWD and FWD examples are tuned for benign understeer.
            — I’d like to see your reference on this, if you would. Understeer, especially on a slippery surface, is as dangerous or even more so than oversteer. Understeer is more of an inherent problem with FWD, not a tuned-in design.
            • The ~3% mpg difference you cite is wrong. Fueleconomy.gov has figures for multiple configurations of multiple vehicles
            — Ok, so I was off by one, freakin’ mile per gallon. I would also note that people tend to exceed EPA ratings anyway and the EPA itself notes that those numbers are merely a reference and not an absolute. Or did you miss the statements underneath all four vehicles that stated, “User MPG estimates are not yet available for this vehicle.”
            • But for the median owner and for the thousands of drivers who *don’t* have a legit need but who are burning 6% more fuel for no reason?
            — I see you’re going to stick to that unverified assumption.
            • And you’ve wildly missed my (admittedly somewhat snarky) point regarding boats, which was not that there should be more docks but that there are too many people in the US living beyond their means.
            — Oh, I didn’t miss your snark, I just threw it right back at you. Far more people own boats and store them on dry lots for the protection of the boat rather than leaving it in the water to rot. A boat in the water tends to need far more maintenance than a boat stored on dry land (and properly covered.)

            The whole problem with your arguments, ignoring the obvious political ones, is that your assumptions are invalid and AWD offers far more benefit to the average driver than you want to believe. A professional driver or even a semi-professional can handle a skid when it starts, whether on dry, wet or icy road surfaces. AWD and the different traction control technologies associated with it are designed to help prevent the skid in the first place and make it easier to regain control of the vehicle by the average driver (which is far more numerous than the mean.) My wife gets startled and somewhat afraid when I intentionally throw the tail out on one of my vehicles on occasion (like in a snow/ice-covered parking lot with no other vehicles around.) But she has also seen me handle such skids when the same vehicle has done the same on both rain-slick and snow-slick highways and always demands I drive when she doesn’t feel secure on those surfaces (she does ‘feel’ when those individual wheels lose traction.) You see, I go out of my way to learn the limits of a given vehicle when I buy it; the vast majority of owners do not. By knowing the limits, I can better regain control when unexpected situations occur. And in the few cases where I haven’t been able to, I lose trust in the vehicle and usually trade it off within the next year. Only two vehicles have lost my trust due to traction issues. My Camaro was NOT one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Featherston: I regret to say that your two society-borne costs verge in irrelevant; many of those AWD models get fuel economy (ergo pollution reduction) similar to their 2WD versions–within about one mpg at 30+mpg. Additionally, most of these vehicles are no heavier than their 1960s 2WD counterpart and only marginally, if any, heavier than their modern 2WD counterpart. I will note, however, that today’s pickup trucks do fall into that weight issue… many more than 1000# heavier than their 1990 predecessor and some now verging on Class 4 empty weight and GVWR.

        As for your last statement… I’m sorry but that’s simply unrealistic; people have been towing their pleasure and/or fishing boats from home almost since the car was invented. You can’t imagine how many boat slips would need to be made–pretty much destroying waterway shore lines–to create permanent slips for boats that would otherwise only touch water six- to eight times per year for some owners.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Never having owned a pick-up I would appreciate if someone could explain the following to me. And my last 4wd/AWD vehicle was a turn of the century Grand Cherokee. RWD pick-ups historically were notoriously twitchy on snow and ice. Plus they have a higher centre of gravity. Friends used to put cement blocks/etc in their truck bed to try to minimize this trait. Is it still true of RWD trucks.

    Then if the truck is true 4wd. At what speed can you ‘top out’ in 4wd low? Is it just for pulling and/or getting unstuck? From what I understand it cannot be used at cruising/highway speeds. If this is so, then it it generally ‘useless’ when driving on ice/snow.

    So then there is the higher ratio 4wd. But again, aren’t you restricted to using it only on snowy/wet roads? If so, then when driving on the highway/cruising on dry/plowed roads, you aren’t or can’t use it. So if you then hit a patch of black ice or something similar, you are still driving a RWD vehicle with a light back end and high centre of gravity. Which can be the worst combination.

    So if the above suppositions are correct, might you actually be safer driving an old RWD sedan?

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      -Yes, RWD pickups are still among the worst vehicles to drive in winter conditions because there is so little weight over the driven wheels. Sandbags are usually the weight aid choice over blocks because if you really get stuck you can cut open a bag and spread the sand on the ice to add traction.

      -4 LOW is for offroad conditions only. I would never use it above ~20 MPH and never on a paved road. Its purpose is to multiply torque, so when the wheels are already close to slipping, it isn’t beneficial to add more torque. I don’t think I’ve ever engaged 4 LOW with snow on the ground.

      -4 HI is usable at any speed. The downside of using it on a paved road is when turning; the inside wheel has to slip because it’s tracing a shorter arc but locked to the speed of the outside wheel. The issue, as you mention, is when roads are partially plowed and you want to be in 4×4 but can’t always be due to dry spots. The best solution is the AUTO 4×4 that some trucks have, which engages 4wd when it detects wheelspin. Unfortunately, not every truck has this feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Arthur Dailey: Would you mind if I answered your questions individually?

      • RWD pick-ups historically were notoriously twitchy on snow and ice. Plus they have a higher centre of gravity. Friends used to put cement blocks/etc in their truck bed to try to minimize this trait. Is it still true of RWD trucks.
      — This is still true, though not quite as bad as they used to be. Modern crew cabs tend to balance the weight a little better but it’s still a good idea to add a few hundred pounds back at the tailgate, whether you have 2WD or 4WD, during the winter. When I had my Mitsubishi (2WD) I would take the driveway and sidewalk snow and toss it into the back of the truck. Gave me decent traction pretty much for the entire season.

      • Then if the truck is true 4wd. At what speed can you ‘top out’ in low? Is it just for pulling and/or getting unstuck? From what I understand it cannot be used at cruising/highway speeds. If this is so, then it it generally ‘useless’ when driving on ice/snow.
      — 4Lo is almost never used on the road. You might use it to help pull another vehicle that’s stuck but otherwise you simply don’t use 4Lo on pavement. It’s not that you have a speed to avoid so much as your top speed is going to be cut in half or worse with the engine wound up as tight as it can go. The ONLY time you need 4Lo is when you need maximum torque for climbing a steep grade or trying to move a load that is outside the normal range of the vehicle’s engine and transmission.
      — A note on this one: On the open road, you can switch from 2Hi to 4Hi on the fly… but you need to do so at a speed below 50mph if you can AND it is recommended that you do it either on dirt or other slippery surface to allow for some wheel slip during the shifting process. Older vehicles had a much lower 2WD to 4WD shift speed and it’s still recommended that such a shift be at a relatively slow speed. On the other hand, you MUST come to a complete stop and is strongly recommended to shift the transmission into neutral before shifting into or out of 4Lo.

      • So then there is the higher ratio 4wd. But again, aren’t you restricted to using it only on snowy/wet roads? If so, then when driving on the highway/cruising on dry/plowed roads, you aren’t or can’t use it. So if you then hit a patch of black ice or something similar, you are still driving a RWD vehicle with a light back end and high centre of gravity. Which can be the worst combination.
      —- It looks like I got a bit ahead of you on that previous reply; you can shift from 2Hi to 4Hi and back on any surface but it is recommended that the surface have some small amount of slippage for a smooth transition. Even with my Wrangler, on snowy and some wet roads I would shift in and out depending on the amount of slippage expected. The difference tends to be quite obvious when you have 4WD active vs RWD when you hit those transitions.
      — Another note: When 4WD is active, the odds are you’ve got a limited-slip differential under the nose and you need to avoid any sharp corners in 4WD mode if at all possible UNLESS you are on sand, dirt or snow/ice. Believe me, you will know when those gears start to bind and need to reverse immediately before you damage the gears. A wide left turn at a given intersection is possible but a tight right turn is effectively impossible without some slip available. You either learn how and when to use 4WD or you end up paying for it. I avoided having to learn that lesson the expensive way.

      So your suppositions are only partially correct and show an extreme lack of experience with 4WD.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Vulpine. Thanks I have only had 3 AWD/4wd vehicles. A Honda ‘realtime AWD wagon’, a 1st generation Explorer and the Grand Cherokee.

        None after 2002.

        Thanks for your detailed answers, but I am still unsure as to your conclusion regarding my primary concern. Can you use 4wd Lo when driving on dry, or plowed highways? If not then if you hit black ice, etc then would you not be in RWD mode? Therefore the 4wd would not engaged and not helpful?

        If that is the case, then except for really heavy snow, towing or off roading then isn’t AWD a more useful option for winter driving?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I did answer your question, though maybe you skimmed my statement and missed it.

          Certainly you CAN use 4Lo on dry pavement but there’s no reason to EXCEPT to help drag another vehicle or ‘thing’ either out of the road or onto the road, depending on the circumstance. The gearing is such that you’re putting down massive torque and your velocity is going to be a mere fraction of your 4Hi road speed. The typical 4WD system adds a 4:1 in/out ratio for wheel turn over and above whatever the transmission is putting out. Where your top speed might by 80mph in 2WD or 2Hi (or even 4Hi) it would drop to roughly 20mph at full throttle even in its highest gear. Simply put, it is not MEANT for road use under normal driving. Not that it can’t be used but it simply doesn’t make sense to use it without absolute need.

          4Hi is the mode you would want for driving in snow and ice under almost any conditions. Pickup trucks and Jeeps tend to be used on both hard and soft roads and on occasion even where there are no roads. An AWD typically cannot go where those more specialized vehicles can BUT may be plenty enough for those who never go off-road.

          Here’s my question to you though. Why have one vehicle just for winter driving and another to handle the other three seasons?

          Let’s simplify this a bit: My wife drives a Jeep Renegade for all-season commuting to work and back, plus some road trips. I drive a Chevy Colorado as a true utility vehicle pls some road trips that need more cargo capacity than the Renegade.

          Is that better?

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Again, thanks. So if I am reading your posting correctly on dry and/plowed highways it is OK to travel distances, at highway speeds in 4WD Hi?

            That is what I am looking for. As if doing that would harm the transmission, engine or differential, then I can’t discern any advantage in purchasing a 4wd vehicle for winter travel/commuting.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            My Land Cruiser was Full Time 4WD. Had 4 Hi, 4 Low, both axles were lockable as well as the center Diff.

            This was a real 4WD system like Trucks have, not AWD. 4Hi, with all the axles unlocked was suitable for any surface. You only had to worry about different inner and outer wheel speeds if the axles were locked. I don’t know of any production vehicle with differentials that aren’t selectable (if they have a locker). Fully locked or welded Diffs are for the Drag Strip, trail buggies, or crazies.

            Having said that, as my Cruiser operated like a truck in 4Hi all the time, it is worth noting that the front Birfield (Basically rebuildable CV Joints encased in a metal knuckle vs a rubber joint at both front wheels) required a full rebuild every 60k miles and again, in my experience that wasn’t something they were just trying to get money off of you on…the seals started leaking around that point so running around in 4 Hi all the time may accelerate wear on the front drive axles…The Toyota was designed for it and still needed attention every 60k. Not sure how a selectable axle would hold up under those conditions.

            But yeah, highway speeds with 4Hi were no issue. The challenge of the Land Cruiser was getting it to highway speed in any condition.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @ArtV: Thanks, that was exactly the information that I was looking for.

            So if we were to take advantage of current FCA deals on a ‘Classic’ Ram 4wd pick-up, then on a nighttime trip from Oshawa to Kingston (approximately 2.5 hours), on Highway 401, at highway speeds, with the road plowed, we could still use 4wdHi mode and not have to worry about damaging the driveline/etc?

            Although heavily traveled and plowed/cleared regularly, that stretch of the highway runs on a ridge overlooking Lake Ontario and is notorious for having winds off the lake pick up moisture and then when hitting the highway convert that moisture to black ice, snow squalls or drifts that appear suddenly and out of nowhere.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Art V what you describe with your Landcruiser is true AWD. That is when both axles are always driven but that there is a center diff that prevents driveline binding when you do things like turn on dry pavement. It was typically sold as “full time 4wd” on pickups of the 70’s but it was AWD. Most of those trucks had a shifter position that locked the center differential. True 4wd has no center diff just a solid connection to the secondary axle that can selectively be engaged. Most vehicles sold today as AWD are actually automatic 4wd systems.

            @Art D Not familiar with the current Ram. Does the dial have a 4 Auto position? If it does you can run it in auto all day long under any condition. In that mode it works like most CUV systems, it automatically engages the other axles when the proper conditions are met, usually when slip is detected.

            If it doesn’t have an auto position then 4hi shouldn’t be used on bare pavement or when it is mostly bare pavement with occasional patches of ice or snow. The front and rear driveshafts will be locked together and slight turns will cause bind to build up. Now if it is mostly snow or say 50/50 then it is fine to run it in 4hi as the driveline bind that occurs on dry pavement will be released by the patches of snow and ice frequently enough to prevent the bind from getting to the point of damaging components.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Scout: Thanks. But doesn’t that contradict what the other 2 posted? If so then there is zero advantage to driving a 4wd vehicle in the winter, except for under exceptional circumstances. In fact based on the centre of gravity and light backend driving a pickup in 2wd would be more dangerous than other vehicles.

            Typically in normal conditions, you would not know you needed 4wd/AWD until ‘it was too late’ to engage it.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Art D, what Art V was referring to was a vehicle with a center differential. Sometimes called “full time 4wd” That prevents binding of the drive lines and there is no way to drive the vehicle in 2wd. When the going gets rough the center diff can be locked for a true 50/50 torque split. It should not be driven in the lock position on surfaces with good traction or mostly good traction.

            Traditional truck 4wd systems do not have a center diff, you either lock the two drive shafts together or you unlock them. Driving them in 4wd on high traction or mostly high traction surfaces will cause drive line bind.

            Some modern trucks however have an auto 4wd setting usually not included on the base model. Those can be left in the auto position all day long at any speed. So that is what you would want for the situation you describe. 2wd position for the majority of your daily driving when snow is not an issue. 4 auto when the roads are mainly/partially cleared with patches of snow or ice and 4 hi for when the roads are covered in snow/ice.

            With the traditional system you are correct that you may not know that you need it in 4wd until it is too late. On the plus side many systems are shift of the fly so you can flip the dial between 2hi and 4hi at speed.

            However again there are differences between the systems. Some systems use a dog clutch to engage and you can get in a situation where you have it in 4wd and get enough bind in the system so that it won’t disengage. Others use a friction clutch that will release w/o any problems even under severe bind.

            Which brings us back to the Land Cruiser. Many years ago one of my customers came in with their Land Cruiser that they couldn’t get to shift out of 4 lock because they had driven it in that mode on a high traction surface. He thought it was an electronics issue but it was quickly resolved with a jack to raise one end of the truck and release the bind. Driving on a low traction surface with a heavy foot will also usually release the bind.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Wow, Scoutdude, you really know your 4X4 systems. As much as I read up on them there are so many different systems that I have a hard time keeping track of the different ones

            I like the Ford system in the Escape and have never had an issue with it, I just sometimes wish I could lock in 4WD during extreme situations, but it’s probably unnecessary

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @lie to me, Thanks spent many years as a mechanic and still get an industry publication or two.

            In theory it would be possible to make one of the Ford systems with the electromagnetic clutch switchable to 100% on. Just have to dig through the harness find the right wire and connect it to a relay that allows you to give it a constant 12v. However I don’t know how that would work out in the long run. Since the system is designed for part time use the clutch coil may overheat and burn if given a constant 12v for an extended period of time. That was what prevented me from doing that mod to ours, well that and the fact that the wife was the primary driver and there would always be that possibility of it getting switched on when it shouldn’t and end up causing mechanical damage.

            The other option I thought up was to use a hobby motor controller to be able to send it a variable duty cycle signal of my command. But that is even more complicated and frankly the system just works as delivered.

            I still wouldn’t mind trying it on one that was already at end of life or a driving total.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @AurthurDaily – 4lo is a “crawling” gear. I used it more often in my 1984 2.8 Ranger and with my 5.0 1990 F250 because both were underpowered. It is handy if one has to slowly climb over rocks, logs or any very rough terrain. I rarely use in my F150 since it had decent power.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @AurthurDaily – 4lo is a “crawling” gear. I used it more often in my 1984 2.8 Ranger and with my 5.0 1990 F250 because both were underpowered. It is handy if one has to slowly climb over rocks, logs or any very rough terrain. I rarely use in my F150 since it had decent power.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Americans want eternal life and they are willing to pay anything to buy it.

    That’s why health care costs continue to climb and AWD is so popular. And who could raise a child without a baby monitor, and soon a cell phone in their hands? As a society, we’ll pay anything for just a little more insurance against harm. Airport security measures are another example.

    The demand for AWD has little to do with driving, and everything to do with our insatiable desire for security.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    This should confirm the reasons behind having a lockdown to combat the spread of the virus. A video made by a hospital in the Greater Toronto Area. And an article about it. Hopefully the link stays, if it does not just Google. CBC Makrham-Stouffville Hospital look inside the ICU, April 30th 2020.

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/markham-stouffville-hospital-icu-covid-19-1.5539212

    The vast majority of frontline healthcare workers are firm in their belief that the lockdown was and is required. This includes doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners, cleaning staff, and the group most at risk to contract COVID the PSW’s. They were and are still working under extreme emotional trauma.

    The hospital where this was filmed just announced that 7 of their staff, in have tested positive.

    The Chief Medical Officer for York Region (where the hospital is located), Dr Kurji has stated in a video released by the region, supporting the lockdown that “Every case we prevent also prevents 60 to 100 cases down the road.”

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