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Old 13.09.2017, 19:56
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AWD or front-wheel drive?

We're looking at buying a small station wagon. Should we spend extra for the AWD model?

Note: we just moved to Switzerland (Basel), but have plans to travel to the mountains occasionally during winter.
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:05
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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We're looking at buying a small station wagon. Should we spend extra for the AWD model?

Note: we just moved to Switzerland (Basel), but have plans to travel to the mountains occasionally during winter.
It's really no big deal wither way, personally I prefer RWD on a larger car with winter tyres, I spend loads of time in the mountains. In 22 winter seasons I had a 4WD once, I only ever got stuck with chains twice both times in FWD as it just digs in until car is touching snow.
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:18
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

I have a Mazda CX3 and like many AWD, it's usually 2WD and applies power to all 4 wheels when necessary.

I find the choice of winter tyres to be more important for mountain trips.
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:22
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

I'd say FWD. Overall, the costs of purchasing, running and maintaining an AWD is higher than a FWD.

I guess the thing to remember is that getting moving (FWD, AWD and RWD) is just half the story. When it comes to the most important part - emergency braking and stopping on ice and snow all are equal.
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Old 13.09.2017, 20:25
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

I'm with FMF. FWD is fine the vast majority of the time. The big killer is when there is so much snow that the floorpan ends up sitting on it. Conditions like this are fairly rare, and when they do happen it won't much matter if you have front, rear, or all wheel drive (Ground clearance is the issue).

I drove an Alfa GTV 2.5 for about 5 years when I first arrived. Never got stuck, but it was touch and go a few times crossing a pass (which they closed shortly after letting us through). I had chains, and we passed a few SUVs who were stuck (we passed them very slowly, by that point it was clear that if I stopped I would struggle to get moving again).

If you're not used to snow, or driving in 3 dimensions, then AWD might help, but you're better off to learn to handle the weather, and the 3rd dimension.

Take a skid course, and a winter driving course. Worth the price in gold.
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Old 16.09.2017, 09:27
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

After driving Subarus for years I decided to get a FWD. What I like is the better mileage. What I hate is that the tires always spin on quick accelerations from a dead stop especially on hills. Design defect IMO. Next car will be a 4wd for sure. Also 4wd is just not for winter driving. It also works in the summer even on dry roads. Make a difference! My Subarus never had traction control and never needed em.
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Old 16.09.2017, 09:40
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

I first had a 4wd car (Volvo V70XC) in 1999 just before we moved over here, and am definitely a fan. Currently both our cars are sporty 4wd models, now 7 and 9 years old respectively, one a roadster and the other an estate (station wagon) and I would never consider going back to 2wd for normal use.

Why? Well, I like driving. Enthusiastically. Yes, a significant amount of our mileage is in the mountains and in winter, and the extra traction (and stability, on occasion) is nice, but even so I wouldn't say it's necessary to have 4wd. And without proper winter tyres it's a complete waste of time for winter driving. Nonetheless I'd recommend it - it just makes things that little bit easier and more fun.
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Old 16.09.2017, 09:56
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

we have a place in the mountains. the road is narrow and quite steep. so we have a awd car, also to avoid having to mount chains every time we drive up or down.

i must say that i'm pretty impressed by the system it feels like it pulls you up the mountain with no drama at all.
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Old 16.09.2017, 10:10
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

If I had the choice, I'd prefer the 4x4 over FWD. And for snowy winter drives I would prefer a lighter car over a heavier car. Had a big old Grand Wagoneer once and the little Suzuki Jimmies would run circles around me on the way to the top

Also, I'd look for good ground clearance and accessibility of the wheel wells for easier mounting of snow chains.
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Old 16.09.2017, 10:24
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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Also, I'd look for good ground clearance and accessibility of the wheel wells for easier mounting of snow chains.
In all my years of mountain driving in 4wd cars with winter tyres I've never once needed to fit my chains. And anyway there are several chain systems which don't need you to get your hands dirty accessing the inside of the wheel. These are like the ones i have, albeit mine being nearly 20 years old now.
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Old 16.09.2017, 10:29
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

Another question is Automatic or shift. IMO shift is better for winter driving or any driving for that matter. By the way the new Golf Alltrack looks like a fun little wagon.
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Old 16.09.2017, 10:31
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

AWD is also great in heavy rain. I believe Swiss highways do not drain off rain as quickly as most parts of the German Autobahn. AWD and traction control pretty much allows you to tackle most puddles without any skidding.
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Old 20.09.2017, 22:32
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

15 plus years AWD experience. Then 6 years FWD. Now AWD again (Mazda CX3's like an earlier poster)

IMHO tyres make the biggest difference. My FWD (Mazda 6) performed better on Winter tyres in snow than my 4WD (Mitsubishi Evo 8) did on Summers in snow.

But stick Winters on 4WD and you are the overall winner. Which is what I have for the new Mazdas (UK and CH).

Regards


Ian
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Old 20.09.2017, 22:46
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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Old 21.09.2017, 13:45
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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AWD is also great in heavy rain. I believe Swiss highways do not drain off rain as quickly as most parts of the German Autobahn. AWD and traction control pretty much allows you to tackle most puddles without any skidding.
Most unnecessary use of AWD one could describe. If you told me a car would struggle on the backroads driving spiritedly, I'd agree.

But cruising on the autobahn, if the puddle hits you and you aquaplane, forward traction is the LEAST of your problems.



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After driving Subarus for years I decided to get a FWD. What I like is the better mileage. What I hate is that the tires always spin on quick accelerations from a dead stop especially on hills. Design defect IMO. Next car will be a 4wd for sure. Also 4wd is just not for winter driving. It also works in the summer even on dry roads. Make a difference! My Subarus never had traction control and never needed em.
It's not a design defect. It's weight transfer (i.e. physics).
Some designs are more suited to some tasks. FWD is a better and safer choice for 99% of drivers and cases. Uphill burnouts is the counter-balance.
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Old 21.09.2017, 14:10
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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Most unnecessary use of AWD one could describe. If you told me a car would struggle on the backroads driving spiritedly, I'd agree.

But cruising on the autobahn, if the puddle hits you and you aquaplane, forward traction is the LEAST of your problems.





It's not a design defect. It's weight transfer (i.e. physics).
Some designs are more suited to some tasks. FWD is a better and safer choice for 99% of drivers and cases. Uphill burnouts is the counter-balance.
it would be interesting to see some evidence that proves that FWD (or RWD) is safer than AWD.

Last edited by k_and_e; 21.09.2017 at 15:11. Reason: RWD - not AWD
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Old 21.09.2017, 14:16
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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IMHO tyres make the biggest difference. My FWD (Mazda 6) performed better on Winter tyres in snow than my 4WD (Mitsubishi Evo 8) did on Summers in snow.
n


Why do people think 4WD is a substitute for winter tires?
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Old 21.09.2017, 14:17
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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it would be interesting to see some evidence that proves that FWD (or AWD) is safer than AWD.
Not safer. But AWD is at least as safe as AWD.
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Old 21.09.2017, 14:18
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

We have a cabin in the woods, only 200m of private road BUT said private road has a couple of sections that are mostly rock due to erosion, and it's quite a pain with FWD only, even when dry and no snow/mud (going uphill, down is no problem in FWD mode with either the Maverick or the Panda 4x4)

Tom
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Old 21.09.2017, 15:29
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Re: AWD or front-wheel drive?

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it would be interesting to see some evidence that proves that FWD (or RWD) is safer than AWD.
FWD is inherently a stable configuration since the front wheels are pulling the car.

RWD is inherently an unstable configuration since the rear wheels are pushing the car.

4WD (which is 4-wheels all the time) is quite neutral

If you want to see the above in practice, take your phone and start pulling it, pushing it, and then pulling and pushing at the same time. See what is more stable.

AWD depends on the implementation, as AWD means that all wheels are driven only when the primarily-driven wheels are slipping. If the primarily driven wheels are the front, then the car is more a FWD and vice versa.

Also if the 4WD is not symmetrical, then FWD bias makes it more stable, and so on and so forth.


All of the above are reflected in the geometry settings of the suspension for each layout (toe angles for example).


Now, the FWD, due the nature of the design tends to undesteer. That means, that if you go too fast in a corner the car will not steer and go straight on (figuratively).
That is the safest thing a car can do at the limit, as:
  • the medicine to understeer is to get off the gas, a natural reaction for even the most inept driver
  • even if the understeer is terminal (i.e. you're having an accident), it's much safer to hit something straight on than in any other direction. Crumble zones and most passive safety features of a car are designed for such collisions

that is also why ALL "civilian" cars, i.e. cars that everyone will buy, are designed to understeer at the limit. Because UNDERSTEER IS SAFE.

This is increasingly the case with sports cars as well. It turns out that just because people want to buy one car, doesn't mean that they know how it should be driven. Greatest example is the Honda S2000, that began life as an oversteering madman, and then became a much more sedate (and boring?) animal in a mid-cycle refresh.



Source:
a bunch of mates and I used to design and build from scratch actual prototype race cars that would do 0-100 in 3.5s and hit way over 1g in the skidpad. Some of them work in championship winning F1 teams now
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