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Old 31.08.2018, 14:56
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FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

As per title, I am currently deciding whether I it is worth getting a car with 4WD (4 wheel drive) vs standard FWD (Front wheel drive) for the 3-5 months a year where conditions are snowy/icy.

Is 4WD drive a significant advantage or would I really not see the benefits of spending the extra money as a weekend winter ski tripper going to resort areas?

I am of course well aware that most people manage with FWD (and RWD) cars perfectly fine but I don't mind spending the extra if it will genuinely get me out of trouble occasionally during peak Winter season in snowy areas.

Feedback appreciated.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:03
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

It's nice to have, but not (often) much of an advantage.

You've been here almost a decade. How many times have you been stuck?

If you live in the mountains, sure. For the occasional trip to go skiing, not really necessary.

Good snow tires, and a set of chains which are easy to fit are usually a lot less expensive than 4wd.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:06
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

I've only bought 4WD cars since 1998. OK, I now live in the mountains so it's a no-brainer, but it's definitely not just the winter when it's better.

This video is aimed at trying to convince the UK of the benefits of winter tyres, but the difference between the FWD and 4WD is illuminating nonetheless:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfuE00qdhLA
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:11
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

I think that the AWD benefit is not only for ski trips and snow/ice, but for general driving. I have a BMW X5 and a BMW M2 and I must say that in normal driving conditions the AWD system feels really secure and the car really never gets unsettled. Going around corners, the car really never washes out of the lane, even at higher speeds. Wet weather driving and big rain puddles are also dealt with with more ease.

I also feel a lot more secure when driving at high speeds on the German autobahn.

The M2, on the other hand (which is RWD) doesn't handle these things so well. I'm sure the sporty tyres and the extra power (and my poor driving skills) contributes to this, but it was much the same with my RWD 5 series.

I don't think you are foregoing anything by going AWD, so if you can, I would.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:19
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

I've had three cars since living here. My most recent is 4WD, the others were 2WD. I will pnly have 4WD cars now - stability, handling, and not having to use chains.

I do carry chains in the car during winter, just in case, but I've never needed them.

In my experience - worth the extra expense.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:24
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

4WD makes a massive difference in snow conditions as it is way more stable. Also, you don't need snow chains.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:29
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

A lot of the ski areas have good access, the roads are ploughed and salted to ensure visitors can come and spend the money. I'm more likely to get caught out on a small local road.



I've had both and for me the big difference is good tires, I'd rather have a 2WD with winter tires than a 4WD with summer tires. Also remember that winter tires "dry" out, the rubber can lose some of its grip after a few years.


Another thing to think about is what type of 4WD, are you going for something basic, or will it have electronic traction control or AWD? It's one thing to have all 4 wheels engaged, another when they under control.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:37
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

Tyres is what really makes the difference in winter/snow/ice: if you are driving a 4wd with bad/summer tyres in snow, you are not going far regardless of the 4wd transmission.

Obviously, under the same conditions/tyres, then 4wd is better than a 2wd.
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:41
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

We have 200m of forest road to deal with to get to our rustico, and if there is any mud or snow, 4WD is a must, same with visiting my wife's 103 year old great-uncle in Italy.

Also, a couple times in Lugano before the roads were plowed it was a must, 2WD with snows got stuck.

For ski trips, 2WD (sometimes with chains) has always been fine.

Tom
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Old 31.08.2018, 15:44
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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I've had both and for me the big difference is good tires, I'd rather have a 2WD with winter tires than a 4WD with summer tires.
And a 4WD with winter tyres is better still.

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Another thing to think about is what type of 4WD, are you going for something basic, or will it have electronic traction control or AWD? It's one thing to have all 4 wheels engaged, another when they under control.
Exactly. Richdog, you need to weigh up 4WD against AWD. They're not the same thing. My Audi Q7 won't dig itself out of a bog (trust me, I tried this ), whereas a LandCruiser would laugh one off as it bench-presses 1,500 kg.

And there's no way in hell I would ever let my other (part-time) AWD (the manufacturer calls it 4WD) car anywhere near mud.

Having said that, AWD certainly adds a level of safety and security to 2WD vehicles. But you should still change the tyres twice a year.
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Last edited by 22 yards; 31.08.2018 at 20:32. Reason: QWERTY keyboard strikes again
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:00
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

Wow guys thanks for the quick and detailed response, impressive!

I read all of them and the ones that questions needing more detail I will reply to below:

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You've been here almost a decade. How many times have you been stuck?
I have almost always been by train so never so far! I have been a few times in a car with others and struggled to get up some slippy hills or slid scarily down slippy hills.

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And a 4WD with winter tyres is better still.

Exactly. Richdog, you need to weigh up 4WD against AWD. They're not the same thing. My Audi Q7 won't dig itself out of a bog (trust me, I tried this ), whereas a LandCruiser would laugh one off as it bench-presses 1,500 kg.

And there-s no way in hell I would ever let my other (part-time) AWD (the manufacturer calls it 4WD) car anywhere near mud.

Having said that, AWD certainly adds a level of safety and security to 2WD vehicles. But you should still change the tyres twice a year.
You are right 22y, I just used a catch-all term and I need to do more reading up on the specific differences but basically the cars I am looking at that have:

4WD/AWD versions:
  • Audi A3 quattro 2.0 TFSI
  • VW Golf 4motion (same thing as quattro as both VW group?)
  • BMW 3 series X-drive

FWD versions:
  • Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI
  • Audi A4 Avant 1.4 / 2.0 TFSI
  • VW Golf 1.5 TFSI
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:02
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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A lot of the ski areas have good access, the roads are ploughed and salted to ensure visitors can come and spend the money. I'm more likely to get caught out on a small local road.
I was very happy about having AWD on something as banal and not exactly super-alpine as the Hoch-Ybrig ski lift parking place. Snow that melted a little in the sun and then freezes over in the afternoon was way less fun for the RWD BMWs on that parking... in a lot of ski places do the people who don't arrive at 8.30 end up parking on similar patches of snowed over gravel...


It hardly makes any difference for general use as the car only activates the front axle when needed... which is hardly ever (unless you floor the pedal).
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:07
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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4WD/AWD versions:
  • Audi A3 quattro 2.0 TFSI
  • VW Golf 4motion (same thing as both VW group?)
  • BMW 3 series X-drive

FWD versions:
  • Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI
  • Audi A4 Avant 1.4 TFSI
  • VW Golf 1.5 TFSI

Audi have a very long and rich(ly successful) history with 4WD, I still have images impressed on my memory of the rally cars in the Kielder Forest.... "Fire up the Quattro!" I had an S4 for a few years, very capable. Not the most commodious but excellent. The other brand that has a similar rally heritage is Subaru - currently on my 3rd (Impreza Turbo (forerunner to today's STi), Legacy, and now Forester). The estates are tardis's but if you want fun and 4WD, look at the Impreza STi
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:33
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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Audi have a very long and rich(ly successful) history with 4WD, I still have images impressed on my memory of the rally cars in the Kielder Forest.... "Fire up the Quattro!" I had an S4 for a few years, very capable. Not the most commodious but excellent. The other brand that has a similar rally heritage is Subaru - currently on my 3rd (Impreza Turbo (forerunner to today's STi), Legacy, and now Forester). The estates are tardis's but if you want fun and 4WD, look at the Impreza STi
I don't know how to put this nicely, but you are showing your age with that post. Audi has not been in rally for ages and Subaru stopped a decade ago as well...
The brand which dominated the WRC in the last few years was actually VW with Seb Ogier. (Till they cut the race team to save money for their Diesel scandal...)


I think all six options are pretty solid cars. Don't limit yourself too tightly and look what deals can be found.
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:42
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

4WD you usually get further into trouble.....and it's harder to get out of trouble, if you get into trouble.


4WD is nice for going uphill, put at same time it pushes you more going down hill.


I live at 800m and have a 4WD Merc, my wife drives a small VW.


But saying all this, the best car i ever had was a Fiat Panda 2WD !!


Also skinny tyres work better than fat tyres as skinny ones cut through the snowm fat ones work as a snow plough




BUT NOTHING BEATS GOOD AND PROPER WINTER TYRES !!!!!

Last edited by Today only; 31.08.2018 at 17:54.
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:46
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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I don't know how to put this nicely, but you are showing your age with that post. Audi has not been in rally for ages and Subaru stopped a decade ago as well...
The brand which dominated the WRC in the last few years was actually VW with Seb Ogier. (Till they cut the race team to save money for their Diesel scandal...)


I think all six options are pretty solid cars. Don't limit yourself too tightly and look what deals can be found.

Don't think I ever tried to conceal my age?! Point being, the 4WD heritage is sound

Today Only also has a point: one thing to remember with 4WD is it holds and holds until the grip goes, and then it goes big time. Also about skinny tyres in snow. One of the very best mountain cars is/was the Panda 4WD
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:52
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

Obviously 4WD has a higher limit, but in 99% of the cases the point is moot.

I've only owned RWD, I've been in Switzerland for 6 years now, including the insane winter of 2012-2013. Proper tires every year, and I was fine. I've kind of had an issue 2 times - 1 would be a breeze if my car had a limited slip diff, and the second was a matter of getting a bit more momentum and being a bit gentle in getting it off. It was at 2300m, solid ice on snow, and I was reversing uphill meaning less weight on the driving wheels. So conditions were kind of worst case scenario plus a lot of HP and 255-section performance winter tires that were not helpful at all. All in all it was not the end of the world.

To be honest I think that clearence can be more of an issue. I currently only have sporty cars, and my main complaint is the build up of snowbanks on the sidewalks. So getting in/out of my garage makes me feel for the paintjob and a higher-riding car would just make things a tad easier. No need for an actual SUV, even a decent air-suspension could work just fine.



PS There is no way in hell an X5 is more stable on the highway than an M2 because of 4WD or whatever. It rides higher, it's softer and floppier, and has significant lift at high speeds. For everyone driving normally, there is no justification for 4WD. Nobody is slipping tires in normal driving, especially 275/35/19s on the back of the M2 and especially in the grippy tarmac of Switzerland. 4WD can make a difference in the snow for sure, but that's pretty much it.
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Old 31.08.2018, 16:58
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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4WD/AWD versions:
  • Audi A3 quattro 2.0 TFSI
  • VW Golf 4motion (same thing as quattro as both VW group?)
  • BMW 3 series X-drive

FWD versions:
  • Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI
  • Audi A4 Avant 1.4 / 2.0 TFSI
  • VW Golf 1.5 TFSI
Essentially, you're looking at two marques (Audi=VW and BMW), both of which are fine car manufacturers. None of the models you list are 4WD. Just one thing to consider, do the smaller-engined FWD cars on your list develop enough power for your requirements? I don't know how far you plan to drive or how often, but I'd get fairly hacked off fairly quickly with a 125 PS (could be more, depending on model) 1.4L engine.

Last edited by 22 yards; 31.08.2018 at 20:34.
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Old 31.08.2018, 17:02
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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Don't think I ever tried to conceal my age?! Point being, the 4WD heritage is sound

Today Only also has a point: one thing to remember with 4WD is it holds and holds until the grip goes, and then it goes big time. Also about skinny tyres in snow. One of the very best mountain cars is/was the Panda 4WD
Exactly - we love our Forester too- a) we have a brilliant Subaru garage here, and b) you know you will always be able to sell a good Subaru or part exchange, due to reputation. Nothing to do with our age

Mind you, my little runner with good snow tyres is brilliant- live at 950m and my little Toyota Yaris never lets me down.
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Old 31.08.2018, 17:04
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Re: FWD vs 4WD cars for general use and ski trips...

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Exactly - we love our Forester too- a) we have a brilliant Subaru garage here, and b) you know you will always be able to sell a good Subaru or part exchange, due to reputation. Nothing to do with our age
You know the Swiss joke:

Q:What's left over when you cremate a Swiss alpine farmer?

A:A Subaru keychain and a Helly Hanson zipper pull.
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