I’ve been a stout proponent of AWD vehicles for over 20 years. In fact, every daily-driver I’ve purchased in the last 15 years have all included what I consider to be the greatest safety feature one can get.
In this period of time, AWD has gone from a costly and fuel-efficiency-sapping option to being affordable, efficient, and adopted as a must have for a large number of Canadian new car buyers. Case in point, sales of the Volkswagen Sportwagen doubled from 2016 to 2017 with the arrival of AWD last year. And! And, of all the sales of the new Sportwagen, including the top-line Alltrack, 80% of them were equipped with VW’s own brew of AWD called 4MOTION.
What is most important for consumers is proficiency in all walks of life. Like the majority of AWD systems on cars today, 4MOTION requires no intervention from the driver in order to do its job. There are drive modes included with most of VW’s car equipped with AWD and although interesting to use, have no direct impact on the vehicle’s daily performance.
The large-scale implementation of Volkswagen’s highly-flexible MQB platform is what has allowed the German giant to introduce 4MOTION on a number of its new cars, from the large 3-row Atlas SUV, compact Tiguan, Golf Sportwagen, Alltrack and the sporty Golf R. Actually, there’s a debate going on at VW as to whether or not they should offer 4MOTION to North Americans with the new 7th generation 2019 Jetta sedan.
All of these VWs share an identical 4MOTION AWD setup, with only variations for length and overall size. The setup functions primarily as a FWD layout that will send power to the rear wheels when required. The moment wheel slippage is detected up front, the onboard control unit activates the system which locks in the rear to varying degrees. All of the AWD extra components are located on the rear axle and if driving conditions warrant it, nearly 100% of available engine power can be directed here. Once here, the system can deploy power from side to side using the brakes.
Compared to their FWD counterparts, the 4MOTION assembly adds roughly 110 kg (250 lbs.) to the car’s weight. The result is an average 10% increase in combined fuel consumption numbers but there’s no adverse effect on the drive. The rear suspension is revised in order to compensate for the added weight and driveline demands.
As we went off through the Quebec countryside, the lack of drama despite the changing road conditions was nice. Shod with a good set of winter tires, the cars effortlessly scaled inclines, handled bends and everything else poorly maintained and half-ploughed northern roads could throw at the cars.
The big revelation is the Golf Alltrack. Its extra 15mm of ground clearance over the Sportwagen and ample wheel travel not only allow the car to navigate deep snow with ease but keep everyone comfortable over rough stuff. The Tiguan and Atlas are ideal mainstream crossovers with safety and family duties in mind.
The widespread availability of VW’s 4MOTION AWD system increases this brand’s appeal many fold.