Many vehicles in almost all classes offer all-wheel drive today, including the Audi R8 Spyder supercar. Photos by Benjamin Yong.
Especially in a place like Vancouver where the only constant about the weather is that it’s guaranteed to change, all-wheel drive is king. Car manufacturers recognize the need for versatility, which is why even the Toyota Prius is now sold n AWD form. Today’s article looks at different types of the drivetrain technology, and recommends a few top-rated vehicles that have this equipped.
Two different types of all-wheel drive
Not all setups are equated equally. Some configurations operate permanently, meaning both axles are driven constantly when the engine is on resulting in optimum handling. The downside is decreased fuel economy. Others are part-time, where torque is primarily sent to only the front or rear wheels unless a situation arises requiring extra traction, for instance traveling over a slick surface.
AWD is in Audi’s DNA — its version is called Quattro, which was not only the first such full-time system to be installed in a passenger car over three decades ago, but helped the automaker win multiple professional racing championships as well.
Refined over the years, the technology is found in virtually all vehicles wearing the four-ring logo, like the Q7. Normally, torque for the mid-size luxury SUV is distributed 40/60 in order to provide a sporty ride, however the computer is capable of sending power to any corner requiring additional grip.
The Genesis full-time system is branded under the name HTRAC. On the G70 luxury sports sedan an electronic variable-torque clutch balances power between front and rear, and different driver selectable modes are offered for a tailored experience behind the wheel.
Selecting Sport, for example, favours the back wheels allowing more fun in the twisties. To reduce weight, engineers have crafted the rear differential housing out of aluminum.
Although the Alltrack isn’t being produced after the 2019 model year, that doesn’t take anything away from its excellent 4Motion AWD. To conserve gas, under low load conditions the car functions similar to one with front-wheel drive. When wheel slip is detected, however, a centre differential kicks in to assist the rear axle.
Complementing 4Motion is a special Off Road Mode capable of altering the ABS and throttle characteristics to make traversing rough roads easier. The Alltrack also features a 15-millimetre higher ride height over the regular SportWagen and standard hill descent functionality.