All-wheel drive car: the characteristics

Is all-wheel drive a system adopted only on off-road vehicles? No, the distribution of the drive torque on four wheels has different characteristics and is therefore mounted on various types of cars.

Here is everything you need to know.

Official 4 × 4 nomenclatures

4 × 4 , 4WD (four-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive), all acronyms that indicate the presence of four-wheel drive.

This type of traction is often used to ensure maximum grip and reliability of off-road vehicles , especially to tackle uneven, very sloping surfaces with little grip.

However, these are not the only types of cars on which it is adopted: four-wheel drive is often used even on very powerful cars, to ensure the best transmission to all wheels, thus avoiding excessive slippage and allowing maximum driveability.

Features all-wheel drive

All- wheel drive can be based on these characteristics:

  • differential
  • friction
  • hydraulics

Furthermore, based on the 4 × 4 operating time, it is divided into:

  • Part time
  • Full Timeor permanent – permanent traction on all wheels with only one differential (like Lancia Delta or Subaru impreza)
  • Mixed– both systems are present (such as for the “Super Select” system of Mitsubishi Pajero or “Active Drive” of Jeep Cherokee)

Then there are these management systems:

  • With reduced – an additional gearbox placed in the center differential that allows you to reduce the main one
  • 4WD-Low or 4L – all-wheel drive with reduction
  • 4WD-High or 4H – all-wheel drive without reductions (often found on modern SUVs)
  • No reduced – there is often a particularly short first gear and a more marked shift between gears

How to enter all-wheel drive

The engagement of the four-wheel drive can be:

  • Decided by the driver– it acts on mechanical controls such as a second gear lever or on electric controls act on the transfer box
  • Autonomous(controlled slip) – self-engages with loss of traction on one axle (self-adjusting / self-locking)
  • On-board electronics– with the loss of grip of the 2 wheels normally in traction and sensors that communicate with the electronic control unit

Why are the acronyms that indicate the presence of all-wheel drive so different? Because of the commercial nomenclatures: here are the most famous.

Four-wheel drive: commercial nomenclature

The four-wheel drive is adopted by many car manufacturers: these have often customized commercial nomenclature, however, indicating vehicles equipped with 4-wheel traction.

Here are the various commercial terms:

  • Alfa Romeo – Q4
  • Audi – quattro
  • BMW – xDrive
  • Ferrari – 4WD
  • FIAT and Opel – 4 × 4
  • Ford – 4WD
  • Lancia – Integral
  • Mercedes-Benz – 4Matic
  • Mini – ALL4
  • Mitsubishi – Super Select
  • Porsche – 4
  • Saab – Xwd
  • Subaru – Symmetrical AWD
  • Volkswagen – today 4motion, until 1998 it was Syncro
  • Volvo and Mazda – AWD

The 4 × 4 cars on the market, with insertable or permanent all-wheel drive, economic or sports, are really many: there are vehicles such as Volkswagen T-Roc 4MOTION , Bentley Bentayga , Dacia Duster 4 × 4 , Ferrari GTC4 Lusso , Fiat Panda Cross and Ford Kuga AWD , but the list is very long.


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