Ask a handful of powertrain engineers to define all-wheel drive and you’ll likely to get as many descriptions as there are AWD systems. The fact is, variants of AWD and 4WD are proliferating in the marketplace as trucks, SUVs and CUVs claim an increasingly large slice of the automotive landscape.
A Wards Intelligence report, “AWD Electrified,” finds that while the shift to CUVs and away from traditionally 2-wheel-drive sedans and coupes is a primary driving force, other factors are leading automakers to offer AWD and consumers to expect and demand AWD in their vehicles: improvements in fuel efficiency, easy control of AWD systems and dynamic handling benefits. And going back to its roots in post-WWII Jeeps and Land Rovers, consumers also associate AWD with freedom to travel wherever four wheels will take them.
“There’s an interest in consumers for getting away from all the buzz of the city and the buzz of our cell phones and so on and…going out there and having those experiences with your friends or your family,” says Seth Metzger, vice president-light vehicle engineering at global powertrain supplier Dana. “It’s either for safety and/or mobility, or in other cases that ability to go anywhere and get out of the city, so to speak, to enjoy the outdoors.”