Most luxury cars these days come standard with advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) technology. Yep, AWD now comes standard or as an option in more and more affordable cars, CUVs and SUVs.
There are actually several reasons to consider AWD in your next new car purchase. Generally, AWD vehicles give you better safety and handling as well as the ability to drive in more inclement weather situations.
And, if you can afford AWD as well as advanced braking systems like electronic stability control (ESC), you should consider it. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates ESC will reduce crashes by as much as 34% (59% for SUVs with a great reduction in rollovers), saving between 5,000-9,000 lives and prevent around 200,000 injuries (once all light vehicles on the road are equipped with ESC).
Some car companies like Subaru are known for putting its super advanced AWD on all models. In fact, AWD has been a standard feature on American-made Subaru vehicles since 1996. Perhaps that is why Subaru is the top-selling car brand in the state of Alaska and some Alaskans are known to be die-hard Subaru enthusiasts.
So, what really is AWD and why do you need it? With his technology, all four wheels receive torque from the engine simultaneously, allowing each tire to rotate at different speeds. Independent tire rotation improves a vehicle's overall handling and stability, making it useful in rain, snow and dry pavement.
AWD is not 4WD and it is not advised to take AWD vehicles out on unpaved roads, in mud or in deep snow. AWD systems are also not always in full AWD mode. In fact, AWD vehicles drive most of the time just as any front-wheel-drive car. With advanced AWD technology, however, engine power automatically goes to the rear wheels when the front wheels begin to slip.
The least expensive AWD vehicle in the U.S. car market today is the five-seat hatchback Suzuki SX4 Crossover. Priced at around $16,000, the Suzuki SX4 Crossover comes standard with a three-mode AWD system. What does this mean? The drive can choose between 2WD, 4WD Lock or 4WD Auto. In 4WD lock mode, the wheel lock together for low gear driving in snow, ice, sand and mud). The 4WD Auto mode is more versatile, allowing the driver to push power to all four wheels for extra safety and performance.
Sheryll Alexander is a lifestyles writer based in Costa Mesa, Calif. Read more from Sheryll Alexander at Driving Smart.