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AWD: The difference between various car systems

What makes one manufacturer’s system different from another? We explain how they work in their own unique ways.

  • CIAS 2016 Jeep AWD

What makes one manufacturer’s system different from another? We explain how they work in their own unique ways.

Mazda – i-ACTIV

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Checking road conditions 200 times a second while monitoring the outside temperature, wiper operation, the torque needed to turn the front wheels and the load on the engine, it’s a predictive and on-demand system aimed at anticipating and responding to the driver’s intentions in acceleration, steering and braking in snow, rain and on turns and inclines. The i-ACTIV system can predict slippage; provide traction for optimum driver control and a stable ride while minimizing fuel consumption.

Honda – Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control

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Using a multi-plate clutch, just as in an automatic transmission, Honda’s system transfers power to the rear wheels for grip and steering control in all conditions and road surfaces. An electric motor and hydraulic pump automatically directs power when and where it is needed, ensuring a smooth ride and giving the driver a sense of control. When not required, the motor idles to add to the engine’s fuel efficiency.

Subaru – Symmetrical all-wheel drive

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While most all-wheel drive systems are adapted from two-wheel drive, this one starts out as all-wheel drive, assigning continuous power to each wheel for stability in any road condition by balancing, “like a butterfly or an airplane” as they put it, the left and right sides of the drivetrain to direct more power to the wheels that have the most grip, thus reduce sliding. This balanced stability and control results in a predictable ride on turns and grades.

Audi – Quattro

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For three decades the multi-plate clutch and self-locking centre differential have been the heart of Audi’s all-wheel drive Quattro system distributing power to all four wheels, directing the most to the wheels with the best traction to give the driver optimum steering control. The multi-plate clutch distributes engine power between the front and rear wheels, and in tough road conditions the self-locking centre differential distributes torque where it’s needed for traction and secure handling in turns.

Hyundai – All-wheel drive

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In normal driving conditions, Hyundai’s AWD system provides 100 per cent of the torque to the front wheels and automatically sends up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels when needed. For off-road and slippery conditions, the selectable AWD lock provides a differentiated torque split between front and rear wheels and the system’s Active Cornering Control (ACC) automatically sends torque to the wheels with the best traction. Hillstart Assist and Down Brake Control are also helpful in steep inclines and declines.

Jeep – Freedom Drive 4×4 System

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With a range of a dozen four-wheel drive variations across Jeep models, the popular Compass 4X4 has two setups. The standard Freedom Drive I system transfers power to the rear wheels for control in rain, snow, ice and mud, and has a locking 4WD off-road mode. Freedom Drive II gives greater off-road traction and control on steep grades, deep snow, mud and sand. An optional CVT2 transmission delivers a 19:1 crawl ratio for extra torque in extreme off road conditions.

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