An all-wheel-drive system powers both the rear and front wheels all the time in order to provide optimum traction depending on the driving mode selected and the outside environment. More or less every premium brand these days offers AWD in some form, but most of these are reserved for SUVs.
However, both Mercedes and Volkswagen offer their AWD systems for almost every available model. Mercedes calls their system 4MATIC which is available for every car they offer while Volkswagen calls their system 4MOTION which is available for most of their models.
Mercedes began offering the 4MATIC system back in 1987 and the first iterations of this system were quite unreliable because they were incredibly complex. VW also began offering the 4MOTION system back in the 1980s, but the system was limited to only a few premium models and was not as advanced.
Nowadays both of these systems are a lot better, but the 4MATIC system is a lot more advanced. Mercedes also offers the range-topping 4MATIC+ system which enables you to decouple the front axle and make the car solely RWD which is something VW does not offer.
Mercedes 4MATIC – Pros and Cons
The Mercedes 4MATIC system is one of the most advanced AWD systems currently available on the market because it utilizes an incredibly complex design that is nowadays a lot more reliable than it once was. The main benefit the 4MATIC system offers is the system-wise integration which affects all aspects of the drive.
The 4MATIC system is an intelligent four-wheel-drive system that uses a myriad of different sensors on each individual wheel which means that the system can keep the car rolling even if only a single wheel provides decent traction.
The system works best when integrated with a smooth 7-9 speed gearbox, antilock braking system, an advanced traction system, and ESP. The greatest benefit the 4MATIC system has over 4MOTION is the fact that it is able to respond to different road conditions incredibly quickly thus making the car a lot safer.
The negatives of the 4MATIC system are the fact that it costs a lot of money to repair if it ever starts causing issues, it also worsens your fuel economy and makes the car heavier and artificial feeling. However, Mercedes also offers a 4MATIC+ system which is one of the most advanced AWD systems on the market.
Volkswagen 4MOTION – Pros and Cons
The Volkswagen 4MOTION technology includes a few different types of AWD systems depending on the type of car. The most basic system is called a Haldex system that uses a clutch to move the power either to the rear wheels or the front wheels. The issue with this system is the fact that it is a lot slower to respond and is not nearly as advanced as 4MATIC.
Some VW SUVs use a so-called Torsen AWD system which uses a mechanical differential in order to provide maximum traction off-road. This is an old-school system that is mostly used in SUVs and other all-terrain vehicles.
The 4MOTION system is not as advanced as the system found in most Mercedes models these days. However, real-world differences are not all that obvious. Volkswagen does not offer a special performance-oriented AWD system like 4MATIC+ which means that their systems are a bit less complex.
The drawbacks of the 4MOTION system are more or less the same as in the case of 4MATIC. 4MOTION cars are more expensive, cost more to fix, are not as efficient, and are considerably heavier.
The necessity of an AWD system in modern-day cars
As previously stated, most automakers these days offer AWD systems, but an AWD system simply isn’t necessary for the vast majority of customers out there. AWD systems make the car more complex, less fuel-efficient, heavier, and often even more unreliable thus a lot costlier to fix.
If you own a large SUV then it makes sense to opt for AWD for both traction reasons and the resale value. However, if you own a VW Golf or a Mercedes Benz A-Class and you rarely ever venture off the pavement, then an AWD system is more or less unnecessary.
AWD systems usually cost around $2,000-$3,000 from the factory which means that they cost a lot more than a set of decent winter tires. As such, sometimes it makes sense to spend that extra money on more necessary options and a set of winter tires.
It is true that an AWD system helps the resale value, but not as much as you might think because they cost a lot in the first place.
Should I buy a Mercedes with the 4MATIC system?
If you are buying a brand-new Mercedes SUV that you plan on using in all sorts of environments and you don’t mind paying an additional $2,000 over the asking price, you should tick the 4MATIC option. However, if you don’t plan on driving in adverse weather conditions or you simply own a set of decent winter tires, an AWD system is unnecessary.
If you are buying used and you find a car you like with an AWD system, that’s a win-win situation.
Should I buy a VW with the 4MOTION system?
It’s more or less the same story as with Mercedes. It depends on the car you are buying and for what you intend to use it. A set of winter tires usually does the trick, especially if you are not buying the Amarok, the Atlas, or the Touareg.
What’s so special about the Mercedes 4MATIC+ AWD system?
The Mercedes 4MATIC+ AWD system and the BMW xDrive M system enable you to completely decouple the front axle and make the car RWD when you want to have some good old fashion RWD fun. Both of these offer dedicated drift modes which means that you can easily swing the tail out and keep it there in a controlled manner.
This makes these systems the very best out there because they offer you superior traction levels in everyday situations while also enabling you to feel that RWD experience at a press of a button.