Even the most basic and most rudimental AWD system will be safer and more surefooted in less than ideal conditions. This means that no matter if it’s snowing or raining, an AWD system gives you more control on tire slip which in turn increases the safety and overcall capability of the car.
An RWD car is the easiest to slip because the weight above the rear wheels is not as intense. FWD car wheels and tires sit under a heavy engine which makes them grip better. AWD cars combine both aspects and they tend to send the power depending on what is deemed appropriate.
If you value performance, most modern-day AWD systems primarily focus on sending the power to the rear wheels as this makes the car rotate better and eliminates understeer. However, when you want to launch the car, or you need more grip exiting a corner, AWD engages and all four wheels are pulling.
On the other hand, if you are only driving around town, or on a highway, and you don’t need the help of all four wheels, your car is likely going to be either RWD or FWD in order to save fuel. However, if the car senses slip, it will automatically engage AWD which will help you stay in control.
Basics of weight transfer during cornering and how RWD/FWD cars behave
While driving on a hot summer day, your tires are up to temperature and they grip the surface as best as they can. This means that your car is hardly ever going to be unsettled with higher speed cornering as the tires are sticky enough to hold the car in place.
However, in less than ideal conditions such as rain, snow, or ice, those tires are having a harder time controlling all the power and slip which sometimes results in loss of traction. A RWD car is inherently more prone to oversteer as the weight transfer during lateral acceleration is mostly pushing the back end out of the center.
A FWD car is different as it’s inherently more prone to understeer which means that your front wheels are tasked with both accelerating and steering the car. If the acceleration forces are too intense and the tires are not able to grip properly, you are going to experience understeer which can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous.
The ability to control weight transfer is crucial to always stay safe while driving no matter the conditions.
Basics of weight transfer during cornering and how AWD cars behave
Whenever you accelerate aggressively, most of the weight is transferred onto the rear wheels which is obvious whenever you see the car squat a little bit while accelerating. On the other hand, whenever you are braking, you sense the car pitch forwards a little bit.
Lateral weight transfer is obvious whenever you steer into the corner and you feel the car lean from one side to the other. As mentioned previously, uncontrolled weight transfer can often end up with a loss of traction which can cause serious issues.
However, an AWD car is capable of sensing when tires need more grip, as such, the AWD sends power to the wheel with the most grip which in turn increases stability. For example, while cornering aggressively, an AWD tends to send power to the outside wheel which helps to rotate the car faster.
Although this helps the car rotate, it can also make the car oversteer if you are steering too aggressively. If the AWD system senses that, it can send the power to the front wheels to push you forward thus eliminating oversteer.
Effects of less than ideal conditions on traction and stability
For a car to grip as best as possible, many factors need to be ideal. Tire thread, tire temperature, tire dimensions, tire age, tire compound, surface temperature, tuning of the chassis, mechanical grip, software assistance, and so on.
All of these need to be at their optimum if you want the highest level of traction. So it’s rather obvious what happens when you experience ice, rain, and snow. If you don’t have a decent set of tires, your car might not be able to grip the surface at all.
If that is indeed the case, don’t drive the car until you have all the necessary winter equipment. The key takeaway is to understand how weight transfer works, and if you understand it, and know where the limits are, you should be okay in normal daily situations, especially so with an AWD car.
Can you be safe without an AWD system?
If you drive carefully, you don’t exceed the speed limit, you slow down during cornering and your car is equipped with proper tires, you don’t need AWD. However, you are less able to explore the traction limits of a RWD/FWD car when compared to an AWD car.
You don’t need an AWD system if you are not constantly driving during bad weather, especially because an AWD system carries a large premium on the new car and the used car market.
Do electric cars come with AWD?
EV setup is way different when compared to combustion cars because they can be FWD, RWD, or AWD at the same time depending on how many engines they got and how the hardware-software interactions are set up.
Most multiple-engine EV cars are AWD, and they can manipulate the power completely. This means that they can send 100% of the power to a single wheel depending on traction requirements and the way you drive the car.
Which cars need AWD?
It makes no sense to buy an SUV without opting for AWD as this somewhat defeats the purpose of an SUV. If you do opt for a RWD/FWD SUV, you have to be aware that selling such an SUV is likely going to be more difficult than it would otherwise be with an AWD variant of the same make and model.
Besides SUVs, high-powered supercars and sports cars are often available either as AWD cars or RWD cars. Depending on what you want your car to feel like, you will have to choose between these two options. It’s better to opt for AWD if you value stability and acceleration.