An all-wheel-drive system sends the power to all four wheels to increase traction and safety. Some all-wheel-drive systems are capable of sending all of their power to the front or to the rear wheels depending on the circumstances and how much grip is actually needed.
Mercedes and BMW have introduced such AWD systems a few years ago because they wanted to honor their predominantly rear-wheel-drive sports cars. However, these are not the best AWD systems on the market because Audi and Subaru make the best all-wheel-drive systems.
Even though BMW and Mercedes do offer impressive technology, it’s the reliability and legacy of Audi and Subaru which make these two systems the best. Many manufacturers these days offer AWD systems, and each of them is a little bit different than the last, so it’s hard to choose a single winner.
Besides Audi, Subaru, BMW, and Mercedes, Ford and Acura also offer well-engineered AWD systems which should be listed on any ‘’best AWD systems’’ lists.
Audi Quattro AWD
It may come as no surprise that Audi is widely regarded as the very first mainstream adopter of AWD. Thanks to clever Audi engineers, the year 1980 saw Audi entering the Group B rally championship with AWD and virtually dominating the competition for many years to come.
Building on such a legacy, Audi managed to continuously offer reliable AWD systems which have always retained a sporty edge. As the primary objective was to increase grip in adverse weather conditions, hardly any other AWD system is as capable in the snow, besides Subaru of course.
Subaru Symmetrical AWD
Subaru is also a brand rooted deeply in rallying which also resulted in superior traction-increasing AWD solutions. The key differentiating factor for Subaru is that their AWD system is as the name might suggest – symmetrical. This means that Subaru AWD systems are built for easy control no matter how bad the surface gets.
This means that both traction and safety are well within the limits of reason no matter how aggressive you drive. If you pair that with the fact that the weight of the setup is completely balanced throughout all four wheels, you get an extremely dependable and capable AWD system.
Mercedes has been offering 4Matic systems for decades now, but the 4Matic+ system offered in recent AMG models is the very best Mercedes has to offer. The key feature of this system is the ability to engage different variations of AWD in order to get a particular sporty experience.
The most impressive of them all is ‘’the drift mode’’. This mode decouples the front differential and makes the car 100% rear-wheel drive. This enables you to experience what a true AMG feels like without suffering from a lack of traction in everyday situations.
BMW M xDrive
As mentioned previously, the Mercedes 4Matic + system and the BMW M xDrive system are pretty much the same as far as intention is concerned. Both of these send their power to all four wheels in everyday circumstances, but they are a bit rear-wheel-drive biased, especially when compared to Audi and Subaru.
This means that they are inherently that bit sportier which also means that they are not as capable when it comes to traction on snow or ice. The M xDrive system also enables you to decouple the rear diff in order to activate drift mode which makes the car 100% rear-wheel drive.
Acura Super Handling AWD
There are many AWD systems these days that offer torque vectoring, but the Acura Super Handling AWD system is one of the best mainstream torque-vectoring AWD systems. The sole purpose of Acura’s rendition of this concept is to increase traction by pushing the outside wheel to exit the corner more safely.
This makes the car more agile and more stable and somewhat mimics all-wheel-steer which is still a feature absent from many mainstream cars these days.
Ford Intelligent AWD
To top of the best AWD systems on the market, we also have to discuss Ford’s Intelligent AWD system. This system is somewhat similar to 4Matic+ and M xDrive, but the difference here is that ford adopts the same principle to increase traction in adverse weather conditions.
This also means that this AWD system is capable of sending the majority of power to the front wheels as well. The system is engineered to compensate for oversteer and understeer which makes the car that bit more stable and easier to control if the conditions enable you to do so.
Do I need an AWD car?
If you are able to choose, it is better to opt for an AWD car no matter where you live as this makes your car more capable no matter what. However, if you live in places that rarely experience ice, snow, and freezing cold, there is no need for an AWD system.
AWD systems do come with some caveats, so it’s always best to balance out your priorities before you decide to buy an AWD car.
What are the benefits of an AWD system?
AWD systems are designed to increase traction and stability no matter where and how you drive your car. This means that your car should be superior to every other non AWD car on the road when it comes to driving in slippery conditions such as snow or ice.
Furthermore, this also makes the car safer and easier to control, but be aware that these systems are sometimes not good enough to save you from many unwanted situations.
What are the drawbacks of an AWD system?
AWD systems are usually only offered with higher-trim engine options which means that you will need to pay quite a bit more to get an AWD model. Furthermore, an AWD system adds unnecessary weight and it even sometimes protrudes into the cargo space.
Increased weight may also decrease fuel efficiency, but the worst thing about an AWD system is when the system fails at providing increased levels of traction because it’s significantly more difficult to settle an understeering or oversteering AWD car than it is to settle a RWD or a FWD car if it loses traction.