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Choosing a car is much akin to choosing a spouse: you want to make sure you choose the perfect one for you. We all have our own preferences, tastes and needs. When it comes to mixed-weather driving, you can’t go wrong with AWD cars, also known as all-wheel drives listed on AWD cars for sale lists.

All Wheel Drive Cars Definition

What is an AWD car? Well, an all-wheel drive vehicle has a power train that provides power to all its wheels, either full time or on-demand. There are several different types of all-wheel drives, namely:

  • Four-wheel drive / 4WD or 4 x 4 – two axles, and both wheels on each can be powered.
  • Six-wheel drive / 6WD or 6 x 6 – three axles, and both wheels on each can be powered.
  • Eight-wheel drive / 8WD or 8 x 8 – four axles, and both wheels on each can be powered.

Some vehicles can be on-demand (or part-time) with one axle permanently connected to the drive. Others are full-time (or permanent) connected, with or without a differential. Independent drive vehicles are not dependent on a central mechanical power coupling. The Tesla Model X and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are common electric AWD cars.

Why Drive AWD Cars?

Depending where you live, weather conditions can change. It can range from uneven road conditions to undesirable weather to snow, wind, ice and rain. AWD cars are designed to give you the traction and confidence you need to safely navigate whatever the road throws at you. 

AWD cars are designed for off-road use, winter use, and on wet roads. The first exotic vehicles that offered an all-wheel drive experience in a fast road vehicle included the Audi Quattro, Subaru Leone, AMC Eagle and Jensen FF. These vehicles used viscous couplings and differentials to ensure a safe vehicle. The Range Rover was the first on-road / off-road hybrid that offered permanent all-wheel drive instead of manual selection (AWD cars manual transmission). 

For very poor off-road conditions, the selectable 4WD comes with two axles that are rigidly coupled together. Using a differential lock, you can manually lock the differential to gain this advantage from a permanent AWD system. 

awd cars

AWD Car Ownership

One might question whether an all-wheel drive is more expensive to maintain than a standard FWD, and the short answer is “yes”. The reason being that AWD cars have more components. AWD car owners will argue that the difference in cost is not too big to dispel the advantages. The costs are as follows:

  • Fuel economy – You will use more fuel to drive the same amount of miles. 
  • Tires – AWD cars generally use larger tires. 

The costs of oil changes, wheel alignment, spark plug and drive belt replacement is typically about the same for most vehicles. The benefits of owning an AWD vehicle certainly outweigh the increased cost of maintenance. Some dealers’ service departments may recommend more frequent fluid changes, however, one only needs to follow manufacturer recommended intervals to keep the warranty in effect. 

Compared to front- or rear-wheel drive vehicles, AWD cars may need additional scheduled maintenance – this is something to consider if you’re buying an AWD car. While routine maintenance schedules remain at quite similar intervals, more can go wrong. The types of additional maintenance would include fluid inspection and replacement. The same maintenance applies to four-wheel drive vehicles as well, and more can go wrong. As such, you may need more frequent repairs or replacement on your differentials and transfer cases. 

There are more items on the maintenance schedule for an AWD car than a standard vehicle. Their parts can also cost more, and they tend to have a lower gas mileage due to the extra weight the four-wheel system places on the vehicle.

Tire dealers may recommend replacing all four tires at the same time, even when only one is damaged. This is to ensure that all the treads are even. Having one or more worn tires could send incorrect signals to the all-wheel-drive system, causing it to activate unnecessarily.

Most Popular AWD Cars: Who makes AWD cars?

An all-wheel drive sedan is the unsung hero of mixed-weather driving. SUVs are great as they afford a feeling of safety they provide in dicey road conditions. You can drive in comfort without spending all your hard-earned money on fuel economy. Automotive experts have compiled a list of recommended AWD cars for you to choose from. But don’t take our word for it. Here are some of the most affordable sedan AWD cars:

2020 Genesis E7– This small, luxury sedan is sporty and offers enhanced performance thanks to its mechanical limited-slip differential in the rear. 

2019 Audi A4 – This beautiful compact luxury sport sedan offers some of the most impressive and user-friendly technology on the market, including navigation and voice recognition. 

2019 Kia Stinger – This head turning vehicle features a hatchback in a sedan body. Impress with the entry-level four-cylinder model that backs a 255-horsepower punch, or the GT with its 3.3-liter twin turbo V6. Starting from just $42, 500, it’s a bargain!

2020 Subaru WRX – This AWD car features a manual transmission, advanced AWD system and 268-horsepower turbocharged engine.

The purchase price on AWD cars tends to be higher initially as well.

awd cars

Driving AWD Cars: Things to remember

  1. Correct tires are imperative. AWD car marketers use terms like all-weather grip, sure-footed handling, and go-anywhere ability. However, without the right tires (both size and road conditions) for your off-road expeditions, the system will not provide the safety you’re after. If you’re going to drive on icy or wet roads, fit winter tires. Drive cautiously in dangerous conditions. According to Consumer Reports, only 12% of AWD car owners have snow tires installed. This basically means that 88% of AWD car drivers wasted their money purchasing AWD cars. It’s really the tires that make all wheel drive cars good in snow.
  2. Maintain fluid levels. AWD cars require differential, transfer case and transmission fluids. Use the type that your manufacturer recommends and follow the recommended frequency to ensure optimal performance.
  3. Avoid handbrake turns. Since yanking your handbrake causes your rear wheels to slow suddenly, it places stress on the transfer case. Remember, the drive train component was not designed to handle this type of sudden and prolonged change in speed between the rear and front wheels. 
  4. Transport your AWD car on a flatbed only, for the same reason as above. While auto transportation options include your typical towing, tow dollies, and trailers that keep all four wheels off the road, flatbed towing is best. If the drive wheels are on the ground, you risk transmission damage. This does apply to all vehicles, but it is particularly important for four-wheel drive vehicles, as all wheels are drive wheels. 
  5. Avoid hard launches, especially in AWD cars with manual transmission. If you have to do it, ensure that the coolant, transfer case and transmission fluids are up to temperature. Depress your clutch and up your revs to between 5000 and 6000 rpm, before slipping the clutch, creeping forward at 1 mph, and then smoothly and quickly release the clutch. This will take the slack out of the drive line, and when you release the clutch, it will send less of a jolt through the transmission. 

If you need an AWD car specifically to traverse rugged or slippery terrain, it may be a good idea to invest in advanced driving training. You can read articles or watch videos on how to drive in snow with an AWD car, but nothing really beats hands-on experience under the guidance of a professional driving instructor who specializes in AWD cars. 

Need help transporting your AWD car? At Nationwide Auto Transportation, we have more than 16 years of experience in transporting vehicles with special customization and towing requirements [just check out this post about when we shipped the Bat-mobile!]. When you book your auto shipping, we find the most suitable trailer with the necessary equipment to keep your vehicle safe. All our transporters are vetted to ensure your car will arrive in perfect condition. Choose between enclosed and open air car transportation, and let us know that you wish to ship an AWD car. The Nationwide Auto Transportation team will happily oblige.