All wheel drive cars

You will find listed below some of the most popular all wheel drive cars. They have been featured on top lists of AWD cars from sources such as Road and Track and MSN autos. The highlighted vehicles have been researched in more depth. Just click on the car name you are interested in to get more information about the car’s AWD system as well as other stats such as performance and reliability.

If you want to see the complete list of AWD cars for 2012 just visit this page: 2012 AWD Cars List

Definition of AWD

AWD cars list Subaru Impreza 2011

photo credit: Tino Rossini

The usual interpretation of the term “All Wheel Drive” (often shortened to AWD), is that all 4 wheels are constantly receiving power from the engine. In reality most AWD cars will only transfer power to the back wheels when the front wheels sense a loss of traction. Even if the name may be a bit misleading, AWD’s capacity to shift power from “the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip,” has significantly enhanced the performance and safety of vehicles that have it.

A car with AWD provides power to all the wheels of the vehicle at all times. The drive-train, which is the system that connects the transmission to the drive axles, does this by using a front , central, and rear differential to send power to the car’s wheels. Sometimes the percentage of power provided to each wheel can be adjusted by a vehicle computer. But the main thing about AWD is that the system is always on and cannot be turned off manually.

All Wheel Drive Cars – Partial List

Acura RL Acura MDX
Audi R8 Spyder Audi TTS
BMW 3 Series xDrive Buick LaCrosse with optional all-wheel drive
Ford Fusion AWD Ford Edge
Ford Taurus Honda CR-V AWD
Infiniti G25x AWD and G37x AWD Mercedes C 300 Sport Sedan
Mercedes E Class 4Matic Mercury Milan AWD
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Subaru Impreza
Subaru Legacy Subaru Outback
Subaru Forester Suzuki SX4
Toyota RAV4 AWD Toyota Sienna LE AWD
Volkswagen Tiguan Volvo S60

All Wheel Drive Cars – Full List

There are over 200 models of cars with all wheel drive systems being offered for 2012 in the USA. Go to the following page to view the complete list of 2012 AWD cars.

Difference between AWD cars and 4WD cars

The main difference between AWD and 4WD (four wheel drive) is that a 4WD system must be switched on manually while the AWD system is always on. AWD is designed for use on dry roads as well as slippery conditions. The AWD system adjusts the power to the wheels accordingly. On the other hand, a vehicle with 4WD has power only to the rear wheels until the driver switches into 4WD mode. The 4WD system should only be engaged for snow and ice or deep mud and rough off-road conditions. Four-wheel drive should not be used on dry pavement since it is less fuel efficient and will wear down the tires. Also, 4WD is usually found in larger vehicles, not in smaller cars.
The difference is less apparent between AWD and a full time 4WD system. Full time 4WD is always on (there is no option to go to 2WD) and it can be driven on any surface including pavement. The main difference is that the driver has a choice between a 4-high setting for regular driving and a 4-low setting for additional torque. 4-low is not necessarily a better choice for slippery conditions, but it can be useful in very deep snow or when pulling a heavy trailer. An AWD system does not have a 4-low choice.

Automatic all wheel drive

With a automatic AWD system, power is transferred to just two of the wheels (back or front) until added traction is required. Once the wheels start to slip, power is automatically sent to the other two wheels as well, essentially transforming to all wheel drive for a while. The transition to AWD can be noticeable to the driver since the vehicle has to lose traction before the AWD system kicks in. Although it is quite useful for avoiding complete loss of traction, this type of AWD is not suggested for a lot of off-road driving. The Toyota RAV4 (AWD) and the Honda CR-V (AWD) are vehicles that have automatic AWD systems.

Why get AWD?

AWD can be a tremendously valuable feature in vehicles that are operated on challenging road conditions. The newer models offer drivers more AWD options than ever before and it is important to understand the advantages when deciding whether or not to buy one of the many AWD cars available today.

Who needs an AWD car?
photo credit: JT White

The leading advantage of an AWD system is superior tire traction. Because all 4 wheels can propel the car forward, it is possible to continue to drive when one or even two wheels have no traction on a slippery surface like ice, mud, snow or loose gravel. Some AWD vehicles only send power to the back wheels after the front wheels start slipping. Even that delayed response is useful since it supplies additional traction at the time it’s needed most.

Performance and handling can be further motives for some vehicles to be equipped with an AWD system. A sports car will take advantage of the added traction on dry roads to obtain quicker acceleration. In this case, all-wheel-drive means that more engine power can be transferred to the track instantly. Improved steering is also a benefit of AWD cars since the front wheels will be more dedicated to steering then propelling the car forwards. In other words the front wheels can give more priority to sideways traction over forward traction.

Many people who have to drive frequently in difficult road conditions as well as automotive enthusiasts prefer AWD cars. But finding AWD cars can be difficult since most websites do not let you search just for all wheel drive cars. That is why this site is helpful by providing an AWD cars list as well as additional information on selected vehicles.

AWD demonstration

Here is a video that explains how all wheel drive functions by giving a demonstration of the Mercedes 4Matic AWD system.


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