Advantages of 4WD other than bad weather/bad road condition performance
January 8, 2019 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Getting a new car. Have narrowed choices to Lexus RC, Infinti Q60, and BMW 440. All three come in RWD or, for $2500-4000 more, 4WD. Living in San Diego, I don't have to deal with bad road conditions or bad weather, which are the two scenarios I associate most with benefiting from 4WD. What other benefits come with 4WD, and do you guys think they make 4WD worth the extra money? Thanks!
posted by BadgerDoctor to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
4WD just gives you extra traction. If you don't need extra traction, it's actually worth negative money because it eats fuel and increases the number of moving parts in your car that can break. It also means you will need the Special Truck if you ever have to call for a tow, rather than just whichever tow truck can get to you soonest.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:17 PM on January 8 [10 favorites]


I live in New England, and I will never again own a car that isn't AWD or 4WD, but really that's because it snows here and I also drive on dirt roads more than I think most people do.

For San Diego, unless you regularly drive up into the mountains or into some wash out in the desert, I don't think it would be worth the money, even up-front or down the road with fuel and maintenance cost.
posted by bondcliff at 1:22 PM on January 8


Each of those cars is also more fun to drive with RWD only.
posted by spitbull at 1:27 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah the main justification is snow - if you were further north and went skiing regularly, sure. But it's unnecessary for San Diego.
posted by GuyZero at 1:32 PM on January 8


My Volvo has a simple push button that engages 4wd and I use it a lot here in Los Angeles. I use it navigating the GrapeVine/101 and going through Laurel Canyon. The extra gear gives me more traction over the curves and prevents the need to ride the brakes.
Use in the OC for the canyons there as well.
posted by effluvia at 1:42 PM on January 8


I feel like if you're buying cars like these you can probably afford to rent something suitable on the rare occasions when you might go up to the mountains for skiing or whatever. It would probably actually work out cheaper to do that than to get the 4WD and only put it to use once or twice a year.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:43 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Slightly worse mileage, heavier, more moving parts, need to keep all 4 tires at same tread level. In San Diego? Nope.
posted by ftm at 1:59 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


When I lived in San Diego, I had a 4WD (Toyota Tacoma, so it was not on all the time) because I liked to go camping in the desert, where I'd gotten stuck in the sand before with just FWD. Other than that, I can't really think of a reason for it. Even in snow, AWD/4WD is useful more for starting from a stop or negotiating icy patches, but won't make you stop any quicker.
posted by LionIndex at 2:31 PM on January 8


Thanks for the answers so far.

Re 4wd improving traction, wouldn't that mean it also improves handling?
posted by BadgerDoctor at 2:36 PM on January 8


It also means you will need the Special Truck if you ever have to call for a tow, rather than just whichever tow truck can get to you soonest.

All those cars are rwd by default, so you need to flatbed them in either awd or rwd trim.

In San Diego I’d get the rwd bmw or Lexus and put the extra cash toward better, non-run flat tires.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:38 PM on January 8


This might not be true of the fancier cars you've listed, but a Ford Focus RS, for example, is not all-wheel drive (compared to the fwd ST) for snow's sake, but rather so that horsepower has a place to go once the dominant axle starts to slip which could happen even on dry, good pavement.
posted by channaher at 2:58 PM on January 8


Not really. It will tend to give the car more neutral handling and you'll be able to maneuver more aggressively when road conditions are poor but that's about it. Neutral handling isn't necessarily good, it's generally less fun than RWD. More predictable, though. The traction benefits are more to do with forward acceleration than lateral.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:13 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


But yeah it tends to improve handling for cars that would otherwise be FWD, for reasons channaher alludes to. If the front wheels have to handle turning and power delivery, that can be a problem with more powerful cars. With RWD, this is not part of the equation.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


BadgerDoctor: "
Re 4wd improving traction, wouldn't that mean it also improves handling?
"

It doesn't improve tire to the road traction. It divides the available power over more tires so there is less force at each tire and therefor more "traction".

Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "It will tend to give the car more neutral handling and you'll be able to maneuver more aggressively when road conditions are poor but that's about it."

With the caveat that as traction moves forward and back you'll often switch between effective FWD and RWD which can cause handling to switch between over and understeer.

From what you've said your usage is 4WD is just going to cost you money while providing practically no benefit.
posted by Mitheral at 3:27 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I like the safety aspect of the AWD on our Forester, particularly when driving during or after rain. We're in California too (NorCal) and it is useful quite a few days out of the year.

The downsides are fuel consumption, and that if a tire blows out and can't be patched, you may have to replace all 4 at once to maintain safe handling, whereas with a 2WD car you generally only have to replace one or two after a flat. This happened to us recently.
posted by w0mbat at 4:58 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I’d personally go for the Lexus in RWD.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 PM on January 8


You don't need 4WD. If you want better traction in rain, get tires that are not All Season. In Maine, I'd call them summer tires. All Season tires make compromises to be decent in all seasons, but if you don't ever drive in snow or slush, you can get tires optimized for rain and dry roads.
posted by theora55 at 7:22 PM on January 8


AWD on cars like this can help you get power down and avoid wheelspin under heavy acceleration and many fancy cars like these also use it for torque vectoring to help get the car around a tight curve a little bit better. On the other hand, it costs a little more money, generally comes with a little lower gas mileage, and may reduce acceleration due to the extra weight. I would get it, but that is mostly because it snows where I live.
posted by caddis at 7:35 PM on January 8


Just to be clear, I said these high performance and powerful cars would be more FUN with RWD.

Not safer. The two may be somewhat inversely related.

That’s because “fun”in a high performance car includes the ability to shake the traction loose momentarily and use the lateral movement to control the car.

If you want perfectly composed and absolutely locked in traction, there would be better cars than a high performance sport/luxury coupe. They’d cost less too.

Lexus RC /= Subaru Forester.
posted by spitbull at 3:57 AM on January 9


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