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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I didn't want to clog up a current thread with this, but it seems this topic has come up a few times. There are some common misconceptions about the benefits of AWD vs. FWD. The AWD system has been marketed by Ford to increase handling and safety, and that just isn't the case. AWD alone will not increase cornering grip, or decrease stopping distances. It will allow you to start easier in slippery conditions though.

Discussion welcome. :)
 

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Isn't the price premium about $2500 for AWD vs FWD. I live in the south, so I have no need for AWD. I watched a TV report on a car show recently, can't remember which one, but they were debating the value of AWD when you consider the extra cost, lower mpg, etc. Their conclusion was that in most cases, you are better off skipping the AWD and getting a good set of snow tires. The "experts" weren't really able to justify spending the extra $$ on AWD. Seems like they mentioned that with sophisticated traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, etc- modern cars are much better at dealing with bad weather. They were discussing cars only, and did not include trucks/suvs in the debate.

I'm not saying this is my opinion, but I did find the report interesting because it challenged the conventional wisdom on AWD.
 

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I've had plenty of opportunities to drive FWD and AWD Fusions and MKZs and there are definitly some advantages of the AWD, but I agree that there are a lot of misconceptions about what those advantages really are.

Remember those Audi commercials a few years back where they claimed the AWD was so good in their race cars that it was banned? This was true, despite a hefty weight penalty, the AWD Audis dominated over the FWD and RWD competitors. They were able to put the power down much sooner coming out of the corners and were able to trail brake deeper into the corners because the AWD distributed the engine braking among all four wheels.

Similarly in Autocrossing, AWD cars like the STI and Evo have been able to beat up on RWD cars with similar weight and power for many of the same reasons. Clearly if you are racing or really like to push your car to the edge, AWD is the way to go, especially in lower friction conditions.

But in the real world for the average customer, these benefits won't ever been experienced. People are buying AWD because they expect it will help then in slippery conditions. There is no doubt that it will get you going from a stop with much less trouble. I've seen some test data that showed a certain car on a certain tire would take about 9 secs 0-30mph in the snow. The same car on the same tire but with AWD was 0-30 in about 6 seconds. That's a big difference! That's like the difference between a Fusion and a Corvette in the dry!

But that's where it ends. The AWD only has control over the engine torque. It can't "add" grip to the tires, it only distributes power among the 4 tires to optimize acceleration. Once you're off the gas, the AWD isn't doing anything anymore, since there's no more power to distribute. So braking can't be any better with AWD, in fact it will be slightly worse due to the increased weight of the vehicle. Cornering grip won't be increased either, since cornering is about lateral grip of the tires, and AWD is about longitudinal grip of the tires. Unless you're racing or "performance driving" as described a few paragraphs up, there's no AWD advantage in corners. The one exception is with SUVs and Pickup trucks, where the AWD hardware is heavy enough and far enough below the center of gravity of the vehicle that it actually lowers the CG, providing better stability. I believe the Ranger is an example where the RWD version receives 2*s and the 4WD 3*s for the NHTSA rollover ratings.

So how do you decide if AWD is for you? If your planning on racing, definitly get it. But otherwise it's not so clear. If you live in a place with a lot of snow, consider AWD. But consider this; for the price of the AWD option on most vehicles, you could get two sets of snow tires. That's likely to last you for as long as you own the vehicle. Snow tires give you at least 50-75% of the acceleration benefit of AWD and also will help you stop faster and give you more grip for turning. But even then there will be some times where AWD will make the difference between getting stuck and not. The question is how often does that happen where you live? Where I live it's probably once a year on average. So I could spend $1500 on AWD, or I could give up a day's pay and stay home once a year. If I am planning on keeping the car 5 years, it would actually be cheaper to just stay home.

A couple other smaller considerations though, the AWD does make the car slower in regular driving due to the weight and drag of the system, which for the same reasons gives it worse fuel economy. But systems like on the Fusion use electronics to react to throttle conditions, so torque steer is mostly eliminated and the "anti-squat" geometry of the rear suspension gives the AWD car a more level, planted feel when accelerating. These are benefits you can actually experience in everyday driving. AWD is also likely to improve your resale value, so I guess the true cost is less than the actual sticker cost.

So to summarize, the only disadvantages of AWD are weight and cost. The benefits are many, but maybe not as much as most people think. So carefully consider what you need out of your car and if AWD is really worth the price. But whatever you do, please don't just assume that because you have AWD, you are automatically safer in slippery conditions.
 

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Waldo,

That was the most intelligent, most comprehensive and most logical write-up I have ever read about AWD. It clarified a lot of misconceptions I had about AWD. I would not have "ordered" AWD, it just came on the model that was on the lot. Given our gas mileage woes -- 13 mpg city -- I sure wish that we didn't have it.

Even worse, it seldom snows in our geographic area and our FWD 2000 Focus station wagon has always been adequate for seven years on those rare occasions when it did snow.

I sure do wish I had read your post before we made our buying decision. We would have avoided the AWD option. Hindsight is always 20-20, unfortunately.

I think Ford, and other manufacturers, too, are hyping the AWD for purely profit reasons. I read somewhere where a very high percentage of cars will come with AWD by 2012. I do know that our Fusion had a MSRP of $27,105, which is silly considering the base models start at $17,795. It is money that we will never get a return on investment from.

After reading your post I feel even more foolish for accepting an AWD Fusion deal. Hopefully your advice will prevent someone else from making the same mistake we did. I sure hope so. Boz
 

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Definetly a nice write up! Personally it makes sense for me for the various reasons you listed the biggest being my local weather. I love being the fastest person on the road (keep in mind still going very slow) while everyone else just sits and spins.

I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts, rwd is usually best except when weather is involved but both of these systems cost more which is why you see FWD so much. Personally I can't stand FWD and haven't owned a car yet thats had it. This is my first AWD up till now I've always had RWD and one 4wd.

The added cost doesn't bug me to much and hopefully it will help with resale when I choose to sell the car. AWD is getting more popular for the same reason other technologies are getting more popular. Lamborghini uses AWD and ferrari is being pressured to and may soon. As boz said many more awd cars will come and if you ask me thats a good thing.

the only thing that bugs me are all these people with awd/4wd who get cocky and push things to far and end up causing accidents.
 

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I've been driving since pretty much before FWD. Drove V8 Mustangs year round with no traction control back when we use to get a decent amount of snow in the winter. Sure you spin in the snow but I survived. Front wheel drive is soooo much better in winter driving. With the decreasing amount of snow we get anymore, I see no need for AWD. If we get a big snow, they have it cleaned up in a day anyway. We got about 5" of snow a week ago and I had no probem in it except for where there were drifts. Then the car would slide up on the snow reducing traction. But you would get this with AWD too.
Can't see any advantage with AWD for normal everyday use.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223582#msg1223582 date=1172152194]
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
[/quote]

I don't know about you but I've lit my tires up coming out of two different turns. Neither time did I intend to, it happened too easily. The Fusion has plenty of power to light them up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223598#msg1223598 date=1172153208]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223582#msg1223582 date=1172152194]
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
[/quote]

I don't know about you but I've lit my tires up coming out of two different turns. Neither time did I intend to, it happened too easily. The Fusion has plenty of power to light them up.
[/quote]

Stock tires, yes. Performance tires, no.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223602#msg1223602 date=1172153568]
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223598#msg1223598 date=1172153208]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223582#msg1223582 date=1172152194]
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
[/quote]

I don't know about you but I've lit my tires up coming out of two different turns. Neither time did I intend to, it happened too easily. The Fusion has plenty of power to light them up.
[/quote]

Stock tires, yes. Performance tires, no.
[/quote]

My stock tires are the highest rated tires on Consumer Reports under the all-season performance V-rated category. I understand there are better tires for grip but these are good tires and the Fusion will easily light them up. AWD would be an advantage in this area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223638#msg1223638 date=1172154752]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223602#msg1223602 date=1172153568]
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223598#msg1223598 date=1172153208]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223582#msg1223582 date=1172152194]
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
[/quote]

I don't know about you but I've lit my tires up coming out of two different turns. Neither time did I intend to, it happened too easily. The Fusion has plenty of power to light them up.
[/quote]

Stock tires, yes. Performance tires, no.
[/quote]

My stock tires are the highest rated tires on Consumer Reports under the all-season performance V-rated category. I understand there are better tires for grip but these are good tires and the Fusion will easily light them up. AWD would be an advantage in this area.
[/quote]

No true "enthusiast" would be running stock all-season tires. Even so, it's not like the Fusion is some tire smoking monster. Any slight advantage AWD would gain, it would lose as a result of higher weight and more drag.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223698#msg1223698 date=1172156229]
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223638#msg1223638 date=1172154752]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223602#msg1223602 date=1172153568]
[quote author=fusionowner link=topic=70067.msg1223598#msg1223598 date=1172153208]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1223582#msg1223582 date=1172152194]
[quote author=otaku link=topic=70067.msg1223086#msg1223086 date=1172116119]
I would recommend AWD for enthusiasts,[/quote]

Do you mean in the Fusion or in cars in general? As was stated earlier, the enthusiast advantage of AWD is in being able to accelerate sooner coming out of corners. With a good set of performance tires, the Fusion doesn't have enough power for wheelspin to become an issue upon exiting a corner. The performance cars that use AWD to their advantage are lightweight and/or high horsepower models, not 220hp, 3500lb sedans.
[/quote]

I don't know about you but I've lit my tires up coming out of two different turns. Neither time did I intend to, it happened too easily. The Fusion has plenty of power to light them up.
[/quote]

Stock tires, yes. Performance tires, no.
[/quote]

My stock tires are the highest rated tires on Consumer Reports under the all-season performance V-rated category. I understand there are better tires for grip but these are good tires and the Fusion will easily light them up. AWD would be an advantage in this area.
[/quote]

No true "enthusiast" would be running stock all-season tires. Even so, it's not like the Fusion is some tire smoking monster. Any slight advantage AWD would gain, it would lose as a result of higher weight and more drag.
[/quote]

I'm not sure "enthusiast" was mentioned but if my tires let loose that easily I think AWD would be a good idea for a lot of drivers. An enthusiast driver wouldn't buy a Fusion anyway...for the price of my Fusion there are better options for handling, power/weight ratio, etc. For a few thousand more you can smoke the Fusion. The Fusion is a family sedan and as such AWD can help. I, personally, wouldn't buy it because of fuel economy, slower acceleration, etc. (until they put the 3.5 in there) but in both instances where my tires let loose, AWD would have eliminated the problem.

Sorry if this seems argumentative...I don't mean it that way. I am simply saying AWD is probably a good idea for many Fusion drivers if they want "the best" in safety. One of my wheel spin incidents could have caused an accident if I didnt give myself as much room between me and the cars on the road I was entering. Avoiding ONE accident makes AWD worth every penny.

Also...I'll bet over 90% of Fusion buyers care more for safety than race-type performance differences anyway. Independent research shows that consumers favor safety features over anything else when evaluating emerging automotive technologies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]
It is my understanding that if the front wheels lose traction then the AWD mechanism transfers power to the rear wheels. I can envision situations where that might be a safety plus. Am I wrong?
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]

AWD does in fact make a car safer. If I expected to get traction and didn't with FWD but would have with AWD then it is safer. What makes a car safer if extra traction doesn't make it safer?

Even with the wheel spin I gave myself the room, as I already stated :shock: so there wasn't anything close to an accident. However, it doesn't take much of an imagination to imagine a set of circumstances where the added traction from AWD would be quite helpful and thus SAFER.

Are you going to say AWD would NEVER help you avoid an accident better than FWD would? If you can't say that, then you have to admit AWD is safer, even to a slight degree.
 

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[quote author=urnews link=topic=70067.msg1224169#msg1224169 date=1172166351]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]
It is my understanding that if the front wheels lose traction then the AWD mechanism transfers power to the rear wheels. I can envision situations where that might be a safety plus. Am I wrong?
[/quote]

No, you are NOT wrong. Someone here has an anti-AWD agenda to push but if you get more traction from AWD then, by default, it is a safer vehicle than it would be with FWD.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
[quote author=urnews link=topic=70067.msg1224169#msg1224169 date=1172166351]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]
It is my understanding that if the front wheels lose traction then the AWD mechanism transfers power to the rear wheels. I can envision situations where that might be a safety plus. Am I wrong?
[/quote]

No, you are not wrong. In low traction situations, such as snow, it IS beneficial. On dry roads, or even wet roads, if you are spinning the tires while attempting to merge into traffic, you didn't allow enough room to safely merge. This of course is assuming your tires are in good condition.

Also, traction control is available for only $95. Wouldn't that also make a noticeable difference in this merging situation?

I have no anti-AWD agenda. It makes no difference whatsoever to me what vehicle you choose to purchase. I'm simply trying to clear up some common misconceptions of the actual benefits of AWD, so people can make a more informed decision. There is at least one person here with an AWD Fusion that would likely have chosen a FWD car if he'd known more facts than marketing hype.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224463#msg1224463 date=1172171452]
[quote author=urnews link=topic=70067.msg1224169#msg1224169 date=1172166351]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]
It is my understanding that if the front wheels lose traction then the AWD mechanism transfers power to the rear wheels. I can envision situations where that might be a safety plus. Am I wrong?
[/quote]

No, you are not wrong. In low traction situations, such as snow, it IS beneficial. On dry roads, or even wet roads, if you are spinning the tires while attempting to merge into traffic, you didn't allow enough room to safely merge. This of course is assuming your tires are in good condition.

Also, traction control is available for only $95. Wouldn't that also make a noticeable difference in this merging situation?

I have no anti-AWD agenda. It makes no difference whatsoever to me what vehicle you choose to purchase. I'm simply trying to clear up some common misconceptions of the actual benefits of AWD, so people can make a more informed decision. There is at least one person here with an AWD Fusion that would likely have chosen a FWD car if he'd known more facts than marketing hype.
[/quote]
I, for one, would not have purchased AWD if I had known as much about it as I do now. Indeed, if I had known that our SEL AWD was only going to deliver 13 mpg in city driving I would not have bought a V6 with its six-speed automatic transmission either. I was foolish enough to believe it might actually deliver the 19 mpg EPA estimate. We wanted the SEL package but should have ordered the car with the I4, either automatic or stick, rather than take the one that was on the lot.

Hindsight is always 20-20. We made a very costly mistake, but one that won't be repeated.
 

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[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224463#msg1224463 date=1172171452]
[quote author=urnews link=topic=70067.msg1224169#msg1224169 date=1172166351]
[quote author=hwm3 link=topic=70067.msg1224141#msg1224141 date=1172165793]
AWD doesn't make the car any safer. That's pure marketing BS.

If your tires spin while trying to merge into traffic, and that causes an accident, there wasn't enough room available for you to merge.
[/quote]
It is my understanding that if the front wheels lose traction then the AWD mechanism transfers power to the rear wheels. I can envision situations where that might be a safety plus. Am I wrong?
[/quote]

No, you are not wrong. In low traction situations, such as snow, it IS beneficial. On dry roads, or even wet roads, if you are spinning the tires while attempting to merge into traffic, you didn't allow enough room to safely merge. This of course is assuming your tires are in good condition.

Also, traction control is available for only $95. Wouldn't that also make a noticeable difference in this merging situation?

I have no anti-AWD agenda. It makes no difference whatsoever to me what vehicle you choose to purchase. I'm simply trying to clear up some common misconceptions of the actual benefits of AWD, so people can make a more informed decision. There is at least one person here with an AWD Fusion that would likely have chosen a FWD car if he'd known more facts than marketing hype.
[/quote]

That person's issues with AWD are MPG related, not safety related.

Traction control will cut power to your wheels...potentially worse than spinning them if you need to get up to speed quickly.
 
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