The SUV sector in our country is currently growing at an exponential rate. Bad roads coupled with rash driving are some of the things due to which people feel much safer in a SUV. Just some time back, SUV meant big, burly and mean machines but now there is one for every category.
However, most Indian SUV buyers don’t opt for the 4×4 variant. This is because four-wheel drive SUVs have limited use for most SUV owners in the country, whose main vehicle usage will be on tarmac. For those who are looking for a 4×4 machine, here are some common things you should know about them. 4X4 transfer case is offered on a wide range of SUVs – from the Mahindra Scorpio to the Toyota Fortuner.
4WD low ratio is not for tarmac
Diff-locks at high speed hurts the vehicle
Differential lock is used when you want both the wheels of an axle to rotate at the same speed. This is used when there is a need of increased traction or when there is a crawling situation while dealing with slush/snow. However, take a note that differential locks should be used at a slow speed only.
Driving at high speeds with the diff-locks engaged can cause a huge understeer while steering. This is because of the fact that while turning, the outer wheel turns more than the inner wheel as it needs to cover more distance. With the diff-locks engaged, both the wheels will rotate equally which results in understeer and even loss of control.
All-wheel-drive and 4X4s are not same
But they are not meant to go everywhere
A 4WD with all the gimmickry of low ratio and differentials does not mean that you have a vehicle that can scale mountains in one go or can pass through just any surface. True, low-ratio gearbox and differential locks can help you drive on really tough terrains but then it has limitations. There are various other factors involved like tyre types, approach and departure angle, suspension travel, vehicle weight etc that play a huge role in deciding the off-road capability of a 4×4-equipped SUV.
Engage 4X4 before getting stuck
Most 4×4 SUVs come with a switch for engaging the four-wheel-drive or to disengage it. However, it is really important that the transition from 2WD to 4WD be made at the right time so as to avoid getting into uncomfortable situations. Having an 4WD system doesn’t mean the car will always drive in the 4×4 model. Hence, it’s a good idea to keep the 4×4 mode disengaged and put in use as soon as the going gets tough. While some SUVs do offer a full-time 4X4 system, there are many models that come with only a partial 4X4 system that needs to be engaged manually.
Mileage and off-roading are not friends
This is as simple as it sounds. Off-roading is a challenging activity that puts all the components of an SUV to test, especially the engine. In the off-road mode, the engine works overtime to ensure that maximum power is available at the right time to tackle the rough terrain. A challenging terrain, along with the usage of the 4×4 mode, have an adverse impact on the fuel efficiency. So be ready to shell out some extra cash the next time you plan to go off roading. Preferably, always have a filled jerry can with you lest your fuel tank diminishes in the mid of wilderness.
SUV becomes torque monster in low ratio
The low ratio gearbox is meant to be used in extreme situations for a reason. In the 4-low mode, the torque output of a SUV increases by at least 2 times. This increase in torque enables the vehicle to tackle sticky situations and get out of them without much problem. However, it should be put into use only when it’s really necessary to do so. For instance, in normal mode, the Mahindra Thar offers a torque output of 247 Nm. However, with the 4-low engaged, the torque output increases to a whopping 600 Nm. Now you see the difference.
4X4s are significantly expensive than the RWD models
This is quite obvious too as 4×4 drivetrains are much more complex than their 4×2 counterparts. The same reflects in the cost too, making 4×4 costlier. Sending power to all four wheels instead of two and balancing that power require a lot more components along with a more complex engineering. For instance, the entry-level 2WD Fortuner diesel costs Rs. 28.29 lakh. On the other hand, the entry-level 4WD version of the vehicle costs Rs. 30.72 lakh. That’s a cost difference of roughly 2.5 lakh between the two models, justifying the statement made above.
With all the added mechanism and parts, the 4×4-equipped vehicles are not only pricier than the 4×2 counterparts, but are also costlier to maintain and service. 4×4 usage also increases the wear and tear of many components, which means maintenance costs are higher. Simply put, more components and moving parts on a vehicle equals to higher cost of maintenance.
Available with both petrol and diesel options
There was a time when diesel was the preferred choice of fuel in 4×4 vehicles. That’s because diesel provided more torque than petrol within the same displacement capacity. However, it’s not true that 4×4 is offered only on diesel-powered vehicles. There are too many vehicles that offer a 4×4 unit with a petrol engine. Some of the famous petrol 4×4 SUVs on sale in India are the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy and the Honda CR-V. We also have a handful of high-end 4×4 SUVs that come with a petrol engine.