Ten things you DON’T know about 4-wheel-drive SUVs

While the SUV segments of our car market have been growing at a rather phenomenal rate, most of the 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. That said, there are plenty of things that a 4-wheel-drive SUV is capable of. Here are some common things you should know about four-wheel-drive SUVs.

4WD low ratio is not for tarmac

Most of the 4-wheel-drive SUVs offer a low ratio transfer case. 4-low helps the car tackle difficult terrains, including steep inclines or slush. However, one should never use 4-low on the tar or even on smooth, flat surfaces. Using this mode on regular surfaces increases the wear and tear by a huge margin. It can also damage the transmission. On normal surfaces, one should drive the SUV in the 2-wheel-drive model. On the tough terrains, one should use 4-high. 4-low should be used only when the going gets too tough.

Diff-locks at high speed hurts the vehicle

Using the differential locks enables both the wheels to rotate at the same speed. This feature comes in handy when dealing with slippery conditions like that of slush or snow. However, the diff-locks should be used at a slow speed only. At high speeds, driving with the diff-locks engaged can cause a huge understeer while steering. It may be noted here that normally, while turning, the outer wheel turns more than the inner wheel as it needs to cover a higher distance. With the diff-locks engaged, both the wheels will rotate equally. This will result in understeer and can even result in loss of control.

All-wheel-drive and 4X4s are not same

Many people confuse all-wheel drive with four-wheel drive. All-wheel drive sends power to all four wheels but it’s different from four-wheel-drive. A 4×4 vehicle offers a low-ratio gearbox, diff-locks, and other off-road features. SUVs like the Renault Duster, Mahindra XUV500, and Audi Q3 offer an all-wheel-drive but don’t come with a low-ratio gearbox. On other other hand, vehicles like Mahindra Thar, Force Gurkha, and Tata Safari offer a low-ratio gearbox. This makes them far more off-road friendly.

But they are not meant to go everywhere

Just having 4×4 won’t help you drive on just any surface. True, low-ratio gearbox and differential locks can help you drive on really tough terrains. However, bits like tyre types, approach and departure angle, suspension travel, etc also play a huge role in deciding the off-road capability of a 4×4-equipped SUV.

Engage 4X4 before getting stuck

Engaging the four-wheel-drive at the correct time is really important. Having an AWD system doesn’t mean the car will always drive in the 4×4 model. Hence, it’s a good idea to engage 4×4 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

Off-roading is a challenging activity that puts all the components of an SUV to test. In the off-road mode, the engine works overtime to ensure that maximum power is available to tackle the bad terrain. A challenging terrain, along with the usage of the 4×4 mode, have an adverse impact on the fuel efficiency. Hence, one should be ready for a drop in fuel economy when he goes for off-roading.

SUV becomes torque monster in low ratio

In the 4-low model, the torque output increases by at least 2 times. The higher torque on offer enables the vehicle to tackle sticky situations. However, it should be put into use only when it’s really necessary to do so. In the regular 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.

4X4s are significantly expensive than the RWD models

A 4×4 drivetrain is much more complex than a 4×2. Hence, it’s also costlier. Quite naturally, sending power to all four wheels and balancing that power require a lot more components along with a more complex engineering. 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, which is roughly 2.5 lakh higher.

Higher maintenance

4×4-equipped vehicles are not only pricier than the 4×2 versions, but are also costlier to maintain. 4×4 usage increases the wear and tear of many components, which means maintenance costs are higher.

Available with both petrol and diesel options

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. It’s just that diesel SUVs are more popular owing to the higher torque output and lower running costs. A couple of 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.

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