It used to be car shoppers would only have two drive choices when choosing a new car; front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. However, more and more cars and smaller crossovers are coming with all-wheel drive (AWD), a feature that used to be exclusive to the larger SUV and truck classes. Shoppers looking at these all-wheel drive cars might be asking an important questions. Does all-wheel drive hurt fuel economy?
How does an all-wheel drive system work?
All-wheel drive helps send the power from your car’s engine to all four wheels. The percentage of the power going to either the front or back wheels depends on the all-wheel drive system offered. Some split the power evenly between all four corners, while others send more power to either the front or the back wheels.
Because the engine now has to send the power to two different places instead of one (front and back, instead of front or back), fuel economy will be lower with pretty much every all-wheel drive car. More work for the engine will almost always hurt fuel economy.
How can I improve fuel economy with AWD?
Many of the go-to pieces of advice for improving fuel economy also apply when driving and all-wheel drive vehicle. Watching your speed, accelerating smoothly and limiting the use of the heater, air conditioning and other electronic devices will help improve fuel economy in an all-wheel drive car.
Many car manufacturers are also already trying to help you out with this issue. Many models offer systems that help improve fuel economy on vehicles equipped with AWD. Subaru, for example, offers AWD on pretty much every vehicle in their lineup. The AWD is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT eliminates the interruptions caused by shifting between gears, which maximizes the performance of the engine and improves fuel economy. This helps offset the all-wheel drive.
If you live in an area where bad weather is a concern, or would just like a little extra traction and don’t mind the lower fuel economy, AWD is an excellent choice and should not be avoided.