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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Whuzzup? :sunny: I just posted this on i-Club and Audiworld.com so I figured I'd best stick it here, too. It's a letter I wrote this morning.

Lemme know what you think!
-S2-

Good morning, Car & Driver,

I write to you today to make a friendly argument with Tony Swan's comment on all wheel drive, in the "Counterpoint" section of your May 2002 issue's Volvo S60 AWD review (p.94). He states that "All-wheel drive is rarely a handling asset on dry pavement, and that's certainly true here." This is followed by a quick description of the Volvo's understeering tendencies.

To be honest, I was very surprised to read that! This from the magazine that praised such new cars as the Subaru WRX, as well as Audi's quattro line for many years in succession. As the owner of a 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS sedan, and having owned three FWD cars prior, I certainly can feel and value the benefits of AWD in all conditions, not just snowy ones.

Understeer can indeed be a nuisance, but at no time is it ever as apparent as in most FWD cars, exceptions perhaps including engineering marvels like the Honda/Acura Integra Type-R. Such things as a rear sway bar with not enough meat to it can contribute to the problem indeed, however one of the great virtues of AWD is tremendous balance. Obviously, a FWD car will lean toward huge understeer in most corners, as the entire effort is placed on the forward tires. Without the requisite amount of help from the rear, the nose takes a dive. Obviously, this is why there are so many feverishly passionate RWD fans--their cars rarely show signs of "head for the weeds" syndrome, actually requiring some greater skill so as not to catch too much oversteer. "Drivers' cars," for sure.

However, even with the presence of some understeer, I simply cannot understand how Mr. Swan doesn't find AWD any kind of help. Perhaps the Volvo's AWD system doesn't contribute to the same good feel as an Impreza, or a quiet but tenacious S4. Maybe it's the (I agree) overabundance of gadgetry in the S60, with the traction control and stability control, to complement the AWD. Too much of a good thing? I could see that.

Maybe he's never driven a lot of AWD cars? Maybe he disagrees with all the compliments from magazines around the world? Hey, Porsche uses it in 911s, and even Lamborghini kicked in with one or two of the old Diablos, plus the new Murciélago. With them it's a split AWD system, but still... car companies like that, I'm pretty sure, know what works. Or maybe he's just one of those feverish RWD guys. I suppose I couldn't disagree much, there--they certainly are fun.

When set up properly however, an AWD car will have more balance and control than anything else. Seems to many of us like simple physics. "Neutral handling" is a popular catch-phrase for the Subaru crowd, and when you can get a car to achieve that--straight from the factory, or with a little help--it's a truly wondrous virtue to possess. Even without an ideally set-up suspension (proper sway bars and well-balanced shocks and springs), AWD cars are marvels with their ability to find the perfect line. This as opposed to front-heavy, front-drive cars that rarely can get through a turn without some kind of steering correction.

In no way am I the least bit angry by Mr. Swan's comment; just thoroughly bamboozled.
Please, sir, explain!

Thanks and take care,
Christopher J. Seipt
New Hampshire
New England Subaru Impreza Club, www.clutchdrop.com

===|===|===|===|===
"Life is measured by the number of times
your soul is deeply stirred."
-Soichiro Honda
 

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'17 Impreza Sport, '15 OB 3.6R
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well that Tony Swan didn't write the article on the Volvo. See C&D has, in some of their main reviews, a little blurb section on one of the pages called "Counterpoint," where--I assume other journalists of theirs--write comments of their own about the car.
Whether they agree or not with the principal author is irrelevant.
It's kind of a nice stab at objectivity, but I just couldn't believe that comment he made...

"No advantages in the dry." Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

And IF it gets published, it'll be in the June issue. We'll see, I guess!!

-Chris
 

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'17 Impreza Sport, '15 OB 3.6R
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
"Grip, grip and MORE grip!"

Yeah I have that vid clip on my PC. :D I know what you're saying.

I do understand (as the thread on i-Club/NESIC is turning out quite heated) that it depends on how you look at it. From a flat-out handling perspective, given time trials or utmost conditions (including an excellent driver, the right tires, etc.), RWD will probably have the advantage.

But the article was written about a Volvo. Which won't be bought by people like that. I suppose I could've put some more thought and detail into the letter, and I guarantee that if they respond, it'll be with arguments like this. My main point is that, dry or not, AWD does have its great advantages, especially in a non race-spec car.

Yeah there's still understeer in AWD, but it's a hell of a lot more neutral than in FWD. RWD leans toward oversteer, that your average driver post-1970s doesn't know how to handle. I understand Mr. Swan's point completely, it's just that I don't think the average driver will...

-S2-
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
No you're right, and there's a FWD bias in the Volvo. Sort of like how there's a RWD bias in cars like the 911T. (But different. :D )

And you're right, the systems are different, but to say "all wheel drive has no use in the dry" basically displays an opinion that AWD, regardless of what kind, is useless when there's no rain or snow.

Which... is what I'm arguing. I tried to keep the specifics out, otherwise the argument gets too complicated. As seen here in the i-Club copy I posted...

http://www.i-club.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=175031

-S2-
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hmm, good point. I don't have the technical knowledge to have a 100% solid opinion favoring one or the other (i.e. RWD vs. AWD).
My opinion sways with each new idea, but to me... I still lean toward AWD having the handling/control advantage, except for cases of high-prepped cars in the hands of Andretti-like drivers.

But the article wasn't about cars, or drivers, like that. It's about an everyday car, and most likely about everyday drivers. AWD seems to be the clear advantage...

-S2-
 
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