Are they fuel efficient?
The fact is, componentry of AWD and 4WD weigh more than 2WD components and therefore place a higher load on the powertrain. This means fuel use increases with the addition of AWD/4WD, but depending on the vehicle, it might not be by much. For example, a 2021 Nissan X-Trail ST petrol auto with 2WD has an average official fuel-use figure of 7.9L/100km, while the ST auto AWD consumes 8.3L/100km.
The difference is slightly more noticeable in bigger vehicles, like the Mazda CX-9 large SUV. The Mazda CX-9 Touring drinks 8.4L/100km of petrol in rear-wheel-drive guise, and increases to 9.0L/100km in the AWD version. This can add up over a year of filling up, so consider whether you really need the 4WD version.
Are SUVs all 4WD/AWD?
SUVs are big business in Australia and have overtaken traditional passenger sedans, wagons and hatchbacks as our favourite type of car. But anyone choosing an SUV assuming it will have some off-road ability might be disappointed. In decades past, what we now know as SUVs were rugged four-wheel-drive wagons engineered and built with off-road driving in mind. Think of the likes of the Toyota LandCruiser, Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Pajero and smaller fare like the Holden Jackaroo, Nissan Pathfinder, as well as tiny rock-hoppers like the Suzuki Jimny and Daihatsu Feroza.
These days, a huge chunk of the high-riding wagons on our roads are not AWD/4WD, much as they might look it. Car companies realised a while back that people like the look of an off-roader – chunky wheel arches, big wheels, tough design and that all-important ride height – but they didn’t necessarily want to take their car off road. SUVs of all sizes have taken over and a quick look at the small SUV segment shows that only a handful of variants are even offered with all-wheel drive – most are front-wheel drive only.
There are, however, a new crop of ‘real’ off-roaders available for those lamenting the shift to soft-roaders. Many manufacturers including Ford, Holden, Isuzu, Mitsubishi and Toyota sell SUVs based on their respective 4x4 utes and all of them are built for off-road adventures. Alternatively, those very utes they are based on are also quite handy off road.