Tips and Advice

What is Volkswagen 4MOTION? Should you choose it?

We explain about all-wheel-drive VW 4MOTION models and whether you should buy one

You might have seen the ‘4MOTION’ badge on the back of a VW or read about it in a brochure. It’s the company’s all-wheel-drive (AWD) system and is available on many different models in the range. At the time of writing, you can have 4MOTION on the Volkswagen T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace, Touareg and Passat Alltrack, plus the outgoing Golf Estate and Golf R. Some of these models come with it as standard but you have to pay extra for it otherwise.

Should you go for it? Our guide explains all about 4MOTION and whether it’s worth choosing.

What is VW 4MOTION?

4MOTION, VW’s all-wheel-drive system, works by sending power to the wheels of the car that have the most grip. Sensors monitor the driving conditions using a range of parameters and distribute power to optimise the car’s overall grip. If a wheel starts spinning - on a muddy track or in snow, for example - the system sends more power to the wheels with grip. The 4MOTION system also tries to balance the differing speeds of a car’s four wheels during cornering.

Should you have a car with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive?

Volkswagen cars with all-wheel drive have a central differential that links the front and rear axles. This works alongside various safety features like the car’s ABS (anti-lock braking system) and ESP (electronic stability package). There are three different types of differential, depending on the exact model.

More expensive versions have permanent 4MOTION all-wheel drive

The first uses a Haldex multi-plate clutch to regulate the power and is able to shuffle almost 100% of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. Most four-wheel-drive Volkswagens use this system, and it also suits performance cars; the system allows fast acceleration and hard cornering even in poor weather conditions. Driving normally, 90% of the power goes to the front wheels to improve fuel economy. The Volkswagen Touareg SUV gets a Torsen mechanical differential, which can send up to 70% of the power to the front or rear wheels. The third is a lockable central differential mated to a low-range gearbox, reserved for cars and pickups designed for serious off-roading, including the Volkswagen Amarok truck.

Benefits and drawbacks of Volkswagen 4MOTION

4MOTION can provide a number of benefits, most notably extra grip in poor conditions. Even if you’re not planning arduous off-road trips, 4MOTION can come in handy; many customers like it for the extra security and peace-of-mind it gives in bad weather. In the case of performance cars like the Volkswagen Golf R, 4MOTION means you can corner at higher speeds.

Volkswagen 4MOTION models do have some downsides. For a start, they tend to be more expensive to buy than two-wheel-drive models. All-wheel-drive models usually can’t match the fuel economy of two-wheel-drive cars, either, but it’s worth mentioning that they are more efficient than permanent four-wheel-drive systems that you tend to get in the most rugged off-roaders. Parts, servicing and consumables may be costlier on 4MOTION models, too. However, 4MOTION cars tend to be highly sought after, so they may be worth more than two-wheel-drive cars when it’s time to resell.

4MOTION vs quattro

Audi’s all-wheel-drive models use a system called quattro and it’s very similar to Volkswagen’s 4MOTION system. Again, there are several different variations, with some models getting a multi-plate clutch and others getting a self-locking centre differential. Audi also offers ‘quattro on-demand’ on the Q5 and A5 Allroad, which switches between all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive to save fuel. There’s also a slightly different system on the Audi R8 mid-engined supercar. Read more about Audi’s quattro system here.

Should you buy a VW with 4MOTION?

We’d recommend choosing 4MOTION in some circumstances but it’s not ideal for everyone. It’s useful if you live somewhere that regularly experiences bad weather and slippery roads, and it also tends to improve a car’s towing capacity, so it’s a good choice if you regularly tow a caravan or a large trailer. If these points don’t apply to you, we’d suggest going with front-wheel drive instead, as the car will be cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.

Read our Volkswagen reviews here.

Recommended

Classic cars to buy in 2021
Classic cars to buy - header image
Tips and advice
29 Jul 2021

Classic cars to buy in 2021

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV launched
2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV.
Volkswagen
29 Jul 2021

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV launched

Volkswagen T-Cross SUV review
Turquoise VW T-Cross driving
Volkswagen T-Cross
28 Jul 2021

Volkswagen T-Cross SUV review

New 316bhp Volkswagen Golf R Estate arrives with drift mode
2021 Volkswagen Golf R Estate - front 3/4 driving
Volkswagen Golf R Estate
6 Jul 2021

New 316bhp Volkswagen Golf R Estate arrives with drift mode

Most Popular

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Top 10 most comfortable cars 2021
Mercedes E-Class saloon
Mercedes E-Class saloon
26 Jul 2021

Top 10 most comfortable cars 2021

What is a V5C? Here’s everything you need to know about the logbook
V5C close up
Tips and advice
22 Jul 2021

What is a V5C? Here’s everything you need to know about the logbook

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks