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.

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