But even if you've checked the AWD box on that Honda CR-V, it doesn't instantly turn it into a tank. Ever wondered why old Range Rovers weighed well over two tons? It's simple – lots of differentials to ensure power is optimally distributed. Without those, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble, especially when one wheel is in the air.
Nowadays, SUVs are mainly sold on looks and curb appeal. Some are even appreciated for their track performance. But many years ago, 4x4 fans were much more "hardcore" and they cared a lot about the best rubber, real suspension travel and independent tests… such as this one.
Swedish magazine Teknikens Varld put several seemingly similar cars to the same test, placing them on specially designed roller pads that simulate icy conditions. The Jeep Cherokee, Nissan X-Trail, VW Tiguan and BMW X1 are of similar price and size, but are constructed differently.
When traction is lost on both front wheels, all systems work well because clutch-type AWDs are designed to activate and divert torque to the rear. However, when one side of the car would experience ice, these simple setups don't cope well. The "electrical differential" added to the Haldex 4 of the Tiguan is a great example. It's supposed to grab the brakes in order to divert power and simulate a real diff, but it's just not up to the job.
The only model to do well was the BMW X1 xDrive20d, which is RWD architecture similar to the E90 3 Series. The sad news is that BMW is going to base the second-generation X1 on the same platform as the MINI hatch, so it probably won't be as good.