World's Smallest Disconnecting AWD System Was Engineered by British Company GKN Driveline

GKN Driveline is considered to be the world's leading supplier of automotive driveline components. Specialized in AWD, eDrive and constant-velocity joint systems as well as trans axle solutions, GKN Driveline is also the company that developed the smallest ever disconnecting all-wheel drive system and it's a gem.
GKN Disconnecting All-Wheel Drive 1 photo
Photo: GKN
This is huge news for European automakers focused on popular segments such as the city car (A) and the super competitive compact (C) segment, as well as the supermini (B). GKN's contraption isn't just the smallest functional AWD system, but also benefits from Disconnect, a function that enhances traction and driving dynamics with improved fuel efficiency.

Senior programme director Hannes Prenn explains: “As global demand for smaller, more efficient SUVs continues to grow, GKN’s Disconnect All-Wheel Drive System will help open new markets. This compact new system enables manufacturers to offer customers more capable and dynamic vehicles with improved fuel-efficiency and CO2 emissions.”

The tightly packaged disconnecting all-wheel drive system replaces traditional AWD bits and bobs such as the power transfer unit. Instead of a PTU, GKN's design employs a housing that hides the propshaft's constant velocity joint (CVJ). This layout improves on noise, vibration and harshness, doesn't use a lot of space and utilizes a clutch system design based on the disconnect system of the Range Rover Evoque.

A momentary look at the photo above and you'll get why GKN's Disconnect All-Wheel Drive system is a very important piece of kit. GKN's AWD system responds to either driver inputs and road conditions, connecting and disengaging the rear axle repeatedly.

Nice packing, but what's it really boasting with?

A dedicated driveline control unit continuously monitors dynamics and environmental conditions, disconnecting the all-wheel drive system when driving on the motorway, when the all-wheel drive function is not needed. If the driver or driving conditions require more traction, the all-wheel drive system reconnects in a blistering 300 milliseconds.

By eliminating rotating losses from the driveline, fuel efficiency can be improved by up to 4 percent during steady cruising compared to permanent all-wheel drive systems. Last but not least, the more spirited driver will be happy to know that active torque biasing and a torque vectoring system are also implemented in GKN's design to aid with the vehicle's driving dynamics on those winding B-roads.

Senior VP of engineering Rob Rickell further explains that: “With all production, engineering and software development in-house, GKN Driveline is the only supplier able to develop and supply such a tightly integrated all-wheel drive system. The result is the lightest, most compact and capable disconnect all-wheel drive system available in the market."
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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