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Do you really need all-wheel drive?Common consensus is that AWD will save you from a lot of difficult driving environments but can't all modern cars with all of their safety features do just the same? The XCAR team took an example of different drive types to the track to find out.
We have a question. Just how much good does all-wheel drive really do? We know four driven wheels is a good thing, but surely, a [UNKNOWN] enough driver can get the best out of any setup. Then, they wouldn't need to buy a car that has all the extra all-wheel drive gubbings put on it. Either way, we're here at Rockingham Motor Speedway at their wet grip facility with three very different cars. In very different seconds. I've brought a Subaru Impreza with crucially for today all-wheel drive. Well, that's good for you. I have brought a BMW 120d. Diesel engine, admittedly, and it's an automatic, but it's rear-wheel drive and pure Automatic. Yes it's an automatic. And diesel. I bought the Renault Megane Sport 275 Trophy, which I think is going to be the most fun, the most exciting, and also, I think I'm gonna do the best on it, cuz it's front-wheel drive, it's very predictable, and front-wheel drive is just, it's very easy to manage, isn't it, whereas oversteer, I think you're gonna struggle. You sound like a confident man, Mr. Wilkinson, and I admire that quality in you. You sound confident, but we're about to go onto the kick plate, which when you drive over it the rear is going to be wildly flung in any direction and I can't wait to see you just spin over and over again. I'm feeling confident because I just drove up in here in a liquid yellow, boy racers dream, so- Liquid yellow? It's called liquid yellow. I'm not being Alan Partridge. [LAUGH] And plus, front wheel drive. Once the rear goes you just apply the throttle with slight left off oversteer. It'll be so easy, all the weight's over the front so if the rear goes out, it's actually really easy to bring it back in. Whereas I think, because we're going to do everything turned on once, see what the stability systems can do for us. And then we're going to turn everything off. And that's where I think you're going to struggle in your commuter mobile. It's all academic, because we've got the best driver in the car with the best controls. What, you? Yes. In that? Yes. Did you say best driver? Yes. What, maximum attack Stan? I think we put you in that car cuz that's the only one you weren't gonna kill anybody in. Oh. That is precisely why we put him in that car. [LAUGH] Naught to 62, 7.2 seconds. Naught to 62, six seconds. Zero to 62 in. 12.3 seconds. Top speed a shade over 140. Top speed 158 miles an hour. Top speed 114 miles an hour. Kick plate. Driving over this hydraulic plate will violently shift the back wheels in either direction, putting the car into a skid or spin. The aim is to catch the flight and bring the car under control. Its time to take the 120 over the kick-plate, 13 miles an hour with the traction on 20, 30, and away we go. Whoa, and the stability kept me going! Oh! oh, that's well saved, you can see him working out it was quite. Yeah. I mean, it did definitely flood. But. They keep the back out quite a bit. How much of that was him then? None. [LAUGH] Now we've had it with traction on, it's time to do it with traction off. What this is going to do is it's gonna show us what happens if the rears get knocked or there's a, a sudden loss of traction, but it's as though I'm driving with all the confidence in the world. It's now entirely down to me, ready kick plate one, two. Oh, yes. [LAUGH] Held it like a boss. [APPLAUSE] Now of course, your front of the guys, I've been giving it all that, but anyone who watches X Car regularly will know. I'm at best an average driver. So, when the back kicks out on this, the car is going to be doing a lot of the work. And I'm gonna have to try and do a little bit myself. My job is to get it up to 30. Look at him rip the crap out of that car, that poor engine. Here we go. There we go, theres 30. Which way's it gonna go, here we go. Look, un-traumatic. Now, lets see what happens when Subaru takes away the assist system. Vehicle dynamics control system was disabled by the driver. Are you nuts? Apparently so, here we go. [MUSIC] There we go, that's 30 miles an hour and, well, it seems that Drew the driver. Ever is just as good as the vehicle dynamics. [MUSIC] So in my arsenal, I have a three-way ESC system as most cars would have. However, I have something called CSV, which is Control Sur Virage. Which just means. Understeer control, in English. So that means that it can apply any one of the brakes, or a combination of them, to correct understeer. So really, I have no excuse. Let's give it a go, 30 miles an hour. Okay, so just pulling up to 30. Second gear, 30 miles an hour. So I'm gonna hold that, and there we go. Okay. Lovely. That was weird. It felt like it was trying to wrench the steering wheel away from me. And it was just a bit of a wrestling match. But to be honest, I feel like that was the car doing most of the talking. Really wobbled. That's disappointing. That looked like he went over a hump in a bridge. Okay. It's gonna be more difficult, lets see how up to the task I am. Oh, oh, oh! Some fast hands there my friend! Whoo! Oh god the amount of adrenaline that comes in is unbelievable. Jesus, the difference it makes. It absolutely, the first one was like someone was trying to grab the steering wheel from you. The other one was trying, like it punched you in the stomach and just wrested it from your control. That was unbelievable. I, I just don't think the kick plate is forming enough of a challenge. I think we need to try something more difficult. [LAUGH] I think so. Well, maybe more violent kick plate. Ice road. A super slippery surface designed to test the car's grip to the max. You can drive in a straight line and be okay, but try to turn around cones or stop and you'll find out just how much. Brake you rarely have. Alright here we go. So let's get out to a decent amount of speed and I'll take twenty miles an hour on this. A little bit slower [COUGH] Ok, and gently on the power. Turning in. I can feel grip staying. Ok, yeah. Starting to go. Oh. Here we go. Oh. [NOISE] [LAUGH] It's [LAUGH] [NOISE] So he did alright with the with the traction on there. Okay, that was all the systems working with me there. All the cones are still in place. Boom. [CROSSTALK] Here we go. Maximum attack. Okay, here we go, and onto the wet stuff. Balance the throttle, steer in. There goes the grip, okay, steer in. Whoa, okay. All right, the other way come, come come, power. [NOISE] [LAUGH] Okay, so the traction control, does quite a lot of work to keep you on track. Only one cone dead. Luckily, it wasn't a child. [NOISE] Oh, yeah. Top notch. Top notch for entertainment. That was amazing. Ten. [NOISE] Drew's just done really well on this four wheel drive. Now, I'm in rear wheel drive. I'm going to take the first one slowly even with everything on. Safe. Here we go. Ohhh. And no grip. Steer in. Steer in- oh no. There we go. There's the rear wheel drive losing itself. [LAUGH] Bouncing off the grip. Traction control is going nuts. Come on. Give me some. And it's [UNKNOWN] me to 10 miles an hour now. Okay. That's more realistic. And the only thing that saved me there was going onto the high grip surface, E, the side. No wonder that didn't spin as much. Yeah. Cuz walking [UNKNOWN] No. I, I definitely applied the [UNKNOWN] too much [UNKNOWN] Yeah. Right. Traction control off. 20 miles an hour. I reckon I'm going to last about two cones. Maybe three. 20 miles an hour, No traction. A little bit of turning. Lost the back end. Lost the back end. All gone. There we go. Oh. I killed a cone. There's a cone dead. Try to keep going. Hit the [UNKNOWN]. Yeah-eh-eh [LAUGH]. Oh no! And we're off. [LAUGH] Okay, maybe everything was turned off. Maybe. It did look like that was him. That, that, that felt bad. I only moved the cone, that's good. [LAUGH]. Okay, 20. So I'm gonna try and be as smooth and as minimal in my inputs as possible. Here's the first curve. Okay, and let's lift off to get an oversteer. Oh, that's understeer. That's horrendous understeer and horrendous understeer again. Try, drifting into oversteer. And there's just understeer. [LAUGH] Not biting. Oh, gosh. That's not pretty. Last time the ESC systems cut off my power. They gave me horrendous understeer. Let's see what I can do on my own and see if I can do any better. I somehow doubt it. Somehow doubt I'll be back to [UNKNOWN] machines, but here we go. Okey dokey. There we go. Threading my way through, [UNKNOWN] under steer there. Lots of under steer. Should have taken off the lock there. Put too much lock on. There we go. Very under steery, very under steery. Let's see if I can. That was another bump in your ****. You can just feel it. That, that didn't work out for him. No. I think, you know, it may have been a tie so far. Or we'll drive a stick in a leash. Yeah. High speed bend. With surfaces giving very different amounts of grip and enough standing water to contemplate taking a boat instead, this manuever is difficult at any speed. The aim here, however, is to negotiate it flat-out. Second gear. Let's try to get up to 30 around this bend, just for starters. Just to see if. The traction holds. Remember this is the same surface that we've just been over and understeering on, right. Here we go. Okay, at 30 miles an hour, it's holding, it's holding. Not bad. Not bad. Not bad at all, right. That was actually closer to 38. Let's try that with traction control off, shall we? So far, not even a hint of understeer or oversteer. Here we go, here we go. Accelerating through the bend, come on, come on, come on, oh, oh, this is where this car comes to life. Perfect. Not, no drama. Nothing. I was pushing that. I still could have gone faster, but I'm gonna set the guys a challenge. Can they get round that bend at 40 miles an hour? Traction control on or off. Let's see what they can do. Drew managed about 40 miles an hour. I want to do better than that. There's 40. Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, keep it going. And the car is absolutely fine. Like unbelievably fine. Now, traction off. That was, that was brilliant. The car just kept me in check and I was going on a low friction surface and. 45 [INAUDIBLE] ,right. Here we go. Down to first, turn in. And wipers up to full. 40, 5, 50, little bit of under steer, little bit of under steer, little bit of over steer, and break so we don't go onto the grass. Wow, just wow. We went faster than the Subaru, though I think that might be a power and torque deficit more than anything else. The Subaru looks amazing. I'm interested to see what's gonna happen with them again, because if this under stayed a little bit. And it was being pushed around, imagine what the front wheel drive McGann's going to do when it's being pulled around. [MUSIC] The other two managed to take it with absolutely no drams at all. So the onus is on me in the front wheel drive car to take a corner extremely fast when it's very slippery. Here we're gonna take the corner. Okay. There we go. Building up. Second. Okay, I'm going 30. 50. Throw it in, I can feel that under steer. Feel that under steer right there. See I'm still having to apply the brake. So even with all my electronic trickery, still having trouble going over 50. 50 miles an hour, I'm not gonna make that corner. Go straight off and across the verge. So. [NOISE] I think we're gonna try with everything off now. We can do this. [NOISE] Right back down to first gear. I'm trying to go too far. That's the problem. 30. 40. And then 50. We're going to stick it on 50. Lot of under steer. We can take off a little lock. Whoa. Okay. And some [UNKNOWN] lift off over steer there. Okay. So. I love this car. The way it handles is perfect. Got some lovely little lift up over to there. But, really, didn't look as good or handy as the other two. Doesn't seem like front wheel drive, just going corner speed on a slippery surface is the answer to everything. I feel like I let this car down a little bit because it's wonderful. So, I'm never going to badmouth. Well that was a hell of a day. How were your cars out there? You know what? The one series in an incredible example of how engineering has moved on. There's only one area where it, where it fell down. And that was the icy roady thing. Where even with the traction on, it was very slippery. Now, I, I'm, I'm going to come to it's defense a little bit. If you drive down a road that you know is covered in ice. At 20 miles an hour and do violent steering maneuvers, you probably deserve to crash, so go a little bit slower, and it handles it just fine, and I was able to go over the kick plate with no correction whatsoever, and it just sorted itself out, even with everything turned off as far as it would go. Mm. It acquitted itself brilliantly in the high-speed, damp corner. You know, it's, it's an incredible piece of engineering. It's a really, really good thing. And it was really good fun. It was slippery, but it's controllable. It's, it's a very malleable car. It was, it was, it was a brilliant experience. It's 13,000 Pounds worth of car. Maybe 5,000 Pounds worth of car. WIth, with all the options it's less than that, just, if you don't have it. Front-wheel drive. It was, it was unbelievable in the kick play. It was beautiful to handle. It felt, I mean, the [UNKNOWN] steering wheel. You feel like a racing driver in the [UNKNOWN] race seat and all the fake carbon fiber around it. So it has the feel, it has the sound. I mean come on, those pops and bangs from that exhaust, unbelievable. But under steer is the name of the game when it comes to front wheel drive and it did sort of tell when it came to the ice road and also kind of the high speed polished tarmac corner. There was bits of [UNKNOWN] that weren't so pleasant. I got some great lift of [UNKNOWN] at one point, which was great, but I had to work really hard for it, and it didn't have the balance of yours around the high-speed corner. It took a lot of effort to get up to the BMW's speed. How about the Subaru? I mean, that was sort of the prize winner today in terms of what it could do. It just made everything look a little mundane. So maybe not the visually most exciting. All wheel drive is built to, you know, do several things. And combat situations like this is one of its main things. It's there for safety. It's there for traction. And, so yeah. The back wasn't getting kicked out. I didn't get over steer, I didn't get under steer, even on the icy roads, really, where everything was challenged to the max- It looks great on the ice road. Unbelievable. We thought, you got the [UNKNOWN] a little bit, but the amount of control you had compared to the other two. Fundamentally, engineering has come to a point where cars are far safer than they've ever been. Even if you think you've turned everything off. Or especially with everything turned on, the cars are meant to keep you safe in almost any condition. But on top of that, I think we've found, all wheel drive gives you just that little bit extra bit of support. That little bit extra help, which even if you're a lumpy out there. It's still going to keep you alive. A shocking conclusion, all modern cars are pretty good at what they do. I, I think that's a pretty good [INAUDIBLE] Can we end on that? No, it's. I think, I think we'll end on that. [LAUGH] I think that's a cut.