About two hours north of Montreal sits a bit of wintery paradise – at least for drivers. Every year, Volkswagen sets up camp outside Saint-Alexis-des-Monts during the snow-bound months to demonstrate the all-wheel-drive prowess of its latest models on snow-covered roads and even the frozen Lac Sacacomie.1
This year’s outing featured two new U.S. models, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and the upcoming Volkswagen Atlas, on hand to demonstrate their version of Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. VW recruited a pair of local racer and winter driving experts – Carl Nadeau and Simon Dion-Viens – to give guests an introduction to how the Atlas and Golf Alltrack tackle the Canadian snow-covered course.
Both instructors begin with winter-driving advice that applies to any vehicle in slick conditions. “A lot of people don’t adjust their driving to the conditions,” says Dion-Viens. “Even if you have a four-wheel drive, you’ll accelerate more on certain surfaces, so you can’t just go out and drive as you normally would.“
“One of the worst things is that people tend to tense up and grip the steering wheel too tight,” says Nadeau. “That makes everything worse—the stiffer you are, the less you feel what’s happening with the car, so your reactions are more abrupt and then you’re throwing the car in slides and reacting abruptly to that.”
The phrase “all-wheel drive” has become so commonplace on new models that many people assume it means just that – all the wheels driving all the time. That’s exactly how some such systems work, but using both axles to power a vehicle typically comes with a penalty in fuel economy – and in older all-wheel-drive systems, the wheel with the most power wasn’t always the wheel with the best traction.
The 4Motion system in both the Golf Alltrack and Atlas was engineered to help avoid those pitfalls. In everyday driving, both the Golf Alltrack and Atlas route 90 percent of engine power to the front wheels to maximize fuel efficiency. When the 4Motion detects any wheel slip, it can instantly engage a central electro-hydraulic coupling that can send up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear axle. Plus, the system has sensors on both axles that can detect when an individual wheel is slipping, and use the stability control to send power to the opposite side as necessary.
The 4Motion system in both vehicles also includes Off-Road Mode2 and Hill Descent Control, to help navigate a variety of terrains. And both passed their first Canadian adventure with honors.
“With a lot of systems that are reactive (rather than AWD all the time,) the reaction is so delayed that it’s not good,” said Nadeau. “It really feels like front-wheel-drive and then ‘oh…I need the help.’ With 4Motion, the reaction is very quick.”
“I was impressed with the Atlas—for off-road conditions, it’s just perfect,” said Dion-Viens. “Plus, people will really like the space you find inside—particularly the second and third rows. It’s a good package with the 4Motion.”