2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: On-Demand 4WD
January 07, 2011
So when I get into the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES AWC last week it's pouring down rain, a fairly remarkable occurrence here in Southern California. The Sport has just returned from a skiing expedition and I look down to see the control knob for the four-wheel-drive system still dialed to its 4wd slot.
Ah, what to do. Do you drive away in 2wd mode or 4wd mode?
Out there in the real world where there's real weather, real people know the moment when it's smart to dial in the AWC knob to four-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the rest of us are wrestling with half-remembered misconceptions about the nature of four-wheel drive and its impact on fuel economy as well as general overall vehicle karma.
As it turns out, only a tickle of torque is being sent to the rear wheels once you engage the Outlander Sport's 4wd system, maybe some 15 percent under steady-state cruising and occasionally as little as 10 percent depending on conditions. There's a torque shift to the rear of 25 percent when you're accelerating hard above 40 mph, and as much as 40 percent when you're accelerating with full throttle at less than 40 mph. When you engage 4wd Lock, 60 percent of the torque is sent to the rear wheels.
The 4wd system's impact on fuel economy is hard to hard to gauge. A two-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is EPA rated at 25 mpg City/31 mpg Highway and 27 mpg Combined, while a four-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped Outlander Sport is EPA rated at 24 mpg City/29 mpg Highway and 26 mpg Combined. But the difference in the mpg ratings is only because the extra 143 pounds of the 4wd system put the Outland Sport AWC into a different inertia weight class, as the actual testing occurs in 2wd mode. So basically it's hard to know what impact that driving in 4wd mode really has on fuel efficiency.
And then I finally realized that this is entirely the wrong question to ask yourself when you're staring at the 4wd knob. The last thing that you want to tell a tow truck driver as he's dragging your upside-down car out of a ditch is that you were trying to save a dollar of gas by driving in 2wd rather than 4wd.
We carry around all these stereotypes about 4wd, but these days, the weight penalty is minimal, the fuel cost is negligible, and the four-wheel-drive system indeed will get you farther than an extra 100 yards before you get stuck again anyway. Worrying about these things is like worrying that your turn signal will burn out if you use it too much.
The only thing that you should be thinking about when looking down at the 4wd knob is whether the Outlander Sport will drive better. All the other stuff might sound clever, but it's really pointless. Just pick the mode that is best for the kind of driving you're doing at the moment. Out there in the real world where there's real weather, real people already know this.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com