My wife and I are buying a car to replace her Pontiac Aztec. We are going to be doing lots of traveling and pulling a trailer during the next several years since I am retiring soon. We are looking at either a Ford Flex or a Chevrolet Traverse. Is All Wheel Drive worth the investment and the challenge of finding the right vehicle for us?
Where you live, and where you intend to drive would help. Most important to know is how heavy is the trailer you will be towing?
If you live in FL and rarely travel far north in the winter 2WD or FWD might work fine for you. If you are towing a travel trailer with a good load in the vehicle you need a rear wheel drive tow vehicle. FWD vehicles do not make good tow vehicles.
Your 1st priority is to determine the weight and type of trailer you’ll be towing. When you know add at least 500 lbs (1000) would be better to determine the towing capacity of vehicle you need. Everyone underestimates the load they will be pulling so buy extra capacity in the tow vehicle. Don’t buy anything until you know what you’ll be towing.
Others will disagree but I’m not a fan of AWD. It costs mileage and all the extra parts involved and if you ruin a tire, you have to replace all four. I’m also not convinced that emergency handling on ice is not a problem. Much like having posi-traction on both ends but posi-traction in the rear in the past could create handling problems on ice. I’m in Minnesota and I’m still waiting for enough snow to try out my new blower so just not something that would get used much in snow. Also doesn’t help you stop any better.
I strongly advise against doing any serious trailering with a front drive vehicle. My neighbor ruined the transmission on his Honda Odessey by towing a small tent trailer. Looks like you need a rear drive vehicle, like a compact truck with a crew cab.
If you plan on doing a lot,of towing, awd is much safer and more capable in doing so. Generally speaking, fwd was invented for space utilization and economy in manufacturing as entire drive trains could be shifted from one model to another without being altered much.
Fwd is the most compromised off all the drive trains, but being the cheapest, it has lots of supporters. I agree with @Docnick. If you are going to do significant towing, it is much safer with a vehicle designed to do it safely. These would be rear wheel drive and 4 wd vehicles.
I would remove the car based fwd, base traverse and Flex from my choices. Truck based SUV and crew cab trucks if you need the room are better. Mid size trucks with6 cyl motors are more economical and safer then fwd cars when towing significant weight.
I agree also with @bing, that if you don’t have a real need, don’t get awd/ 4 wd. If you do have a need, fwd has NO business even being mentioned in the same breath as awd/4wd. In truth, awd handling in all conditions is superior to fwd and according to the technicians I have talked to, stability control is more effective as not only braking but torque is controlled at each wheel.