Clarification: All-wheel drive in reverse


I’m reposting this because I made a serious typographical error in my original question - my son’s car is a CRV, not a Civic. But he really did park it in a pile of snow, and then he found that he was stuck; in reverse, the CRV is merely front-wheel drive. The Honda dealer confirmed that the CRV’s all-wheel-drive system only works in forward gears. So my (corrected) question is: We’re thinking about buying a new all-wheel-drive small or medium size SUV. My son found out the hard way that a Honda CRV is all-wheel-drive only in forward, not reverse. Do any all-wheel-drive systems function in reverse? We’re looking at Honda, Acura, Subaru, Toyota, Lexus, VW, and Audi.


Okay, now it’s beginning to make more sense. Since the CR-V is essentially a front wheel drive vehicle that only activates the drive mechanism to the rear wheels when slippage is detected, I guess that the limitation of no AWD in reverse is not that surprising. Although the CR-V is a nice vehicle, it is not the ideal small SUV for those who drive in really slippery conditions since there is a detectable lag before power is transmitted to the rear wheels. Apparently the sensors that activate the drive mechanism for the rear wheels do not activate in reverse.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the other AWD vehicles on the market are like this (although I have a very vague recollection that the Mazda Tribute/Ford Escape twins might be similar in action to the CR-V). Apparently Honda designed the CR-V in this fashion in order to maximize the fuel economy. Unfortunately, that makes for a less effective vehicle when the going gets really tough–as your son found out.

(Note: I believe that the latest model CR-V has a better AWD system than the earlier ones like yours.)


I would make the assumption that all vehicles with full-time-all-wheel-drive would work in reverse…I have 2 RAV4s and never had a problem backing up in snowy conditions.


My Subies, Rav 4, and 4 Runner in the AWD mode DO function in reverse. My daughters CRV has electrically operated clutch in the rear diff. That differs in function from other non Honda products where power distribution happens in the center diff. Newer CRV’s respond quicker…for most use going forward in non off road conditions, OK but not as good as full time. I will say in normal driving, I “feel” less AWD drag in the CRV. I’d be interested to know if the “newer” models of the CRV still have this limitation. I wonder why AWD (FWD based) don’t have a manual lockout switch like my 4 Runner to improve economy…probably wouldn’t help much if you’re still dragging a “rotating” rear diff around.