ESC vs all wheel drive

ESC, VSC whichever it is called these days; is it just as good traction wise as all wheel drive which is usually more expensive? I am a Vermont driver used to front wheel with studded tires, but am thinking of buying a sedan, NOT a Subaru! tho and not an SUV. An Audi would be nice. Thanks, Ellen

Well, ESC & VSC have nothing to do with traction-- they’re designed to help you recover out of a skid and stop you from tipping over. What you’re thinking of is probably traction control (TCS) which can apply the brakes individually to stop the wrong wheel from spinning, which can help you get going in a 2wd vehicle, but is definitely not as good as 4wd or AWD. But if you’re used to 2wd without it, 2wd with it will be better.

Also, all AWD cars are not made equal. Most lower-end makes’ AWD systems are just that-- power goes to all four wheels, but they can still get into situations where if one or two wheels loses traction, you’re stuck. Traction control on one of these is pretty handy. Subarus and some of the higher-end makes including Audi have AWD systems that have limited-slip differentials and clutches that make them practically impossible to get stuck short of high-centering. There’s a reason why everyone in Vermont drives a Subaru! An Audi would be as capable, but it’s a much more expensive car to buy and own-- is standing out worth that much to you?

Agree with GJ. But I do have a question-have you been satisfied with FWD+studs? That’s what I used in Anchorage for 12 years with no problems. It is a simpler way to go, but AWD (with studs) would still be somewhat better. I would stay away from RWD, regardless.

“An Audi would be nice”

You might want to reconsider that decision after reading the many posts on this forum regarding excessive oil burning by Audis–even when very new. Overall, Audis are less reliable than average, and are quite expensive to repair. But, if you are mostly interested in “image”, then it may be the car for you.

The best traction control can do is to optimize available traction. Since all wheel drive has more available traction to be optimized than does two wheel drive, all wheel drive is necessarily better. However, if you have been doing all right with front wheel drive and studded winter tires, you may not need the extra traction of all wheel drive. Disadvantages of all wheel drive are lower performance and greater fuel consumption because of the weight and drag of the extra hardware. Repair costs are higher because there is more to wear out.

Audis are nicer cars than Subarus, but they are more expensive to maintain. If you are sure you want all wheel drive, there are many choices besides these two brands, BMW, Volvo, Infiniti, Ford and Cadillac to name just a few.

ESC is there to keep you out of the ditch, AWD or 4WD is there to get you out after you slide in.

The difference between AWD vs FWD in fuel consumption is 1-3MPG. The performance factor is highly debatable AWD can be superior in certain aspects.

That all being said AWD does add slight to intense complexity dependant on what system is used. Audi and Subaru do use a very simple but very effective system.