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New car purchase: AWD vs fuel efficiency?

I live on a long, pretty steep hill in Western North Carolina and want a car that will make it safely in snow and over small patches of ice. Should I go with AWD or will a more fuel efficient car be ok with good snow tires?

I have several relatives who have the same sort of steep hill to climb in the winter, and they prefer Subaru’s for the AWD traction while still getting good mileage. My dad has had his CRV for almost 4 years now and can get up to 30mpg on the highway while having the 4WD as backup for the few times a year it’s actually needed. A set of good quality snow tires are a good idea in your case no matter what you buy

It really depends what your looking at for cars.

For example a 2010 Subaru Legacy with automatic/AWD gets 23MPG in town and 31MPG on the highway. A similar size 2010 Honda Accord with 4cylinder automatic gets 21MPG in town and 31MPG on highway. And the Honda has FWD only.

The idea of AWD is less efficient is not as true anymore.

The idea of AWD is less efficient is not as true anymore.

I agree. We have a 2003 Toyota 4Runner V-6 with selectable 4WD. It can be run in four wheel drive all the time. I have experimented and notice at most 1 mpg difference if I run it in 4WD or 2WD. I normally run it in 2WD.

Do you have any friends with a FWD car with winter tires? If yes, have them give your hill a try out. If you currently have a FWD car I’d suggest you purchase winter tires for this coming winter. My guess is you will have no trouble. If you do then consider a AWD vehicle.

AWD still gets 2 to 4 mpg less than the same car with FWD. It adds a lot to the maintenance costs due to an extra differential and the transfer case. These extra items need fluid changes to last. Finally if you have a tire problem with an AWD vehicle you might need to buy a set of 4 new tires just because one tire goes flat and can’t be repaired.

I’d like to second those who say why not get both?
I’ve got a 2k4 Impreza TS (The short wagon) and I get REAL 28Highway (not epa guesses) Doing about 70-75 loaded wtih a 2 yr old, 2 dogs, a wife, and a weekends worth of stuff.
There’s also about 50-60 miles of hilly driving on this trip.

Around town you do suffer a bit getting about 20-23mpg.
The newer subarus get better mileage… AWD is a ltitle heavier and you’ll lose some mileage, but if you are lookign for an AWD car instead of a Tahoe or something then you’ll save your mileage.

The real question to me is how big are the “small patches of ice”? Are they just a couple square feet and 80-90% is clear? Are you ever likely to have more than two tires on ice at once?

I have a daily commute with a ~1 mile long hill on either end. These hills have grades of 6-10% for portions of their run, and average about 4-5% grades. I have always driven a 97 Ford Taurus with good all-season tires on this route (switching to a 98 Camry this winter). I didn’t have traction control or ABS on that Taurus, yet I never had any trouble making it up or down those hills, even when completely covered with several inches of snow.

So if you have mostly clear pavement, I’d say you should be fine without the AWD… which will save some gas but also save you more on maintenance/repairs…

Well then, it’s still true, isn’t it :wink: