We typically score sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers in their all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) configurations, as seen in the post on popular small crossovers. Many consumers value such capability for use on snowy or unpaved roads and on trips to their favorite ski resort or camp site.
But if you mainly use your vehicle on suburban streets in the sunbelt or to pack a load of friends for a night out on the town, front-wheel drive (FWD) will save you money both up front and in fill-ups down the road. To see how eRatings change when equipped with FWD instead of AWD, we’ll take a second look at some of the small crossovers previously covered: the Nissian Juke, Jeep Patriot, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.
The Jeep Patriot sees the biggest change, with the FWD version earning an eRating of 123, a 12% increase over the version with the trail ready “Freedom Drive II” system. FWD versions of the Tucson and Sportage, earning eRatings of 114 and 113 respectively, both improve by about 6% over their respective AWD versions, and the Nissan Juke sees its eRating rise to 121, a 5% gain.
There’s a two part explanation for such gains in environmental performance. First, equipping a vehicle with FWD alone allows the design to shed multiple mechanical connections between the transmission and the wheels. For example, a FWD vehicle needs only two connections between the transmission and the drive wheels, called constant velocity (CV) joints, instead of the four required in an AWD system. Unburdening the vehicle of these connections saves mass (driveshafts and CV joints aren’t light), decreases drag on the engine (less heavy things for the engine to spin), and reduces the friction created by extra bearings and other linkages.
Selecting the FWD option on a vehicle can also bump down the engine size. The Patriot and Tucson benefitted from all of these factors, both moving from 2.4 liter to a 2.0 liter engines and shedding a few hundred pounds.
FWD configured crossovers also have the added benefit of lowering vehicle cost. Selecting a crossover with a smaller engines and fewer components could save you between two to four thousand dollars depending on the model.
So if you find yourself wanting the style and roominess of a crossover but your rambles involve more sunny trips to the beach than snowy trips to the mountain, selecting a vehicle with FWD can offer a greener ride and keep a bit more green in your wallet as well.