Should You Buy an All-Wheel (AWD) Drive Car?
Until recently, the only cars I have owned were AWD types, all Subaru Outbacks, the king of the AWD's. I liked the idea of the AWD always being "on", being able to go off road on rocky trails where many would not dare. They are solid cars built on a truck-like chassis. However, the one thing that for me was the turn off point was the gas mileage. Their 2.5 liter engines barely got 25 mph on highway, 20 in town; the 3.0 L was worse, 18 in town and 22 on the highway. The 2012 models do get better MPG.
The AWD cars are very popular in certain areas: outback in the country, Tahoe, mountainous areas. But for most owners, the AWD car is not a necessity. It is NOT a commuter car due to the MPG. If you are considering one, ask yourself, just how often will you NEED AWD? If the answer is seldom, consider a front wheel drive car only. The AWD is most needed in states with a good amount of snow. BUT, when Consumer Reports studied results of a braking test in snow between a Toyota Corolla and Land Rover, the Corolla (a front wheel drive) stopped more quickly!
Consider the cost, an AWD car or wagon costs an extra $3000 than a 2WD. Owning a AWD is about confidence, or an illusion that they are better because of the AWD. Not really, at least tests about fuel economy and stopping prove this. Traction is entirely different especially on snowy\icy roads, but again, if you seldom have this kind of weather\road conditions, think again. AWD cars tend to get quicker acceleration.
Thirty years ago, about the only American car with AWD was the AMC Eagle wagon. Now, 50% of the cars sold are AWD and about the same percentage of buyers probably do not really need them, they just think they do because of the advertising.
If the AWD cars ever get a MPG of 30 in town and 40-45 on the highway, I will rejoin the ranks, that is what my VW Jetta TDI gets now and I love it.