The Best 4 Wheel Drive Cars With Good Gas Mileageby Richard Rowe
At one time, the concept of four-wheel drive and fuel economy were mutually exclusive. Fuel economy was for econo-boxes; four-wheel drive was for trucks. However, today's automakers are beginning to follow the market and adopt a philosophy of true versatility. To stay competitive, automakers have begun to find ways to overcome the efficiency losses of four-wheel (or all-wheel) drive, as evidenced by these four titans of fuel and traction.
Mechanically identical to the Toyota Voltz, the Vibe is Pontiac's all-purpose station wagon/crossover. The AWD (All Wheel Drive) Vibe has been produced by GM since 2003 and was at one point the company's most efficient U.S. market vehicle. The 31-mpg Volt has been a hot seller for GM since its introduction and continues to share honors with the smallest of GM's line as a low-emission's hero. The Vibe's AWD system is designed more for slippery driveways and winter roads than for mud-pits and rock-crawling.
The Venza is Toyota's newest trump card in the versatility wars. This mid-sized crossover wagon has rakish good looks, sporty handling, seating for seven and gets an EPA estimated 28 mpg highway. This is no mean feat, considering the AWD Vibe can only be had with Toyota's excellent 3.5L V6, which is essentially the same 268-horsepower beast found in the company's Highlander pickup. The Venza's AWD system isn't quite as sport-tuned as a Mitsubishi evolution's, but isn't far off of Subaru's rally-car WRX Sti's in terms of programming and power transfer.
Speaking of the WRX, the Impreza on which it is based certainly deserves to be mentioned. Subaru has been mass-producing AWD road cars since the Carter administration and knows a thing or two about combining economy and practicality. The Impreza's 170-horsepower 2.5L flat-four is a legend in its own time, gets 28 mpg and is the engine used in the company's 500-horsepower rally cars. Benefiting from its rally-racing roots, Subaru's AWD system is one of the best on the planet. Just as capable on wet gravel as on ice or snow, the Impreza is a jack of all trades and master of more than a few.
Audi A3 Quattro
Another rally legend, Audi's Quattro AWD system is easily a match for Subaru's. The A3 is a sport wagon like the Venza, but has a chassis more suited for high-speed touring than for fetching milk. The A3 gets 28 mpg highway and 20 mpg city. While these numbers are only middle-of-the road, rest assured that A3's 268-horsepower 2.0L turbo four will more than make up for any feelings of inadequacy.
Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.