It wouldn't dissuade me from owning an SUV because a car can't carry
what I need to carry and can't go where I need to go (AWD is not 4WD).
However, some people might buy it for the AWD feature but that's
"So why do I drive a big SUV? It's because I have to haul numerous
people and things to places."
~ R. Lee Baxton ~
So are you braggin or complaining? I can get numerous new and old
vehicles that would do - 60 in under 5 seconds but why bother? I buy
what I like and what I need and I neither like or need an Acura (a.k.a.
Honda). When you can get 30 crates of produce in your Honda, then let
me know. If I want good gas mileage, I drive my 3.4L Impala that
regularly gets 35+ mpg on the highway (that's better than many smaller
Hondas, Toyotas, etc.)
"So why do I drive a big SUV? It's because I have to haul numerous
people and things to places."
~ R. Lee Baxton ~
#1. Because that don't currently have any transmission/transaxle capable of
driving the rear wheels so they would have to spend a lot of $$ designing
it or but it from someone else and very few people would buy it.
#2 AWD sucks on a front wheel drive platform, sucks gas and just plain sucks
in every way,
We made the mistake of buying a Chrysler minivan with quality Audi AWD
components. It had a 3.3L V6 engine which got a nice 14mpg city (my 5.3V8
4x4 has never gotten below 16mpg). When backing out of parking spaces
sometimes the rear would bind up and bang so hard I thought I hit another
car the first time it happened. In winter the front wheels would slip and
then the rear would engage and it would start to slide the front end
around. My 2wd S10 did better in the snow.
I think your mileage for the AWD caravan wasn't caused by the AWD system if
it was in good repair. My 1994 AWD with 3.8 L got better mileage than that
going up the mountains in Tennessee and Kentucky, loaded with 6 people and
luggage for 6 for a week (including a luggage rack full on top). It
certainly has its quirks, but there is an explanation for most of your
It's been a while since I was reading up on that system, but I'll give it a
try. That loud thunk in the back when you backed up was caused by the
mechanism that locks in the rear wheel drive when you back up. The dog
clutch that engages the rear drive (when front traction is lost) only works
when you are in a forward gear, so there is a separate (vacuum operated)
shift mechanism that engages the rear wheel drive while in reverse. The
vaccum lines on mine leaked right at the place where they connected to the
'tri-sphere' shaped reservoir conveniently placed on TOP of the clutch
housing... and caused a loud thunk from the gear not quite fully engaging.
I don't recall having any sliding problems in the snow (that were not fully
on purpose). If it were not for the terrible design of the transmission its
self I would love to drive another.
It did get get mid 20's on the highway, it was just the city milage that
Yes, your correct on the reversing, it just would bang so loud that you
thought you hit someone, was quite scary the first couple times.
I kept it well maintainted, followed the severe use maintenance schedule for
fluids and filters, replaced the spark plugs and wires a couple times,
cleaned the carbon out of the throttle body when I thought it was the cause
of the stalling.
It was nice and roomy but even when I added stiffer shocks it would start
rocking when on the highway like a long bus, had the ABS (and therefore
power brakes) fail a couple times, whole electrical system burned up twice
so I rewired it myself and separated the circuits that causing the issue,
transmission would upshift back into OD when it was in drive and going down
steep hills resulting overheating of the already poor brakes, left a trail
of paint flakes behind everywhere it went, drove terrible in the snow
because the rear end would always want to push the front and around, etc,
etc. It was basically a poor design so its no wonder people abandoned them
I have to agree it is a Mickey mouse design. I loved mine because it drove
great in the snow and it was a rarity. Not too many AWD caravans around.
They don't even offer AWD any more with the stow and go seats.
I never had trouble with the back pushing the front around.
Actually I don't really understand how it's possible. Between the viscous
coupling in the rear drive shaft and the fact that the rear wheels don't
engage until the front axle is slipping (or you're in reverse) I'd think
that means the rear wheels are always lagging a little behind the front. I
wonder if you perhaps had bad tires on it? Perhaps since the front wheels
had to be spinning before the rear would engage that means the front has
already lost some traction before the rear can start pushing it around?
I can't believe I'm actually 'arguing' FOR the AWD system in caravans. The
system leaves a lot to be desired as far as noise and 3 or 4 more places to
leak fluid (depending on whether you consider the viscous coupling a leak
spot... my coupling never leaked). I just absolutely loved being able to
take right off in the deepest snow, leaving the others in the dust in my
grocery getter. I had to actually try to spin the wheels in the snow and ice
to get it to slip. Otherwise it was pretty much like driving on a
non-slippery surface (with no slip). I liked doing real forward donuts in a
caravan, and fish-tailing the back of the van around. That will tend to turn
a few heads.
The only really sucky part, I think, was realizing just how slippery it
actually was when I tried to stop... and the abs system buzzed and pumped my
way through a stop sign intersection or two. It was a little tough to gauge
just how slippery it was.
For everyday driving on the slippery surfaces I prefer AWD to a 4X4. The
axles aren't locked together and you don't have to worry about shifting out
of 4WD on dry patches to save the drivetrain. The best for me would be a 4X4
with an AWD setting. Then the axles can rotate semi-independently and one
doesn't lose control as easily in a slide (as I have done in my 4X4 Jeep
with command trac T/C.).
Thats pretty much it, get a little too much on the gas and the front wheels
slip so the back pushes, then since the front wheel grip was already lost
it would tend to slide sideways a bit. The problem was it was
unpredictable because there was that delay before the rear kicked in so you
never knew you were slipping until the rear kicked.
I still prefer a traditional rear wheel drive, get the rear spinning and you
can feel it, let off the gas and it catches nd goes, predictable behavior.
Poorly designed ABS, I could stop my non ABS truck shorter and faster than
the ABS systems of that era.
I wonder if something was wrong with your overrunning clutches. I was
surprised at how there wasn't really any detectable front wheel spin before
the rears kicked in on my van. I've had a few discussions about whether
front or rear wheel drive is best in the snow. I prefer front wheel drive
myself, but many prefer rear wheel drive (although none of them are people I
actually know since I live in Michigan.... everyone I know around here
prefers front wheel drive in the snow versus rear wheel drive.
I'm not off topic by chance, am I? <G>
I'm not sure it's possible to design a hydraulic abs system that doesn't
pretty much suck for emergency stopping. (I hear the electric brakes they're
designing will help some.) I wonder why the safety of ABS is touted so
heavily in automotive commercials (as they show a vehicle coming to a nice
neat, presumably faster, stop). I think the safety of anti-skid is
overridden by the danger of not being to stop QUICKLY. No matter how you cut
it, when you remove brake pressure from the brakes for any length of time
your stopping distance is going to be greater. I pretty much just like to
play with abs systems, but I'm always aware that I won't be able to stop
extremely quickly if I need to. Not to mention that when one front wheel
starts to slip on ice it reduces brake pressure to both front wheels, but
not enough for the wheel with good traction to not put the vehicle in to a
spin. I have not quite made up my mind whether I think ABS is worth a crap.
It's sure fun to play with though. Especially in a power-brake situation (on
RWD vehicles). The ABS computer seems to get confused when the rear wheels
are spinning and the front are not. It starts pumping the front brakes even
though they haven't lost traction.
realize they are spinning. I see so many front wheel drives running around
with the wheels going twice as fast as the vehicle. Those that think front
wheel drive is better in snow are usually the more inexperienced drivers,
those that grew up with rear wheel drive know how to let off the gas to
keep from spinning.
The problem I ran into is the van had so little feel of the wheels the
fronts would spin like a normal front wheel drive then when the rear
started pushing the front would start to slide sideways. Much like a rear
wheel drive where when you break traction is would slide to one side or the
other. problem with the AWD is the front would start spinning then the
rear would push then the front would start to slide sideways so when you
let off the gas it would still take a little bit for the inertia of the
movement from the rear to quit pushing so you would slide sideways more. A
regular front wheel drive won't get that extra traction so it won't get the
sideways sliding and most people would just keep spinning.
I'll take a rear wheel drive anyday, I never bothered to pull the 4x4 level
once I moved to OH unless I needed a bit of extra traction when slowing
down, never needed it to keep from spinning.
You would be surprised at how many people disagree with you on this as they
have been led to believe that ABS makes a car stop faster and many will
argue this. I experimented in my 2000 s10 by stopping fast in a snow
covered parking so that the ABS engaged then pulling the ABS fuse and
stopping fast beside the previous tracks from the last time, I could
threshold brake and stop shorter every time without much thought.
Hydraulic brakes are the problem. The people that think ABS makes you stop
faster say that a human can't pulse the brakes thousands of times per
second like a computer can don't realize that the hydraulic and mechanical
parts cant move that fast and any more than just a few pulses per second
the fluid will dampen out. Had many scary stops in that old minivan,
someone cut you off and you touch the brakes and there was a drop of spit
under your tire you would hear the valves start clicking and the van would
lurch forward like it didn't have any brakes.
Perhaps younger. I've only been driving (legally) for 16 years :-) My
experience is that both rear and front wheel drive are ok in the snow to a
certain point. When the snow gets really thick I find a front wheel drive
will start to move easier and with less spin than a rear wheel drive. A
front wheel drive will even take off fairly well with worn tires on the
front. I've learned to leave the rear wheel drive cars in the driveway in
the thick snow unless it has good tires and some weight in the back. Of
course my rear drive vehicles have all been (and are currently) big ol boats
that front wheel drive probably wouldnt help much anyway, while the front
wheel drive vehicles are smaller. Plus, there's something about a reverse
donut that's almost more fun than an old fashioned donut in a RWD car.
I think we agree fully on abs brakes. Even on dry pavement ABS increases
emergency stopping distance. I can remember a few times when I needed to
stop immediately. The abs re-applied the brake pressure so gradually I found
myself standing on the brake pedal thinking I could pump them much faster
than the computer was at that point.
The ABS is superior to your braking ability. Imperical evidence
proves ABS results in short stopping distances, even on dry. When you
are really wanting to stop any delay seems too long and it's easy to
start second guessing things.
I do not misunderstand it. It was designed for shorter stopping
distances by avoiding skidding. Braking without skidding comes up
against the starting coefficient of friction which is greater than
sliding co-efficient of friction which is what you get in a skid.
Cornering control is another, though secondary goal/benefit. I have
already debated this with some other equally misinformed person as
yourself and proved my case. I suggest you dig through the archives
to find it.
Then the developers have failed.
Your sliding co-efficient of friction statement sounds correct; however an
abs system does not keep the wheels in such an effective state. In fact I've
found the system does not even wait for the wheels to lock fully. So it
seems to start releasing the brake as soon as it gets close to that magic
sliding co-efficient of friction spot. The abs system releases the brakes
way past the best friction point, and then takes longer than my foot to
re-apply the brakes to just barely the sweet spot again before releasing too
I have played around with just about every vehicle I've ever driven with
abs. While I don't bust out the slide-rule to verify my results I conclude
that abs systems certainly do increase emergency stopping distance on every
surface I've driven on. (I live in Michigan so I get the full gamut.)
There have been several times while playing around that I began a mock
'emergency' stop on a snowy road. As the abs were pumping away and I was
slowing down every so slightly (but under great control) I bumped the key to
the start position momentarily which resets the abs system in the vehicle I
was driving. I was able to stop much more quickly without the abs system. It
was abrupt and I had to actually oscillate my foot pressure on the brake
pedal to maintain control.
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