What is 4MOTION?

Last modified on November 12th, 2020 by Martin Sanders

Images thanks to bulli_hejmo and custom-kombi.

If you like to take an off-beat route, or just looking for the ultimate driving experience, you will be looking at Volkswagen’s 4MOTION system.

What is 4MOTION? 4Motion is an all-wheel-drive technology which uses the Haldex multi-plate clutch system to deliver torque drive to all wheels with a front-wheel-drive bias. The 4MOTION system first appeared in the entertaining Volkswagen 2003 mk4 Golf R32 and replaced the permanent all-wheel-drive Syncro system.

4MOTION replaced the previously successful “Syncro” system, replacing a permanent all-wheel-drive system with 4MOTION technology which drives the front-wheels first and then diverts power to the rear wheels on the loss of traction.

What are the benefits of 4MOTION?

The Volkswagen 4MOTION system combines fuel efficiency with all-wheel-drive technology to create a drive system which allows enthusiastic drivers to gain more traction on the road while providing those looking for go-anywhere ability with an all-terrain drive system.

The key benefits of 4MOTION are the low operating costs when compared to the replaced permanent drive Syncro system while ensuring sure-footed traction for slippery surfaces. 

How Much Does 4MOTION Cost?

Should you wish to purchase, a new Volkswagen selecting the 4MOTION specification typically adds a premium to your purchase. However, you will be able to see a premium return when selling your 4MOTION VW. 

Such models as the sporty Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit R will have 4MOTION included as part of their core specification. Vehicles such as the VW Transporter offer 4MOTION options within their lineup.

4MOTION has been available since 2003, as such there have been several generations with running and servicing costs dependent on the version purchased. The Haldex 4MOTION system is known for its reliability and failures of the system are typically due to inadequate servicing.

Can I use 4MOTION On-road?

The 4MOTION system is at home on the road and off-road. Fitted to such exciting sports cars as the VW Golf/Rabbit R and the go-anywhere all-terrain Volkswagen Amarok shows that the 4MOTION system has a configuration for all uses.

Should you be looking for an all-terrain vehicle suitable for muddy roads, Volkswagen delivers Torsen and Mechanical 4MOTION in a range of models; Transporter, Crafter, Amarok, T-Roc and Tiguan all being popular in Europe. These vehicles provide increased ground clearance perfect for taking off-road.

Vehicles such as Volkswagen’s Passat and Golf/Rabbit offer Electrical 4MOTION configurations suitable to enjoy on-road.

How does 4MOTION work?

The 4MOTION system uses a centre differential that drives the front and rear axles. Volkswagen offers Electrical, Torsion and Manual differentials. 

The Electrical drive is a performance focus differential system which helps acceleration and hard cornering traction on slippery roads using ESP and ABS to distribute nearly 100% power to the front and rear wheels. In everyday use, this system drives the front wheels.

Torsion drive system used in the VW Touareg, Crafter and Transporter, distributing power up to 70% of power to the front and rear wheels. The torsion system can also be fitted with Hill Start and Hill Descent Control providing a robust configuration.

The manual differential system features a low-range gearbox best suitable for dedicated off-roading found in the Volkswagen Amarok truck.

How is 4MOTION different to Syncro?

Volkswagen’s 4MOTION technology is a reinvention of the 4WD system; it uses technology to identify which wheel needs the correct amount of drive dependent on the pivot, engine speed, braking and a million other factors. Volkswagen has developed the technology to be fuel efficient while delivering impression traction for all conditions.

The VW Syncro system is a robust technology which does away with much of the new technologies, tracing its heritage to designs initially created for WW2 military use. The Syncro is known for being reliable, robust and relatively simple to service. 

The Syncro system is a permanent all-wheel-drive system; this means that drive is engaged at all times, which while great for when going over muddy terrain is less suited for typical road use. The VW 4MOTION system is better suitable for mixed road use as it delivers drive to the front-wheel at most times and only engages all-wheel-drive when needed, so improving performance and fuel economy.    

Volkswagen’s Syncro system is fitted to older Volkswagen models such as the mighty VW T3 Syncro, T4 Syncro, Golf Syncro and sport Golf Rallye. Syncro vehicles are highly desirable due to their robust old-school engineering and off-road capabilities.

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Martin Sanders

A big fan of all things VW, establishing the Veedubs brand and website, sharing his interests in regular blog posts. Martin Sanders also works as a graphic designer, his work can be seen here.

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