Mazda has made some pretty big claims about their i-Active AWD system. They claim that their all-wheel-drive system is better than both Honda’s and Subaru’s. Pretty ballsy, right?
To prove his claim, Mazda got a test facility ready, complete with snow from a recent Colorado blizzard. Dave Coleman is a development engineer for Mazda USA and he has this to say about the system.
“The goal for Mazda i-Active AWD system is to preserve the precise, intuitive feeling you expect from Mazda, even on low grip surfaces.”
He goes on to claim that the system should function “seamlessly, with no input from the driver.” Furthermore, the driver should not experience any impact on fuel economy. Really? More wheels driven, more friction in the system and surely worse economy. After all, you cannot change the laws of physics, Jim.
Coleman says that the system is more predictive rather than reactive. He says that the goal of the system is to eliminate some of the traditional disadvantages of an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. The system tries to predict and anticipate slippage and activate the system before it happens.
The carmaker is going head-to-head with its CX-5 against a Subaru Forrester and a Honda CR-V – all three of them sitting in the same weight class. Mazda is quite confident that their all-wheel-drive system will significantly outperform both Honda and Subaru.
Although it is a specially prepared test facility, it is being run on genuine snow – something that can’t be rigged. The real deal, just as nature serves it up every year.
Mazda’s i-Active system works with hundreds of pieces of information coming in from hundreds of sensors mounted all over the vehicle. This is what helps the system be more predictive instead of reactive. The vehicle’s electronic system is an information powerhouse that the vehicle relies on to activate the all-wheel-drive system.
“Think about it: your vehicle reads the outside temperature, and knows that your windscreen wipers are on and how fast they are traveling, it can read incline, steering effort versus angle, individual wheel speed, accelerator pedal position, brake fluid pressure and steering angle.”
Well, it’s doing more than just reading information. It’s processing the information at lightning speed. For instance, if the outside temperature is reading -10°, the vehicle automatically expects that there will be ice on the road that creates a slippery surface.
The Mazda system has an active torque coupling that is electronically activated, it permitting it to respond instantly at any speed.
Mazda set this up because both Mazda and Subaru both agree that the reason buyers pay extra for the all-wheel-drive feature is for safety and security. But Mazda is out to prove that buyers don’t have to choose between and all-wheel-drive and fuel economy or price. Everything is minimized – from the weight of the vehicle to friction losses. Mazda confidently says that they have the lightest AWD system on the market.
So, light weight and instant on-demand grip. That’s really what these Boulevard SUVs really need — not a rugged full-time system fit for crossing the Sahara. So perhaps Mazda really has hit the sweet spot here.