5 Reasons you should opt for a 4x4 variant, and 2 reasons you don’t need it

Our off-road editor weighs in
by Beeboy Bargas | Feb 27, 2020
PHOTO: Elaine Lara

Licensed gun owners have a saying, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

To me, that applies to any new-vehicle buyer who needs to traverse even a steel multi-level car park. There was an incident on the news lately: A vehicle fell off such a structure simply because it did not have the traction afforded by four-wheel drive. So, the driver instinctively stepped harder on the throttle to move forward, and doing so resulted in the accident. The vehicle’s brand had nothing to do with it; if the driver were more skilled, the incident would not have happened.

Technology could have made up for the driver’s lack of skill, too, and the kind I’m talking about has been around for nearly a hundred years: Four-wheel drive.

Not convinced? Then read on and let’s discuss if the usual P100,000 price difference between a model’s 4x2 and 4x4 variants is worth it. This also applies to car-based crossovers that typically have all-wheel drivetrains and aren’t real 4x4s, because even an AWD vehicle would have enough traction to prevent the aforementioned car-park incident from happening.

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Here are the reasons it’s worth opting for a 4x4 variant:

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1) They offer better traction on wet surfaces.

Right after a sudden torrential downpour is when roads get really slippery. All- or four-wheel drive ensures better traction, especially when you’re taking a curve in wet conditions.

2) You get better traction on loose surfaces, too.

Have you experienced firsthand the hazards of running over rice being dried on the highway, or suddenly encountering a sandy stretch of road? An inexperienced driver will immediately let off the gas and slam on the brakes. Doing so causes the vehicle to lose traction, which can very well lead to a spectacular crash.

3) They can prevent accidents during bad weather.

So, you’ve parked your car on a grassy field or unpaved lot, then it rains. Your 4x2 may not be able to drive off safely from its parking slot, and could start drifting left and right, slamming into the other cars parked beside it. You’d have to spend either way: for a towing service to get you out, or for the repairs of the vehicles you’ve damaged.

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4) They have better resale value.

Browse ads for used vehicles, and look at the price differences between used 4x2s and 4x4s of the same make and model. You’ll realize that you’re actually going to get more money in the long run selling a secondhand 4x4.

5) You can traverse bad terrain.

During my ventures on mountain highways in Luzon (Halsema, Cordillera, Sierra Madre, and even the highway from Ilocos Norte to Pagudpod), there have been sudden landslides on occasion. If not for my 4WD vehicle, I would have had to wait for the roads to be cleared—a process that can take nearly 24 hours. Imagine what I would have had to spend otherwise on overnight accommodations and meals, not to mention the time lost due to the delay.

On the other side of the argument, we have the 4x2s. Let’s take a look at the advantages they have over 4x4s:

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1) 4x2s are more fuel-efficient.

In reality, the fuel savings afforded by a 4x2 will not be significant within a five- to eight-year ownership period. Only ownership of over 10 years will the benefits be felt. You just need to weigh the above-mentioned pros of owning a 4x4 against the potential fuel savings.

2) A 4x2 can offer better value.

If your skill level as a driver affords you complete control of the driving conditions that your potential 4x2 will encounter, then I’ll be the first to say you don’t need a 4x4. Got a lot of people and cargo to carry? Then you’ll be better served by a van or an MPV—and such a vehicle will be better for the environment, too.

When people ask me the ‘4x4 or 4x2’ question and immediately insist they don’t need a 4x4, I don’t even bother to argue anymore—they have usually made a decision already, and the only way to change their minds is to get them stranded in a situation that only a 4x4 can save them from. I only make arguments when I deal with companies—usually cell-site operators—whose bean counters insist on getting 4x2s due to the lower acquisition cost. Some will allow the purchase, but then they won’t equip the 4x4 vehicles with proper safety equipment or the drivers with off-road training.

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In closing, 10 years ago, nine out of 10 buyers in the private sector went for 4x2s; only one out of 10 opted for a 4x4. In this day and age, changes in lifestyle have resulted in a growth of three 4x4 purchases out of 10. I’ll hold on to my opinion as to why this change is happening. But compare our case with that of the Australian market, where 96% of these class of vehicles purchases are equipped with four-wheel drivetrains.

Just my take: They obviously know something most of our buyers don’t, and it’s not about penny pinching.

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PHOTO: Elaine Lara
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