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Chicago Auto Show: Buick Rolls AWD Across Its Line

Before the Chicago Auto Show arrived, Buick invited journalists to push the winter driving abiities of the automaker's All-Wheel Drive.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

To warm journalists up for 2015 Chicago Auto Show, Buick took them out into the snow.

Buick is on hand in Chicago continuing the company’s big push to inform buyers on the brand’s redesigned aesthetics and top “bang for the buck” technology. It’s a dual push to put Buick back on the map while attracting a younger buyer demographic.

In that “bang for the buck” department, Buick’s designers look to make Buicks drive as well as any vehicles in their sales class. A pre-Chicago, winter test driving event at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park tracks looked to prove the capabilities of Buick’s All-Wheel Drive systems.

Related: Chicago Auto Show: 2016 Honda Pilot

Now, for the benefit of loyal non-gearheads, it falls to me do explain the difference between the difference between AWD and four-wheel drive quickly and simply. Without going into the stuffy tech talk of electronic differentials and torque vectoring, four-wheel drive improves on front wheel drive by taking the power to all four wheels, improving grip and providing a more stable ride over snow, ice, off-road terrain, etc.

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All-Wheel Drive is a more modern and advanced system that usually uses some amount of artificial intelligence to control the amount drive going to the wheels individually. The most advanced AWL systems available (including the system Buick was showing off in icy New England before the Chicago Auto Show) used a computer in difficult driving conditions to sense which wheel has the best grip. 

Once the system reads which wheel(s) have the most stable contact patch, AWL sends torque that way — balancing the power between gripping and slipping wheels to keep the car moving forward. AWL keeps the process going, calculating in microseconds and continually adjusting power distribution.

During my Buick testing (…That’s me kicking up snow above there…), I tried out the AWL on snow covered Lime Rock tracks in both a Buick sports sedan and an Encore crossover SUV. The systems worked well enough in both vehicles as I was able to progress at speed around both tracks. I never lost control. I never found myself stuck in the snow.

Now, the AWD can only do so much. You must have some winter driving skills. A few of the NYC-based auto journalists who rarely drive in the Big Apple or the LAX natives who never see snow found themselves stuck in four foot drifts within 50 yards of starting their run. Some sensitive steering and throttle control is needed to give the AWD a chance to work. But, with those human ingredients mixed in, Buick’s AWD technology make its equipped vehicles excellent options for anyone living in a cold winter state.