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Mitsubishi's S-AWC All-Wheel Drive: Built to Reassure – Even on the Ice

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | Photo: D.Rufiange
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Daniel Rufiange
The S-AWC system offers increased efficiency with the PHEV version of the Outlander SUV.

Mirabel, QC - At the beginning of February, Mitsubishi invited us to a winter event where we had the opportunity to do some driving exercises with the Outlander PHEV SUV. The aim was to see (and, in many cases, remember) how its all-wheel drive operates in different conditions, in this case snow and ice. 

Interestingly, it wasn’t just Canadians driving the Outlander at this event. The automaker also invited journalists from elsewhere to try out the technology. Clearly, the experiences of some were quite different from ours, for obvious reasons. One California-based colleague admitted to nerves about putting the Outlander PHEV to the test on the ice. 

A useful reminder of how different realities can be from one market to another. 

Specifications sheet of 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT

Specifications sheet of 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV tested
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV tested | Photo: D.Rufiange

Anything new?
It's rare to attend a press event where nothing new is presented. Such was the case with these winter driving exercises at the ICAR circuit in Mirabel, but the reality is that Mitsubishi has a smaller product range and fewer opportunities to showcase them, as well as the technologies they feature. 

And in the case of the Outlander PHEV, there are some interesting things to get your teeth into with an all-wheel drive system that, rather than relying solely on mechanical links, calls on electrification to be more efficient. 

The 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, wheels
The 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, wheels | Photo: D.Rufiange

The regular S-AWC system
The letters S-AWC stand for Super-All Wheel Control, the name of Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive technology. This has been evolving for over 30 years, but it was taken to the next level with the Lancer in the early 2000s, then with the Evolution variant in 2007, before migrating to the Outlander in 2010.

Basically, the effectiveness of this system is based on three elements. First, power is distributed longitudinally from front to rear. The front slips, torque is sent to the rear for maximum grip and vice versa. Imagine a playground seesaw; the weight is more likely to be either forward or backward. 

The second important element relates to the lateral (left-right) transfer of power. So, if traction is zero at the front and one-sided at the rear, the remaining wheel, which is well planted on the ground, will benefit from an influx of power to provide the necessary traction. 

Finally, the third pole is based on four-wheel control under braking, aided by power distribution in all directions. 

The 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, tested on snow and ice
The 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, tested on snow and ice | Photo: D.Rufiange

Of course, we can think of a situation where we find ourselves parked and a stuck in the snow or on the ice. We can imagine the system working to extricate the vehicle from its predicament. But keep in mind that the system works in the same way and with the same efficiency when driving at 80 km/h on a road and some of the wheels lose grip. The S-AWC's speed of execution means that behind the wheel, you might not even notice a thing, and you stay on course. 

This is the main difference with so-called reactive systems, which take a little longer to act in emergency situations. 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV white
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV white | Photo: D.Rufiange

The on-ice tests
This is what we were able to test with the exercises on tap at ICAR. It wasn't anything extreme, but it showed us just how effective the S-AWC system is. Better still, with the driving modes it offers, you can adapt the reaction of all the vehicle's components to the situation encountered, to increase the feeling of safety you feel when you're on the road. 

Snow mode, for example, adjusts the throttle, stability control and all-wheel drive parameters to distribute power more evenly, avoiding loss of grip and maximizing control. 

It's when you deactivate the driving aids that you realize just how much thought has gone into keeping you in the saddle. 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, badging
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, badging | Photo: D.Rufiange

And the PHEV version?
The regular version of the Outlander offers six driving modes. With the PHEV variant, there are seven (Power is added to the Normal, Eco, Tarmac, Gravel, Snow and Mud settings). 

That's a detail. What's important is the system's greater efficiency. Know that it's based on the same three pillars: longitudinal and lateral power transfer, as well as braking. The difference lies in the longitudinal transfer, from front to rear. 

To illustrate this, think again of that seesaw. With the regular S-AWC system, most of the power is distributed forward or backward (a bit like a person on a swing). With the PHEV model, the electronically managed power transfer offers an even more optimal distribution to the front or rear. A bit like keeping a balance on the seesaw. 

A better distribution of power, therefore, but also a faster and more precise distribution between front and rear, resulting in an optimized level of control. 

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on the road
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on the road | Photo: D.Rufiange

The final word
In a nutshell, this is why Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive system is often described as one of the best in the industry. In use, as we've said, you can't tell. The main difference is that, in the event of an emergency, the system will react more quickly than that of many competitors, increasing the odds of staying on the road rather than ending up in a ditch. 

It’s a factor always worth considering when choosing a vehicle.

2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on the snow
2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on the snow | Photo: D.Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists