Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive System Explained

A question we often get at our dealership is, “What is Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive?” You’re probably here because you want to know the answer too, and we’re going to answer it on this page. You’ll find 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive on select Mercedes-Benz vehicles. How does it work? What are the benefits? Is it worth opting for? These are all great questions. At a glance, 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive enhances traction and makes for buttery smooth handling. There’s much more to it than that, though, so let’s dive into the world of 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive.

Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive System Explanation

To start, we need to understand the difference between 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) and All-Wheel Drive (AWD). So, is 4MATIC® AWD? Technically speaking, yes. That being said, a 4WD system and AWD system are very similar on paper — the real difference is that an AWD system usually uses three differentials. Sending power to the front and rear wheels are two of them, and the third is located in the center of the car to split power. 4WD commonly uses a transfer case rather than a center differential; the end result isn’t all that different though. To make it simple, AWD commonly means all wheels are powered all the time, while 4WD typically will use a 2WD layout when not needed.

Okay, so what is Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive precisely then? You can think of it as a unique alternative that blends advanced technology into the mix. We’ll get into the tech involved, but first, here are the options you have for 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive system variants:

4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive

That 4WD definition applies here in theory. While unique, 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive functions by only powering the front axles in situations like highway driving for optimal fuel efficiency. When rough conditions appear or off-the-line grip is desired, a 50/50 split of power between the front and rear wheels will activate. In essence, 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive is for those who don’t want to sacrifice fuel efficiency but still want the capabilities of AWD every so often. You can find this version on vehicles like the C-Class.

4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive

Truer to the AWD definition, 4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive is just what it sounds like — constantly powering all four axles. This split will either be 45/55 or 50/50 front/rear bias. That means you get an advantage in traction capabilities, handling, safety, and ride comfort constantly. You’ll find this version on more rugged vehicles like the GLC SUV.

AMG® Performance 4MATIC® Permanent and Variable All-Wheel Drive

Take either of the two options above and transform them with a performance kick. That’s the spirit of AMG® Performance 4MATIC®, and you’ll find changes like a multi-disc clutch in the rear differential. Thanks to the enhanced all-wheel grip, monsters like AMG® GLA vehicles can annihilate the competition off the line and blast through racetrack corners with enhanced ease.

Where Tech Comes Into Play

The next best answer to “What is 4MATIC®?” would be the tech that sets it apart. Here’s what ties this system together:

4-Wheel Electronic Traction System (4-ETS)

If you’re wondering how wheel grip is measured, 4-ETS is the answer. Each wheel on a 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive equipped vehicle gets an individual set of sensors. When 4-ETS detects a loss of traction, power will be decreased or increased to each wheel to correct the situation. But that’s not all, as the brakes also work to correct it by slowing it down with rapid pulsing.

What’s more, with 4-ETS cornering comes sharp and precise. That’s because your outside wheels turn faster during turns, and just like with a loss of traction, 4-ETS will optimize power delivery to get you through with ease. Overall, in any situation where the torque needs to be dynamically split up, 4-ETS will calculate how to do so.

The best part? This is no hastily added feature. Every Mercedes-Benz with 4MATIC® capabilities sees the system fully integrated from the drawing board to work seamlessly with every system, along with safety and tech features.

When and How To Turn On 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive

So now you know the core of “What is Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® All-Wheel Drive?” The next step is knowing how to make full use of it. As we’ve mentioned, 4MATIC® comes in variable and permanent forms. It will always be working for the permanent type, so there’s no need or way to turn it on and off. The variable type, on the other hand, automatically will switch between pure front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive according to the conditions it senses.

When it comes to getting the most out of 4MATIC®, enjoying the precise handling it offers is half the story. The rest is that when adverse weather hits, you won’t have to worry as much about losing grip while accelerating. Rough terrains and steep hills are just one more area that 4MATIC® makes a difference in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® all-wheel drive?

Yes, though not your typical all-wheel-drive system. In addition, two variants exist depending on the model: 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive and 4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive. Variable will only send power to the front wheels for greater efficiency when enhanced capabilities are not needed, while permanent will constantly split between front and rear. What’s more, an advanced 4-Wheel Electronic Traction System, Mercedes-Benz measures the speed of each wheel to correct any loss of traction.

Is 4MATIC® the same as AWD?

Yes, 4MATIC® is an advanced all-wheel-drive system. Vehicles with 4MATIC® will have one of two variants: 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive or 4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive. Permanent works more like a typical AWD system and constantly splits power between the two. Variable meanwhile acts more like a typical 4WD system and will only power two wheels when efficiency can be prioritized, but switches to powering all wheels when the capabilities are needed.

Is Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC® good in snow?

Yes. Whether your Mercedes-Benz has 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive or 4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive equipped, you’ll be getting excellent snow driving capabilities. Thanks to an advanced 4-Wheel Electronic Traction System complementing the all-wheel-drive capabilities, any loss of traction will be detected, and power will be managed accordingly so that you can get through snowy roads with ease.


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