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Old 13th December 2019, 06:05   #1
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Default How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Off late, we have seen a number of 2WD cars being launched with Terrain modes such as wet, sand, rough, mud etc.

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Wondering, from a 2WD perspective how do these terrain response system work and are they really effective?

Have you used them, do you notice perceptible difference and found them useful? or are they merely just another gimmick?
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Old 13th December 2019, 07:34   #2
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

They basically make the use of clever electronics. Benefits are just three:

1. Marketing & image.

2. Getting out of a tricky situation. E.g. if you're stuck in slush.

3. "Wet" road mode can make monsoon driving a bit safer.

No one should try anything even remotely close to offroading with these; they will end up getting a nasty surprise.

1% of owners will use them 1% of the time. I see them as gimmicks.

Last edited by GTO : 13th December 2019 at 07:35.
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Old 13th December 2019, 08:38   #3
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

If there is a lockable differential upfront then yes it can be quite useful, however I think for now these things are limited to how much the traction control let's the wheels spin free or not and the transfer power to the other side by braking the free spinning side, how sensitive the throttle should be and perhaps ABS will allow a wheels to lock up a bit.

It's doing something, it's usefulness in real life situation will be experienced by very few , that dial will be forgotten soon as well.

Here is an article testing the Harrier.
https://www.cartoq.com/tata-harrier-terrain-modes/


Last edited by SmartCat : 13th December 2019 at 10:43. Reason: Fixed link, inserted Youtube video
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Old 13th December 2019, 09:39   #4
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Each terrain requires a different set of inputs from the driver. All these electronics do help the newbies or city only drivers to navigate slightly better in unknown terrain. But, once these are seen as tools to drive on those terrains, you get into trouble.

Bottomline: They do work. But, don't ever think that since you have the sand, mud mode in your car, means you can do mud plugging!
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:14   #5
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Pure marketing gimmick. I'd rather car makers give any of the following "real" safety features in the car instead of these buttons -
  1. Better intensity & focus in headlamps
  2. More airbags
  3. 3 point ELR seat belts for ALL seats
  4. Lane alert system
  5. Auto dimming IRVM
  6. TPMS
  7. Properly working auto door locks

Even a single item from this list has more value than the terrain modes in a 2WD car that is not meant to leave the tarmac.

Last edited by Chetan_Rao : 13th December 2019 at 17:53. Reason: Fixed typo.
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:09   #6
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhanushs View Post

Bottomline: They do work. But, don't ever think that since you have the sand, mud mode in your car, means you can do mud plugging!
True!

With the engine hanging over the front axle, along with all vital stuff like intercooler , radiator etc, the doors that are used to keep running board clean to protect your clothes from getting soiled, low profile tires, small turbocharged petrol engines, plastic skid plates on the bumpers etc.. take care dear SUVs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reinhard View Post
Pure marketing gimmick. I'd rather car makers give any of the following "real" safety features in the car instead of these buttons -
  1. Better intensity & focus in headlamps
  2. More airbags
  3. 3 point ELR seat belts for ALL seats
  4. Lane alert system
  5. Auto dimming IRVM
  6. TMPS
  7. Properly working auto door locks

Even a single item from this list has more value than the terrain modes in a 2WD car that is not meant to leave the tarmac.
Headlamps? They realized that Indians were converting fog lamps into headlamps and leaving headlamps off, so new SUVs are fitted with headlamps where fog lamps were used to be earlier, customer centricity - you see where this is going.

They are following the trend, drive modes are a must now for that SUV feeling

@ Smartcat - Thanks for fixing the link!
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Old 13th December 2019, 15:30   #7
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Well, i wont say it's completely a gimmick.
Those who know it's limitation and know how to use it, they can extract it.

These work by brake traction control. If one wheel spins, the electronics sense it and sends the power to the adjacent wheel, by applying brake to the wheel which is spinning.

Few manufacturers are milking this feature by giving names like terrain mode and all. If i am not wrong, traction control is present in Freestyle Titanium + too. When brakes are applied to the wheel which is freely spinning, power will automatically get transferred to the other wheel, as it will have lesser friction. So a car having BTC/TC will work similarly without having these terrain mode buttons.

Am attaching a video below, this shows the limitation of this feature while going offroad, plus it shows the capability of this feature over the car which lacks it.


Last edited by Samba : 13th December 2019 at 15:59.
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Old 13th December 2019, 17:07   #8
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

I don't think this is pure gimmick. I believe an FWD vehicle with terrain mode will be better in snow and slush compared to an FWD vehicle without it, provided they have the same tyres. But what I would love to see is this technology being provided in RWD vehicles like Innova and Sumo as I have seen these struggle a lot in snow and slush in the hills. It is very difficult to control a Rear Wheel Drive vehicle in low traction conditions.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 13th December 2019 at 21:20.
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Old 13th December 2019, 20:35   #9
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Came across some very interesting details regarding traction control system on Hyundai page:

Hyundai-Kia-Automotive-Group-2WD-Traction-Mode

Quote:
What if you take the small SUV out over suburban terrain, or even camping. You might encounter off-road conditions or heavy snow. SUV owners will not think twice about engaging all four wheels to get that juicy traction out of the mud or gravel pit, or slushy snow. For small SUV owners that only have FWD at their disposal, this is not a welcome scenario.
Yes, we have faced such situation a number of time, especially thanks to Indian road conditions. And indeed, such feature is a welcome scenario in a 2WD

Quote:
The systems if far lighter than 4WD systems, weighing only about 80kgs (component weight in Seltos) and highly affordable.
80 Kgs? That's interesting. Wondering what's the weight differential in Harrier?
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Old 13th December 2019, 21:18   #10
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gutsy View Post
Came across some very interesting details regarding traction control system on Hyundai page:
Nice article, thanks for sharing. However I did not understand the following part of the statement (marked in bold)

Quote:
The key idea is to maximize traction and contact surface to minimize slippage under off-road conditions, using the Traction Control System(TCS).
How can it increase contact surface? Contact surface is the footprint of the tyre, as far as I understand.
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Old 13th December 2019, 21:39   #11
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
How can it increase contact surface? Contact surface is the footprint of the tyre, as far as I understand.
I think there is a typo in the article. Maybe they used "and" instead of "along"?

Because AFAIK the tyre contact surface can only be increased by reducing the air pressure in the tyres, like what you do before you go dune bashing in your SUV. Or is there any other way to do so?
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Old 16th December 2019, 13:46   #12
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
Nice article, thanks for sharing. However I did not understand the following part of the statement (marked in bold)



How can it increase contact surface? Contact surface is the footprint of the tyre, as far as I understand.
They probably clubbed an advisory within the "explanation of features" : maybe they meant deflating the tyre (to 10/12 psi perhaps?)first, to increase the contact surface area, and then use the terrain control for the desired outcome!

Last edited by lapis_lazuli : 16th December 2019 at 13:47.
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Old 16th December 2019, 22:56   #13
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

I've used one of these modes in a 2WD Chrysler Pacifica to get out of snow. Not too useful for India. Your owners manual will instruct you not to venture off-road.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
1% of owners will use them 1% of the time. I see them as gimmicks.
In India, very few will. In the Midwestern US, it is commonly used. Although I doubt the effectiveness.
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Old 16th December 2019, 23:11   #14
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

Terrain modes for 2WD cars? It’s just a gimmick.
Main reason is to attract the customers, so that they can boast about it with their friends.
“Hey see this, it has wet mode, sand mode blah blah”
4WD cars need it the most. In a 4WD car, when you accelerate all 4 wheels start moving together. Suppose during off-road, one wheel is in the air, (be it front wheel) the rear wheels help to move the car forward. A low range mode gearbox for 4WD cars, helps to crawl the vehicle on tricky terrain without any wheel spins.
In 2WD cars, the front wheels move first and the rear wheels follow. I believe in such cars, when you shift it into any mode, it just lights up. Nothing else.
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Old 17th December 2019, 16:36   #15
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Default Re: How useful are the Terrain Modes of 2WD cars?

The terrain management response system in the Land Rover is a very clever piece of electronic jugglery. What it essentially does is detect which wheel has lost traction, which wheel has enough traction and then distribute just enough torque to the non slipping wheel in order to move but not slip/spin. Tata Harrier has used an adapted system on it's front two wheels. This system is very effective even in a front wheel drive car, simply due to the clever and fast electronics which decide and split torque on an almost real-time basis. The different modes like wet/sand/rock etc can be considered like logical gates to tell the ECU a bit about the surface below to help it calibrate power better.

When I test drove the discovery sport, I had a very simple test. I stopped the car in a slush pit about 30 feet in length on a rural country road. The pit was made due to slight water logging and constant movement of tractors and was so slippery that one couldn't stand up and walk. The car was in standard road going mode (dynamic) and was at a full stop. Did nothing but press the accelerator and the vehicle did a small butt shake, wheel spin and easily moved out of the area. All this on two wheel drive alone and no engagement of 4*4. The Harrier will also do the same, however any car without drive modes may simply keep spinning it's wheels even in 4*4 unless 4*4 low is engaged, that too with only crawling. The terrain mode is more than enough for everyday driving, yes in serious offroading we need 4*4.

Last edited by Aditya : 17th December 2019 at 18:08. Reason: Typos
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