'Car makers developing four-wheel-drive technology should take inspiration from a dog'

Where will you find the most sophisticated four-wheel-drive system available? Look no further than man’s best friend, says Porter

Richard Porter Opinion

Almost five summers ago we acquired a small furry bundle purporting to be a puppy. Some time later, based on its full-grown size, appetite and aroma, I now suspect it to be the spawn of a polar bear. This is why our house is now home to a sizeable off-white oaf that ruins the flowerbeds, shouts at the postman and sneaks onto the sofa when she thinks no one’s around. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, while as a man I get lumbered with a drooling buffoon that, unlike my wife’s wedding ring, demands to be taken out for several miles of brisk walking every day, no matter what the weather.

It’s particularly tricky at this time of year because it’s cold and sometimes icy, which brings the ever-present prospect of taking a nasty fall in some unseen alley or parkland corner as you get caught unawares by a patch of ice or, since I live in London, a slick of frozen sick. I regularly picture myself being found several hours later, a podcast still playing in my ears while the panting moron we call a pet has got bored of trying to eat the treats from my inside pocket and has wandered off onto a dual carriageway with a spare turd bag wrapped around her face.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

> Best used all-wheel-drive performance cars

This is a particular fear of mine when I’m walking the massive moron on a lead, because she’s forever trying to zoom up perilous slopes or swerve violently across frosty verges and it’s all I can do not to follow, given that she’s the size and strength of a foul- smelling shire horse. In a desperate attempt to stop her yanking me down another gulley slick with permafrost I’ll yank on her lead, at which she’ll turn around and give me that ear-raised, waggly eyebrowed look that says, ‘What?’ To which I mutter, ‘We can’t go down there because I’ll fall over.’ There’s a pause while she cocks the other tufted, fox-poo-encrusted brow. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she seems to be saying. ‘Yeah, I know you’ll be fine,’ I hiss. ‘But it’s okay for you, you’re four-wheel drive.’ And this leads me to a very important question: exactly what is the torque split of a dog?

It’s quite easy to study this because she’s a filthy buffoon and as soon as she’s off the lead she’s drawn towards the biggest and slickest patch of mud within any five-mile radius. From observing her behaviour on a loose surface, it’s easy to assume that the dog simply splits her power evenly between both ends like an original Audi Quattro: 50:50 front-to-back, hammer down, spinning up all four in a way that makes rally Quattros looks cool and dogs appear to be in a cartoon. But the dog isn’t as simple as all that, much though there are many things about her that appear to be jammed in one mode. Her fuelling system, for example, is incapable of ignoring and not eating mouldy food from the gutter, despite the inevitably unpleasant side effects that sometimes end with another trip to the vet. And when that happens there will be ‘tests’, which take so long you’ve plenty of time to remortgage your house to pay for them. This also has a terrible effect on her emissions, which are awful enough to make a Volkswagen engineer blush. And then slightly gag.

The torque apportioning part of a dog, however, is clearly quite sophisticated. For one thing, in the middle of a mire she can briefly lose traction on one rear corner, then instantly prevent more power being wasted as she turns the move into a neat powerslide. Ergo, I believe my dog has a slippy diff. Better yet, when she really gets the hammer down on the soft stuff, she can sometimes turn on a sixpence in a way that suggests some pretty tricksy side-to-side shuffling of power to increase manoeuvrability. In other words, I’m pretty certain that the stinking mutt has torque vectoring. And the actual front-to- back split is pretty clever, too, because I’ve just remembered the time she fell in that pond and then extracted herself up a sodden mud bank using extreme power punted exclusively through the front end. And there’s plenty of four- wheel-drive cars that can’t do that.

> Audi Quattro vs Lancia Stratos: Driving the legends

In fact, if you’re a car maker and you’re looking to design and calibrate your next-generation all-wheel-drive technology, forget minutely analysing a Nissan GT-R – you should be dismantling a dog. But not mine. She’s noisy, she stinks, she mauls house guests in a slobbery maelstrom of over-affection, and she’s frequently prone to using her clever doggy diffs to pull me into a flower bed. Or a lake. Yet despite all this, I think she’s probably my very favourite four-wheel-drive thing in the whole world.

Most Popular

BMW M3 saloon

All-new BMW M3 Competition revealed – an icon reborn

This is the all-new BMW M3 Competition saloon which will join the M4 Competition coupe in BMW M’s new M3/4 family
23 Sep 2020
Hyundai i30 N

Updated Hyundai i30 N revealed with optional dual-clutch ‘box

It was the hot hatch that upset the status quo, and now the i30 N is back with more power and tech
24 Sep 2020
Peugeot 508

2020 Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered unveiled – BMW 3-series rival turned to 355bhp

Peugeot’s first Sport Engineering model has finally been uncovered, the hot 508 featuring a range-topping hybrid powertrain
24 Sep 2020
Tesla Model S

200mph Tesla Model S Plaid set for 2021 launch

The Tesla Model S saloon to receive another level of performance, jumping from Ludicrous to Plaid…
23 Sep 2020