For several decades, four-wheel drive systems have provided more grip for drivers tackling slippery conditions by sending power to all four wheels – but at the cost of higher fuel consumption.

Then came all-wheel drive (AWD) technology – able to detect which wheels had the best traction and send more power to those wheels for extra grip with a reduced fuel penalty.

Now Ford has gone one step further – introducing AWD disconnect technology for Kuga SUV models including the new Kuga Hybrid. The technology uses artificial intelligence to switch off Kuga’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system in favourable driving conditions for even greater fuel efficiency and can reconnect faster than the blink of an eye when it decides drivers could again benefit from extra grip.

While drivers can face slippery conditions year-round, Intelligent All-Wheel Drive offers a particular benefit during winter months when rain, snow and ice regularly make road surfaces more challenging. A road surface made slippery by weather or a deposit such as oil or mud accounted for 8 per cent of road accidents in the UK in 2019.

As drivers across Europe prepare for seasonal getaways and road-trips where allowed, AWD disconnect could help them keep a more secure footing on the road while delivering a fuel saving of approximately 6.5 per cent according to Ford data, by switching to front-wheel drive when appropriate.

“Fuzzy logic”

Kuga Hybrid’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive  system continually monitors which wheels have the best traction on the road surface using information from sensors around the vehicle.

Power from the petrol-electric full hybrid powertrain is seamlessly distributed between the front and rear wheels for smooth progress and responsive cornering, with adjustments taking less than 20 milliseconds. In situations where the front wheels have no traction, the system can even send 100 per cent of power to the rear wheels.

The sophisticated AWD disconnect feature uses a dedicated electronic brain and “fuzzy logic” algorithm to determine whether power to the rear wheels can be disconnected completely in the existing circumstances, for example; when motorway cruising in warm and dry conditions. This temporarily makes Kuga Hybrid front-wheel drive for even better fuel efficiency.

Crucially, AWD disconnect is always ready to reconnect power to the rear wheel if it detects that Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is – or soon could be – needed. AWD disconnect monitors information from systems including traction control and anti-lock brakes to determine wheel spin and slip; windscreen wiper activation and outside temperature to determine weather conditions; and can even detect if the Kuga Hybrid is towing a trailer, to help it reach a decision in just 10 milliseconds.