“A vehicle that can take on rough roads and go to places that cars couldn’t go in the past.” With this philosophy our first four-wheel drive model was developed in 1970. This was the start of ALLGRIP, Suzuki’s renowned four-wheel drive technology.
Suzuki’s 4x4 technology has been refined and passed down for over half a century both in Japan and around the world and 4x4 has become synonymous with the Suzuki brand. Carrying on the tradition of close cooperation among teams responsible for various elements including the four-wheel drive system, engine, automatic transmission, brakes and electric power steering (EPS), the ALLGRIP SELECT achieves a remarkably high level of well-balanced, coordinated vehicle dynamic performance.
Following is an interview about ALLGRIP SELECT with Tomoyoshi Osakabe in charge of synergetic vehicle dynamics control and Tetsuo Yamase in charge of four-wheel drive control.
How did the 4-mode electronically controlled 4x4 project start?
(Osakabe) The idea arose when we were discussing with the product planning team the concept of the SX4 S-CROSS at the early stage of model development.
(Yamase) After discussing consumer needs with the product planning team and engineers in charge of ALLGRIP development, we decided to adopt the drive-mode switching function for two reasons. First, drivers would be pleased to be able to choose which drive-mode to use depending on such things as weather, road surface, or driving conditions. Second, offering such a switchable mode would optimise rough road driving performance and driving stability by selecting the appropriate mode.
What is the meaning of 4x4 for you?
(Osakabe) 4x4 improves reliability even when driving conditions are harsh such as on snowy or rough roads.
(Yamase) For Suzuki, it is also a system that can provide every driver with better gripping power.and delivers three values: fun to drive, peace of mind, and fuel efficiency, - or Fun, Safety, and Economy.
What role does ALLGRIP SELECT play in 4x4?
(Osakabe) Whether the roads are dry and paved, snowy and slippery, or just rough and uneven, ALLGRIP SELECT lets the driver select the appropriate mode depending on their mood or driving conditions so as to maximise fuel efficiency, enjoy sports driving and so on.
(Yamase) By being able to select four different modes, the driver can adjust control of the vehicle to fit a wide variety of driving situations. As a result, the ALLGRIP SELECT offers true driving fun even when traveling on bad roads, while providing great fuel efficiency for daily use.
How did you feel when you first found out you were being assigned to work on the ALLGRIP SELECT?
(Yamase) 4x4 with selectable modes was new to Suzuki, so I felt it was very rewarding. I could already see happy customers’ faces with the value we would be able to provide. I thought we could create such value through a flexible system that maxmises 4x4 performance in various driving situations by coordinating our four-wheel-drive system with other different technologies.
(Osakabe) I also thought it was a valuable opportunity and I was eager to cooperate with other team members to make a vehicle whose performance would satisfy our customers.
Please tell us your most pleasant memory of those days.
(Yamase) It is when we had a barbecue and everyone was smiling as we talked about achieving a very satisfactory outcome. We thought deeply about the concept of each mode, took many test drives, and exchanged various opinions.
(Osakabe) I have very pleasant memories of our time at the Shimokawa test course in Hokkaido where driving tests in snow can be done. Suzuki colleagues from the head office came to stay and participate in the testing and we had lots of discussions and deepened our friendships in the evenings after working together all day. It was a good chance for me to appreciate their role as team members from a new perspective.
Would you please let me know what you thought had been most difficult?
(Yamase) I’d like to say that we didn’t have any hard time with this rewarding project, but actually there were some issues we had to resolve. To ensure reliability of the ALLGRIP SELECT during model development, we worked to raise the level in both tangible and intangible aspects in order to optimises the system. To do this we made a concentrated effort to conduct repeated evaluation tests. Also, it was a challenge to update the four-wheel drive control to reduce the noise. We had to work closely with other departments and suppliers in order to do this. And finally, because it is a system that requires coordinating control of ESP, engine, steering, and other functions, we worked with various departments. Coordination with other teams was not always easy. Yet, we worked very hard to overcome these challenges.
(Osakabe) There were times when team members had different ideas on how best to go forward so we needed to develop a joint test to see what path would lead to the best result.
Why does the ALLGRIP SELECT have 4 modes, AUTO, SPORT, SNOW and LOCK?
(Osakabe) We thought about what situations customers face in their daily use and selected modes according to their needs.
(Yanase) We chose the 4 modes to improve fun, safety, and economy. We decided to make AUTO so that you can drive safely while maintaining good fuel economy under various road conditions. SPORT is to help you enjoy driving on winding roads and SNOW allows you to drive with confidence when the roads are snowy or slippery. Lastly, LOCK makes it easier to drive out of deep mud or snow.
How many parts are involved in 4x4 control?
(Yamase) There are six primary units: transfer, propeller shaft, coupling, differential, drive shaft, and the controller. As for the total number of parts, there are more than 100. More than 20 types of signals are input into the 4WD controller, which allows an accurate grasp of the driving situation and the vehicle condition so that optimal torque distribution can be realized.
What kinds of places did you use to perform the driving tests for each mode?
(Yamase) For AUTO, SPORT, and SNOW, we simulated conditions on a high-speed driving circuit on pavement or in the snow, or on uphill roads for testing starting on slopes. We also used winding mountain roads, and all kinds of rough and bad roads. All simulation and stress test driving were done to evaluate performance and make adjustments so that the control adaptation could operate according to the concept of each mode. We also verified this on European public roads. For the LOCK function we did escape tests in deep snow and mud or in off-road environments so that we could optimise performance in handling bad roads.
(Osakabe) The Shimokawa test course allows us to evaluate performance on mountain roads and on snowy roads in winter. On the Sagara test course, we collected and measured data that allowed us to determine if the driving performance targets of the SELECT were met under actual riding conditions.
What thoughts would you like to convey to users?
(Yamase) I would like to tell them that we are confident to recommend that the ALLGRIP SELECT can help you drive more safely in various weather and on various roads without special techniques or operation. I want everyone to have peace of mind and enjoy their driving.
(Osakabe) I hope they will appreciate the level of performance we targeted and successfully built into ALLGRIP SELECT in whatever driving mode they select.