What does 4matic mean on a Mercedes Benz?

In this article, we find out what 4matic means on a Mercedes Benz? This article will also explain current 4matic systems in Mercedes Benz and answer the following questions: which models have 4matic? And which is better: rear-wheel drive or 4matic?

What does 4matic mean on a Mercedes Benz?

The 4matic logo at the back of Mercedes Benz cars means the vehicle is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system. The current 4 Matic system is also a full-time all-wheel-drive system, it is not possible to manually toggle between the rear wheel and all-wheel drive like some other SUV currently on sale in the market.

It is also important to note that the 4matic system is only present on vehicles with automatic transmissions. It can be used with differentials with electronic locks or as a standalone system with an electronic traction control system.

The Mercedes Benz cars with 4matic systems offer better traction and towing capacities as the driving force is provided to all wheels. Naturally, Mercedes Benz cars with (4MATIC) all-wheel-drive system can be driven on snow more easily compared to two-wheel drive cars. However, driving modes like snow, rain and sand are available in the cars as standard. 

Selecting driving mode snow will reduce engine power and smooth changes to driver inputs so the vehicle can remain stable in snow conditions.

How does the 4matic system work on the Mercedes Benz car?

The current 4matic system is in its fourth iteration, 100 per cent of the power can be sent to either the front or the rear axle. In the previous generation, the power was split 50:50 or 40:60 between the front and the rear wheels depending on the model series.  

The first generation of 4matic developed in 1987 was the only 4matic version with a switchable drive. Hydraulic actuators in the transfer case and clever suspension level system allowed power to be given to only the rear wheels or split it 50:50 between the front and rear axle. Following are the components involved in the 4matic drivetrain.

  • Automatic transmission

Automatic transmission with an integrated electro hydraulic controller unit is mated to a petrol or diesel engine. A torque converter is used to transmit drive from the engine to the input shaft of the gearbox. The torque converter has a lockup clutch to form a direct connection with the input shaft of the transmission. A lockup clutch is used only in special driving situations to eliminate the power loss in the torque converter as the power is transmitted through the transmission fluid. 4matic is available in the latest 9 G Tronic transmission as well as the dual-clutch transmission. The 9-speed transmission is also capable of shifting multiple gears quickly if the vehicle is in off-road mode. A short shift of the gears limits the wheel spins and effectively uses the available torque.

  • Differential

Differentials are located on both front as well as rear axles split the power between the left and the right wheels. It is connected to the propeller shaft on the input side and has a driveshaft on both sides that transmits the power to the wheels. The differential is made up of pinion gear that drives the main ring gear connected to both the output shafts through a set of intricate spider gears. 

4 Matic systems mainly use open differentials. It allows the outside wheels to rotate at higher speeds and cover more distance when the vehicle is turning.

The G wagon is the only model in the Mercedes Benz to feature differential locks actuated hydraulically. When the differential is locked it creates a rigid axle with the help of a multi-plate clutch. This is very effective when the vehicle is off-road and one wheel is elevated. 

  • Transfer case 

The transfer case is connected to the output side of the transmission. It has the most crucial task of dividing the output of the transmission between the front and the rear axle. The transfer case has one propeller shaft connected to the rear differential and another propeller shaft on the front side connected to the front differential. Mercedes Benz mostly uses chain-driven transfer cases as it makes less noise during operation. The oil circuit can be the same as the transmission or it can be independent. 

Apart from distributing the power between the front and rear axle transfer case also synchronises the wheel rotation and the wheel speed can vary between the axles. It has multiple clutch packs like locking differential, the clutch pack is actuated by an electronic actuator located on the transfer case. This is done to lock the transfer case and rotate all four wheels at the same speeds. Turning the vehicle with the differential or transfer case lock engaged should be avoided.

  • Power take-off units

Power take-off units are like transfer cases but are mostly present on the new generation cars like A, B CLA and GLA class with the dual-clutch transmission. It is a combination of directly driven gears from the output gear in the DCT, Propeller shaft and small differential on the rear axle.

  • Electronic traction control

The electronic traction control system is an integrated function of the electronic stability program control unit. It monitors wheel speeds and Electronic traction control applies brakes to individual wheels which are spinning and sends power to the other wheel with grip. ESP also checks the steering angle and can divert 100 per cent of the power to the front or rear wheels.

Which models have 4matic drivetrain systems?

Usually, 4matic drivetrain systems are popular on the SUV models but because of better traction and compact packaging 4 Matic is also used in two-door sports coupes and sedans. Following are the models with a 4matic system.

  • Mercedes-Benz A-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG® GT 4-Door
  • Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Sedan
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, Sedan, and Cabriolet
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe, Sedan, Wagon, and Cabriolet
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV
  • Mercedes-Benz GLS SUV
  • Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV and Coupe
  • Mercedes-Benz G-Class

The 4matic plus drivetrain on the E63 amg is the only exception, it has detachable drive shafts on the front axle and can be driven as a rear-wheel-drive car when the drift mode is engaged through the dynamic select.

Which is better: rear-wheel drive or 4matic?

4matic is much better and safer compared to only rear-wheel drive. It offers better traction when driving in rain and snow. Accidents due to oversteer are not present in the 4matic systems as the rear wheels never break the traction. However, 4matic does add significant weight to the vehicle and as all the wheels are driven the fuel economy is not as good as rear-wheel driven vehicles.

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Since its inception in the 1980s, 4matic has been a very reliable and effective all-wheel-drive system on Mercedes Benz cars. There is no additional cost of maintenance involved on the vehicles equipped with the 4amtic systems. Therefore it is worth buying a model with 4matic.

FAQs: What does 4Matic mean on a Mercedes Benz?

Is Mercedes 4MATIC always on?

Yes, the Mercedes Benz 4 Matic is always on, it is an all-wheel-drive system and a transfer case splits the power between the two axles.

What’s the difference between 4MATIC and regular?

In 4 Matic power is transmitted to the road through all 4 wheels of the vehicle while the regular two-wheel drive system uses only front or rear wheels to drive the vehicle. The remaining two wheels are used for steering.

Is 4MATIC the same as 4×4?

Yes, 4Matic is the same as 4×4 but there is no manual release lever to convert it into a two-wheel drive system.

Is 4MATIC on a Mercedes worth it?

Yes, 4matic is usually offered in the top-spec version and it is worth it. 4 Matic offers greater control over the vehicle and the extra grip is very helpful, especially for driving in rain or snow.