Updated December 22, 2020

4MATIC is the brand name of an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive system developed by Mercedes-Benz. As Mercedes-Benz claims, it has a significant difference compared to other all-wheel drive systems and this is a full integration into the drivetrain. It is not simply a feature added on to a two-wheel drive system. 4MATIC uses a center differential to split power up among all four wheels. Power delivery can vary from wheel to wheel based on grip needs in different situations.

It is a rather complex system that affects most of the vehicle's components (both axles, transfer case, differentials, axle shafts, drive shaft joints). All this design is combined with an automatic transmission (the mechanics simply cannot cope).

Thanks to long-term testing, the necessary parameters of the transfer of the load to the wheels for different classes of cars were found.

The modern 4matic system provides the most optimal options:

  • Sedan class. For this class, the main load (65%) goes to the rear pair of wheels, and the remaining 35% is distributed to the front;
  • SUV or Crossovers. In these categories, the torque is distributed absolutely evenly (50% each);
  • Luxury models. Here, the spread between the front and rear wheels is minimal (55% goes to the rear, and 45% to the front).

The Mercedes-Benz concern has undergone a number of improvements and modernizations:

  • 1st generation. It was presented in Frankfurt in 1985. A year later, the system was already actively installed on W124 cars. Moreover, the joint arrangement with a machine gun is a tradition since the first models. At that time, the drive was not permanent. A variant called pluggable was used. As a result of blocking differentials (rear and center), all wheels were connected. A pair of hydraulic couplings were electronically controlled. The advantages of this system were that the system could only work from the rear axle, which led to savings not only in fuel, but also in overall performance. Also, the couplings were made from extremely durable materials that are resistant to abrasion. Of the minuses, it can be noted that the plug-in drive does not make the car an SUV (much weaker than a full one). The Vodi.su portal assures that the repair of such a system cost a very round sum; 4MATIC1
  • 2nd generation. Since 1997, they have presented an updated version installed on the W210. The differences were striking. It was already four-wheel drive in the full sense. Differential locks were not used; in addition, the 4ETS system was installed, which excluded this possibility and controlled traction. This variation of 4matic stuck, and from that moment on, the system remained all-wheel drive forever. Although this led to an increase in fuel consumption, repairs were much cheaper, given that the cars were more confident on the road;
  • 3rd generation. Presented since 2002, and was installed on several classes of machines at once (C, E, S). Of the improvements, it can be noted that the system has become smarter. The ESP system has been added to the 4ETS traction control. If any of the wheels starts to slip, then this system stops it, increasing the load on the rest. This led to an improvement in cross-country ability up to 40%;
  • 4th generation. Since 2006, the management of the system has become fully electronic. Otherwise, it was the 2002 version;
  • 5th generation. Introduced in 2013, it is an improvement over previous versions. Electronics literally in a matter of minutes is able to completely transfer the load from the front wheels to the rear and vice versa. This made the car even more controllable in difficult situations. Also, the total weight of the system has decreased, but the efficiency has increased markedly. At the moment, the developers of the concern promise to abandon the usual gearbox lever, and transfer all control to the buttons.