I don’t disagree with your analysis, but I have been in the position of looking at all your options and having to choose just one:
Constant four wheel drive, like on my Land Rover Discovery, was the best overall choice for all conditions, including going to your Grandma’s, – except when you actually want to slide.
There is nothing like the sure-footed confident feeling given by constant four wheel drive with tires that suit the conditions. There is no need to think about the need to change to 4WD mode, and you can’t be caught out by a sudden change of conditions, like ice on the road
This choice would not cover fishtailing, and donuts because they are incompatible out-of-control conditions that serious off-road makers and users try very hard to avoid. Good off-road tires are too expensive to scrub like that. There are more suitable vehicles for that kind of fun.
The most difficult terrain is soft deep loose sand. In my experience, all drive modes will sink to their axles and stall in that, but 4WD with wide slightly deflated tires will go further before that happens, and will be the easiest to dig or winch out. Light weight is also very important there, as is the driving technique of always maintaining momentum.
Turbo Diesel constant 4WD with adaptive cornering enhancement (for the highway) and a light aluminum body is the only way to go off road and on the highway in all weather if you are serious. The TD gives you great torque at low revs in a relatively small light-weight engine that can still accelerate fast enough to not embarrass you on the interstate. My Disco has only a 2.5 liter, 5 cylinder very modern turbo diesel engine that can tow 4 tons and confidently go anywhere – except in deep loose sand. It is also much more economical on fuel than the gas models, especially when driven at constant speed for hours on a freeway.
Americans generally do not understand this as well as the Europeans. We tend to think a big V8 is needed for sheer grunt. So much so, that the turbo diesel models were not even imported here until recently.
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