An on-demand, single-range, all-wheel-drive system comes standard with the Tribute's V-6 engine. (The base powertrain is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive.) During normal driving, the front wheels provide all the propulsion. When it's time to haul a heavy load out of the water and up a slippery launch ramp, the rear wheels join in. A viscous coupling in the driveline automatically engages the rear axle if the front wheels begin to spin. To handle truly nasty ramp conditions, there's a Lock button on the dash that engages the rear axle electronically. In this mode the Tribute hauled our boat out with ease. A key difference between the Mazda Tribute and its brother, the Ford Escape, is suspension settings. The Escape's ride is softer and more appealing to mass-market tastes. The Tribute has firmer shock absorbers and tauter steering, providing a more athletic temperament. The Escape is more comfortable over rough pavement, whereas the Tribute shines on well-maintained roads and seamless highways. The Tribute's stiff legs can be annoying over tar strips and potholes, but the payback is a smooth, jiggle-free ride when the cargo hold is loaded and your mirrors are full of boat and trailer.