AWD vs. 4WD.
Which is right for you?
So, you’ve carefully considered your lifestyle and narrowed your selection of new car down to an all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). Both options are able to send power from the engine to the front and rear wheels, enabling superior traction and acceleration on unpaved dirt roads or in slippery conditions. However, there are also subtle yet significant differences between the two that are worth keeping in mind.
Trying to decide which one best suits your individual driving needs? We’re here to guide you in the right direction.
To get started, let’s define what the terms AWD and 4WD actually mean, along with the key features and benefits of both.
What is AWD?
An all-wheel drive system is a drivetrain employing a front, rear and central differential to provide torque to all four wheels on the vehicle. This system distributes power evenly for optimal traction when required as well as smooth operation in regular driving conditions.
Features and benefits of AWD include:
- No need for driver input: AWD generally operates without the driver needing to make decisions about when and how to engage it. The system itself runs continuously or senses when it is required.
- All-round performance: AWD operates well in varying conditions, making it a reliable all-rounder throughout the seasons and in different locations.
- Better fuel economy: When driving conditions permit, AWD vehicles can also operate in two-wheel drive mode which enhances fuel economy.
- Broad choice: AWD is widely available across a range of vehicle types from compact cars and sedans to trucks and SUVs, giving buyers plenty of choice and flexibility.
What is 4WD?
A four-wheel drive system is a drivetrain employing two differentials and a transfer case to provide torque to all four wheels on the vehicle.
Features of 4WD include:
- Driver autonomy: With traditional part-time 4WD, the driver decides when to actively engage the vehicle’s 4WD, while in some full-time 4WD systems the driver can control the distribution of power that’s delivered to the front and rear axles.
- Robust performance: 4WD systems are specifically designed to handle all adverse conditions and challenging terrains, both on-road and off-road.
- Built for extremes: 4WD vehicles are ideally suited to managing the most extreme conditions such as steep grades, snow, or when carrying a very heavy load.