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Four wheel drive vs All wheel drive (4wd vs awd) – what’s special in it?

4wd vs awd, All Wheel Drive
4 wheel drive vehicles, 4wd SUVs

The car dealers strategies increasing day by day to make it easy for customers to choose the right vehicle. However, making a right choice of the car is still a headache for many buyers. The reason for this is very simple! There are still a list of confusing topics which become a hurdle for buyers in choosing the car. One of those topics is All Wheel Drive (AWD) and Four Wheel Drive (4WD). Let’s us look at some of the facts for 4WD vs AWD today:

Four Wheel Drive (4WD):

Let’s start with the Four Wheel Drive I,e. 4WD, sometimes referred to as Four by Four or 4×4. This is typically used on off-road vehicles or at least vehicles with all-terrain capabilities. Power goes from the engine, to the transmission, to what is known as a transfer case. This system splits power between the front and rear axles so that torque is evenly applied to each wheel. This process is nothing new, and is still used in modern Jeeps to tackle just about any off-road obstacle.

The evenly distribution of power ensures that each wheel turns at the same speed. Well, this is deeply problematic when doing things like turning. You see, for a car to make a turn, the inside wheel has to turn more slowly than the outside wheel and covering more ground.

There are a couple of ways that modern 4WD systems get around this. For starters, most modern 4WD systems are only on when you activate them. This can be done electronically or by using that protruding lever that sits somewhere between your radio and the center console. That way, you can use 4WD at low speeds when traction is at a minimum (for example, in snow or mud), but you can enjoy the efficiency of two-wheel drive in normal conditions. When left in 2WD, there are fewer moving parts, and therefore fewer restrictions to forward motion. Said a different way, you’ll save fuel when don’t need to engage 4WD.

How Does 4WD Works?

More contemporary 4WD systems are activated with buttons or switches rather than a manual lever, and include multiple settings for the 4WD system. These systems usually have two 4WD gears. 4WD ‘High’ splits power less evenly and allows what’s called ‘limited slip’ between the inside and outside wheels. This corrects the locked, spinning inside wheel problem by channelling more power to the wheel with traction (in our example, the outside wheel). 4WD High limits available power to the wheels so you can move quickly over slippery surfaces (up to about 60 mph). For the most available power, however, you’ll want 4WD ‘Low.’ The Low gear limits wheel speed but is perfect for arduous terrain.

What are the Advantages and Dis-advantages of Four Wheel Drive (4WD vs AWD)?

4WD Pros4WD Cons
Best traction in off-road conditionsAdds weight and complexity to cars
Can be turned off to improve fuel economyCan’t be used in all conditions
Proven, rugged technologyMore expensive than two wheel drive models


All Wheel Drive (AWD):

All-Wheel Drive is a much more recent innovation, and, as you might expect, much more complicated. In fact, a good rule of thumb might be to think of AWD as the “car” system while 4WD is the “truck” system. This isn’t always the case. Consider crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, and Mazda CX-3 tend to fall under the “car” category while SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota 4Runner fall under the “truck” category. The biggest difference between 4WD and AWD is that an AWD drive system is on all the time.

How Does All Wheel Drive (AWD) Works?

This system works to get power to the wheels with the most traction by splitting torque between the front and rear axles on the center differential, and to the individual wheels by way of the front and rear differentials. There are two types of all-wheel drive: mechanical and electronic. This is useful in slippery conditions when different wheels might be getting different amounts of grip from moment to moment.

The Mercedes-AMG E63 is a perfect example. It is now sold only in AWD in the United States, because its power can overwhelm the traction of the rear wheels alone. Even when we aren’t talking about 500+ horsepower cars, splitting power evenly means added stability in all types of weather. AWD isn’t quite as robust as 4WD and it can’t match the acute power delivery necessary for low-speed off-roading (i.e. rock crawling). However, AWD does have some clear advantages.

What are the Advantages and Dis-advantages of All Wheel Drive (AWD)?

AWD ProsAWD Cons
Provides increased grip and control under all road conditionsReduces Fuel Economy
Gives sportier handling and traction to a broader range of carsIncreases the weight and complexity of vehicles
Works all the timeNot as good in extreme off-road conditions

So, which is your favourite now (4wd-vs-awd)?

As the pros and cons show, your four-wheel drive decision depends on your driving needs. If you plan on using your vehicle off-road often, 4WD is definitely your best bet. 4WD appears on pickups and truck-platform SUVs that have the durability to match the ruggedness of a 4WD system. For most people, however, AWD makes more sense.

Also, the reality is that for many drivers, you don’t need either. If you live in an area that doesn’t get real winter weather, you probably would only notice the difference a couple of times a year, and in many cases, a good set of winter tires will make the biggest difference. Seriously. Tires can do far more than AWD or 4WD on all-season or summer rubber.

Also Read: Top 5 Car Accessories in India To Avoid Car Theft!


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