How 4WD is different than AWD
Updated: Apr 28
Your car has four wheels, so you’d think that “4-wheel drive” and “all-wheel drive” have the same meaning. Surprisingly, they have different capabilities when it comes to driving your vehicle. Let’s look at what makes the two different:
4WD – Four-Wheel Drive
Four-wheel drive is typically used on vehicles with all-terrain and off-road capabilities. A 4WD vehicle is one with two axles that provides torque to all four wheel ends. Power is generated by the engine, transfers to the transmission, and then splits between front and rear axles so that the torque is supplied to each wheel. This ensures that each wheel will turn at the same exact speed. Many modern 4WD vehicles only use the four-wheel drive feature when it is activated. There is a lever or switch that allows you to alternate between 4WD and 2WD settings. The 2WD (two-wheel drive) setting is better for smooth surfaces and helps save on fuel.
PROs: Can be deactivated to improve fuel economy, provides exceptional traction in off-road conditions
CONs: Adds complexity and weight to cars, typically more expensive than 2WD vehicle models
The most popular 4WD vehicles on the market right now : Land Rover Range Rover, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Discovery, Toyota 4Runner
AWD – All-Wheel Drive
The best way to differentiate AWD from 4WD is to imagine 4WD as the “truck” driving style and AWD as the “car” driving style. This is not to say that all 4WD vehicles are trucks or that all AWD vehicles are cars, but as 4WD is more suited for off-roading, AWD is well suited for vehicles like cars and crossovers. The power in an AWD vehicle gets to the wheels with the most traction by splitting the torque between the front and rear axles of the center differential, and getting torque to each individual wheel via the front and rear differentials. AWD is very useful in slippery conditions and around turns where each wheel does not get the same traction.
PROs: Prime handling in all weather and road conditions
CONs: Typically more expensive and less fuel efficient than other vehicle drive types
The most popular AWD vehicles on the market right now: Subaru WRX, Audi A5, BWM 5 Series, Lexus IS, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz C Class
Looking for high quality Maryland vehicle services for a reasonable price? Hillmuth Auto Care is your local full-service auto service and repair shop serving Howard and Montgomery Counties for almost 40 years. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for service, or to learn more about 4WD and AWD drive-trains.