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All-Wheel Vs Four-Wheel Drive: The Difference

Educational  ·  November 9, 2020

All-Wheel Vs Four-Wheel Drive: The Difference

Understanding cars can be quite challenging as it is. So, if you’re one of those people who can’t tell the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD), try not to be so hard on yourself. The fact of the matter is that many people will struggle to explain the difference, even if they think they know what sets them apart.

Marketers at notable car brands don’t make this issue any less confusing. Most regular people are familiar with the concept of 4WD, but the AWD is still relatively new. On top of that, marketers at car companies have devised unique names for what is AWD in a bid to stand out among competitors.

Hopefully, this article will clear up some of that confusion for you. We’ll begin by exploring what AWD and 4WD are and how they function. Then, we’ll dive a little deeper to understand what sort of environment either one will work best in for you.

How Does Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Work? 

Firstly, let’s explore how four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles function. Whenever anyone hears the term 4WD, they’ll immediately picture muddy trucks driving off-road, perhaps in the jungle or out in the wilderness. That is not a coincidence, as most of the time you’ll find 4WD vehicles are those that people need to take into those kinds of unpaved areas.

From a technical standpoint, here’s how four-wheel-drive works. Whenever the driver engages the four-wheel-drive mode in their vehicle, its transmission will channel energy that the engine produces towards all four wheels simultaneously.

Typically, automobiles need only two-wheel drive. But on unpaved and uneven surfaces like small hills, jungles, and deserts, you may find yourself in a situation where only individual wheels on your truck can gain any traction. Since the 4WD delivers power to all four wheels, whichever ones can gain traction also have the ability to push your vehicle forward.

Pros and Cons of Four-Wheel-Drive (4WD)

As with anything else when it comes to automobiles, there are pros and cons to using four-wheel-drive.


Here are some of the pros:


Are there any Cons to using four-wheel-drive? Yes. Here are just a couple:

Popular 4WD Vehicles in 2020

Four-wheel-drive vehicles aren’t just limited to timeless trucks like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota Hilux. You’ll also find 4WD on some of the more family-friendly cars you’ll see around town as well. Great examples of these in 2020 include the Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes G-Class, and the Subaru XV.

How Does All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Work?

So, how does all-wheel-drive differ from 4WD? In both cases, doesn’t the car engage ALL wheels simultaneously? Well, when it comes to AWD, it’s not that straightforward. One way of looking at it is that AWD is much ‘smarter’ compared to 4WD. That’s because the car will decide where to send power based on how much traction, or lack of it, each wheel experiences at any given time.

Pros and Cons of All-Wheel-Drive (AWD)


Here are some of the pros of all-wheel-drive vehicles:


Even though the AWD comes off as being the best of both worlds, it does have its fair share of cons. These include:

Popular AWD Vehicles in 2020

When it comes to AWD, you’ll often find it in regular sedans and family-friendly vehicles instead of rugged off-road trucks. Some excellent models you’ll find in 2020 include the likes of the Mini Cooper Clubman, the Lincoln MKZ, and even the Subaru Crosstrek.

Make Learning about Your Car a Daily Habit!

To find out more about cars and their transmissions, check out our Blog at There, you can find informative articles and guides about all kinds of vehicles, transmissions, and more!

By Ray Hasbollah

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