4 Wheel Drive vs All Wheel Drive

4 Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive

It’s no secret that deciding to rent a car when on vacation, rather than relying on public transport, can drastically boost your time away. However, choosing the ideal car can be a tricky process. With so many varieties to choose from, how do you ensure you select the perfect car to perform exactly as you need? Additionally, what particular make or model will suit the location, whether it’s a rocky landscape, or a city center?

When it comes to choosing the ideal car, it’s easy to become confused by the specifications on offer, including four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This article aims to clear up any confusion regarding these two models and in the argument of 4 wheel driver vs all wheel drive, what will come out on top?

What is Four-Wheel Drive?

The majority of car makes and models are two-wheel drives, or 2WD, which means the power from the engine is sent to only two of the four wheels. A 2WD will either receive power in the front two wheels or the rear two wheels.

Alternatively, a four-wheel drive, 4WD or 4×4, features all four wheels receiving power from the engine. What this means is there is a higher level of control for the driver. If you lose traction in adverse weather conditions, for example, two or three wheels still retain control and power. It minimizes the risk of slipping or causing an accident, resulting in injury for the driver, passengers, and even pedestrians.

The destinations where a 4WD will be highly beneficial include:

  • Locations where extreme weather is highly likely, such as icy conditions or snow
  • Locations where off-road driving will be necessary, including mountain regions

However, many 4WD will perform like a regular 2WD in normal conditions, such as city driving, which makes them an attractive, all-weather, all-condition vehicle for whatever purpose.

For those interesting in a 4WD, popular models include:

  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Lexus GX
  • Jeep Renegade
  • Nissan Armada

What is All-Wheel Drive?

It is easy to confuse 4WD with all-wheel drive, considering both vehicles feature all four wheels receiving power from the engine, in contrast to 2WD. However, all-wheel drive is now the accepted description for a car which uses all four wheels all the time. It’s the main difference between all wheel drive vs 4 wheel drive. Commonly, 4WD is a part-time drive: under normal conditions, these models will perform as a 2WD. If required, the driver has the option to switch to a 4WD with the press of a button.

In contrast to 4WD, all wheel drives are a relatively new innovation. Instead of sending equal amounts of power to each of the four wheels, all wheel drives vary the power between the wheels. This varying level increases the control the driver has over traction while traveling. If the wheels hit an icy patch on the road, that wheel will react accordingly, rather than the driver losing control entirely.

AWD models are most often crossover, road-going vehicles – they can fall into either “car” or “truck” category. The Toyota RAV 4, for example, falls under the “car” category, while Chevrolet falls under the “truck” category.

The destinations where an AWD will be highly beneficial include:

  • Locations where weather conditions can vary significantly
  • City center locations, with the option of venturing out of town easily

Popular AWD models include:

Unlike 4WD, there is no need to select AWD when in the vehicle. It is entirely automated, meaning the driver can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that AWD is always working. There’s no need to switch when the weather conditions turn for the worse. There’s no need to change the drive when the terrain varies from smooth to rocky.

Which is Better?

In the argument of AWD vs 4WD, it can be challenging to balance the pros and cons of each against the other. The majority of drivers may not be entirely sure of the differences between AWD and 4WD, so there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing, and may come down the aesthetics, instead of control and roadworthiness. To make it easier, consider the two following options:

  • Will you be primarily traveling on smooth, comfortable roads?
  • What is the weather predicted to be in your chosen locations?

If you are traveling to a city or town destination, where your primary purpose of the vehicle will be exploring the streets, shopping, and entertainment, opt for an AWD drive. Not only will it typically be a newer, more attractive model, but it’s a highly versatile option.

For those traveling to remote destinations, where you will be exploring the stunning scenery, a 4WD will give you greater control within the adverse weather conditions, with the option of regular driving should you venture into the nearest town or city.


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