Some years back, people looking to buy a four-wheel-drive have very few options in the form of large trucks and full-size SUVs. The times have changed now, and almost all types of vehicles feature four driven wheels in the form of either All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel-Drive (4WD). No doubt, buyers prefer vehicles that can power both the front and rear wheels for various reasons. But what’s the difference between the two? Which system would suit you the best?
Below we will discuss each system in detail, evaluate different features, and identify the best one for you.
How does AWD Work?
An All-Wheel-Drive sends power to the front and rear wheels from start to finish. Practically, there are two subtypes of the AWD system. The first is the full-time AWD, which powers all the wheels continuously. The second is the part-time AWD, which usually operates in two-wheel mode and only siphons power to the remaining wheels when it requires traction control.
Generally, AWD systems take no input from the driver. But some vehicles allow the option to select the power each wheel should receive. This distribution also ensures the effective traction of the automobile. It is possible when wheels receive the torque through multi-plate clutches, viscous couplings, and differentials.
How does 4WD work?
Similar to an AWD system, a 4WD powers all four wheels in a vehicle to enhance the grip over the road, when needed. 4WD systems also come in two types. The first is the full-time 4WD, powering all the wheels on a continuous basis. The second part-time 4WD originally operates on two wheels and allows the driver to switch to a four-wheel-drive, as required.
4WD systems are generally more capable of handling tougher terrains due to their vigorous nature. Moreover, the system allows input by the driver for low and high range settings.
AWD Vs. 4WD – What is the Difference?
Mechanically, there exists very little difference. However, vehicles designed to maximize grip on the road, such as slippery surfaces, feature an AWD system. Manufacturers use this system to market safety in their vehicles translated from the extra traction on the road.
Vehicles designed for off-road purposes usually come with a 4WD system. Many of these vehicles also include a center differential that distributes torque and power between the front and rear wheels. Furthermore, most 4WD vehicles boast low and high range gearing, which serious off-roaders prefer. The lower the range is, the easier for the vehicle to move up steep terrain at a lower speed.
What is best for you – AWD or 4WD?
Should you go for AWD or 4WD must depend on your personal liking and your place of residence. The conditions you drive under should also play a vital role in making this decision.
For light off-roaders that live under normal winter conditions, an AWD could be a better option because it provides increased traction. It also automatically determines whether to divert the torque to specific corners or all four wheels. It makes the system less complicated for the driver.
For people who love extreme off-road adventures or live in remote areas, a 4WD could be an ideal choice. 4WD vehicles are better off in harsh weather conditions, as they provide higher ground clearance in snow and steep terrains. You can also choose how much power each wheel receives, which makes a 4WD more customizable. These vehicles are also capable of towing heavy loads due to their ability to power all four wheels manually.