The Difference Between AWD and 4WD Capabilities

January 15th, 2019 by

If you’re buying a new crossover or SUV, you’ve probably wondered what the difference is between a four-wheel drive (4WD) and an all-wheel drive (AWD). Often, people assume that they’re the same thing because they sound similar. But, there is actually a lot of differences between the systems.

Before you choose a new car, it’s important to know what the different systems can offer you. Of course, the best one for you will depend on what kind of driving you do on a daily basis, as well as what kind of roads you drive on.

Let’s have a look at the difference between AWD and 4WD so that you can choose the right car for you.

Four-Wheel Drive

So, what’s a 4WD? Well, a lot of people simply refer to a vehicle that’s a 4WD as a 4×4. This system works by all four wheels receiving power from the engine. This will mean that the wheels spin at the same rate as each other. The purpose of this system is to give you the power you need to tackle tough terrain, whether it’s through mud, going rock crawling or desert running. 4WDs are designed to give you the traction that you need and are suited to vehicles that are going off-road.

For example, a vehicle with 4WD function is the Toyota 4Runner. It’s normally a system that’s found on SUVs that are designed for exploring and going off the grid. Vehicles offering four-wheel drive will have the capability to switch out of four-wheel drive as it is a less fuel efficient option than standard two-wheel drive. The Toyota 4Runner has multiple drivetrain options to suit any terrain or weather conditions: two-wheel high, low, and four-wheel drive.

All-Wheel Drive

Unlike the 4WD, the AWD varies the power that is received on each wheel. This is usually an automated system, so there is no need for the driver to switch on the function; it simply works as it’s needed. There are sensors on each wheel and these will examine the traction and speed that is needed for the road or terrain the vehicle is on. This data will be analysed and then the power will be sent to the appropriate wheel. This means an AWD is going to be able to deal with all road conditions better than a two-wheel drive and can adapt better than a 4WD. An example of a vehicle that is an AWD is the Toyota RAV4.

To illustrate, if you were driving on an icy road and your vehicle began to slide the AWD system would apply power to the suspended axel giving you power to all the wheels. The idea behind the adaptive technology that it will save you sooner, and only when you need it.

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