Today’s vehicles come with a bewildering range of options, and none is as confusing as the difference between that of all-wheel drive (AWD) and 4-wheel drive (4WD). The following will help demystify the terminology and help buyers understand what is most appropriate for their needs.
· What is AWD?
· What is 4WD?
What is AWD?
All-wheel drive refers to the power being delivered to all four wheels, as opposed to only the front or rear wheels. In general, the driver doesn’t need to do anything for the AWD to work. Depending on the type of drive train that delivers the power to the wheels, this either works continuously or comes into play when needed (automatic AWD). Ultimately, this provides the car with more traction.
What is 4WD?
4WD is very similar to all-wheel drive—it also sends the power to all four wheels. This more traditional system tends to be more robust than that of AWD, meaning that the vehicle can cope better in more extreme off-road conditions. Most also have systems that operate in high and low ranges (either through a switch or floor-mounted lever) that will increase the amount of torque directed to each wheel—with low providing the ultimate in traction for conditions such as ice, snow, gravel, or loose sand.
Full-Time and Part-Time AWD and 4WD
· Part-time, full-time, and automatic options
Part-time, full-time, and automatic options
Part-time AWD and 4WD provides the option, as the name suggests, to drive in 2-wheel drive in normal conditions with the option to switch to AWD or 4WD when needed. The decision is down to the driver.
Many AWD systems make this decision automatically through electronic sensors and an on-board computer. When the conditions require the car will determine how best to direct power to the wheels to assist with traction.
Full-time AWD means that power is directed to all four wheels at all times. Full-time 4WD is generally only found in vehicles that are constantly working in tough off-road conditions. It’s more common for 4WD to be part-time, with the driver choosing as to when to make the switch.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vs. Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)
· Pros and cons of AWD
· Pros and cons of 4WD
· Which is best for you?
Pros and cons of AWD
· As most modern AWD systems are either full-time AWD or automatic, there’s no need for the driver to make decisions as to when to engage it.
· AWD can be found on many vehicles, from SUVs to performance cars, sedans, and compact cars.
· It’s a great solution for extra traction when driving on-road, in wet conditions, snow and ice, and light off-roading.
· It tends to increase the cost of the vehicle.
· There is usually a slight reduction in fuel economy
· While AWD is getting better and better, it still can’t match the ability of 4WD for serious off-roading.
Pros and cons of 4WD
· They offer the ultimate in traction in all conditions, both on and off-road.
· Provides exceptional power when towing.
· Often found in vehicles with higher ground clearance due to the likelihood of being used in more severe off-road conditions.
· They tend to offer a stiffer ride than 2WD and their all-wheel-drive cousins, mainly because 4WD is found in more rugged vehicles.
· Fuel economy tends to be impacted.
· 4WD often increases the initial purchase price of the vehicle.
Which is best for you?
There are many aspects to consider when looking at all-wheel drive vs. 4-wheel drive. Think about the following when making a choice:
· Where you live, the climate (e.g. harsh winters), and how remote your location.
· Your own driving experience. Do you know when and where to switch to 4WD, or would you prefer if this happened automatically?
· Do you want to experience off-road adventure? If so, a 4WD might be the better option.
· Are you intending to tow heavy loads regularly (such as a horsebox)?
· Is your vehicle going to double up as a family car? If so, the spec of many AWD options tends to offer more luxury.
There are many reasons to choose one over the other, with the final choice coming down to personal preference. However, whether you drive an AWD or a 4WD, one thing you will need is the ultimate in wheels and tires, and you won’t find a better deal anywhere than from the largest distributor in the US, OEM Wheels Direct.
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