All-Wheel Drive VS 4-Wheel Drive: Here’s What You Need to Know

October 16th, 2018 by

The terms “all-wheel drive” and “four-wheel drive” are often used interchangeably.

But they aren’t actually the same thing.

When you’re in the market for a new vehicle, it’s important for you to know the difference.

It can be a bit tricky, so let’s dive in.

Four-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive is also referred to as “4WD” or “4×4.”

The main distinction you need to be aware of is that these types of vehicles are designed with off-road use in mind.

The four-wheel drive capability only applies to situations in which you’re taking your vehicle off the beaten path.

It’s basically a system that provides power to all four wheels equally. Each wheel spins at the same constant rate as the others.

Power simply goes straight from the engine to the transmission, and through a transfer case that divides the power between the four wheels.

Most modern 4WD systems can be disabled for driving on regular, paved roads.

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive, also called AWD, is a newer, slightly-more-complicated invention.

AWD is automated. No action is required by the driver for it to work.

Newer AWD vehicles provide power to a primary axle – either the front or the rear – and takes power away from wheels that are slipping when it detects that traction has been lost.

Subaru used to use a slogan that describes how All-wheel drive works: “Transferring power from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip.”

Keep in mind that AWD doesn’t deliver the power needed for off-road driving that a 4WD vehicle has.

Which one’s better?

AWD has some advantages over 4WD, including:

  • Sensors on each wheel monitor traction, wheel speed, and other data, hundreds of time per second.
  • An engine control unit that analyzes traction conditions and automates which wheels receive power.

Making an informed choice

As you’re thinking through all the options you have when you’re buying a new vehicle, it’s a good idea to get the input of the professionals.

At Serra Acura, our knowledgeable sales staff are on hand to guide you to the AWD or 4WD vehicle that’s just right for you.

Stop in and see us today!

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