What Is Four-Wheel (4 x 4) Drive System in Cars?
A four-wheel drive car is one in which the engine powers all four wheels. This definition itself may not clarify what it means. Therefore, it is important to mention that in most vehicles, only two wheels receive power from the engine; hence they are called the 2-wheel drive vehicle. Having said that, there are also all-wheel drive vehicles.
This blog discusses in detail what four-wheel drive is and other relevant factors. Go through them to get to know all about 4X4 cars.
What Is Four-Wheel Drive?
Four-wheel drive in cars or trucks refers to a system in which the engine provides power to the four wheels of that vehicle. Regarding trucks or cars, there are only four options: rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and 2 wheel drive.
All of these four options have their advantages and disadvantages. The main difference between these is traction. A four-wheel drive system is more efficient when it comes to traction.
Traction can have different uses depending on the driver's purpose. Some drivers may be looking for higher traction in wet weather conditions or when it comes to speed or handling.
What Is the Meaning of 4X4 Cars?
A 4X4 car is a vehicle with a two-axle vehicle drivetrain. Such a driving system can simultaneously offer torque to all four wheels of the vehicle. This can be a full-time or in-demand situation that requires all four vehicle wheels to work simultaneously. This is usually linked through a transfer case with an additional drive shaft, which often has additional gear ranges.
What Are the Benefits of Four-Wheel Drive?
A 4-wheel drive system can significantly improve your on-road driving experience. Here are the top 5 benefits of four-wheel drive:
1. Larger Space And Capacity
This is the most advantageous factor of a 4WD. The models offer higher space and loading capacity. These are usually more spacious than 2WD cars, and many models offer extra seats in the back, elevating the capacity to a 7-seater. So, you get more headspace and legroom to enjoy that luxurious feeling.
4WD vehicles are generally cavernous that offer huge capacity. For instance, the Range Rover Evoque has a 591-litre capacity that can extend up to 1383 litres with the rear seats folded down. So, if you are a large family, move frequently with extra luggage, or go on adventures, there can be no replacement for a 4-wheel drive.
2. Higher Fuel Economy
Generally, a 4-wheel drive consumes more fuel as the engine powers all four wheels. However, more recent 4WD models are more fuel efficient than some old 2WD models, thanks to innovative technology.
Additionally, upgrading to a plug-in hybrid will bring a new level of fuel efficiency. Some excellent examples would be the Mitsubishi Outlander and Volvo XC60 T8. These 4WD vehicles offer great fuel efficiency and eco-friendly features while offering a luxurious build.
3. Ideal For Off-Road Adventures
If you are a frequent adventurer, there can be no better option than a 4WD. With improved grip and traction, a 4-wheel drive offers a better experience through difficult terrains. A 4WD vehicle can still power ahead while only one wheel touches the ground. This can be a huge benefit when you are covering difficult terrain.
If you are looking for a high-performing vehicle to accompany you on your adventures, there is no better alternative than a 4WD. A classic example would be the Land Rover Defender, with great off-road capabilities and robust body design.
4. Suitable For All Terrain
A four-wheel drive is not only ideal for off-road adventures. Some models are manufactured keeping in mind the urban driving conditions as well. Some models come with compact features that offer an ideal driving experience through all-terrain.
Some good examples would be the models from Jeep – Jeep Renegade, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Compass, etc. In these vehicles, you will experience the smoothest transition from cities to the countryside or other terrains.
5. Enhanced Traction And Towing Capacity
Another great reason to choose a 4WD would be the increased traction and towing capacity. Most families living in areas which experience heavy snowfall prefer a 4WD car as it offers better traction and control over a snow-laden road.
On the other hand, if you want to tow a caravan or trailer, a 4WD would be an ideal choice. As all four wheels draw power from the engine, it significantly increases the car's towing capacity. Some good examples would be models such as Land Rover Defender, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Mitsubishi Shotgun, with an impressive towing capacity of up to 3500kg.
How Does Four-Wheel Drive Work?
A 4-wheel drive works as per a gear arrangement known as differentials. The engine is connected to these differentials by drive shafts. These shafts transfer power to the wheels using drive axles.
Locking differentials are typically driver-engaged, but there are 4WD models that have automatic locking differential systems. The task of locking differentials is to ensure that both wheels receive the same amount of power, even if their traction is different. This is how the wheel with higher traction performs better in a low traction situation.
Is Four-Wheel Drive Always on?
Usually, a four-wheel drive is driver-engaged, so you can choose and toggle between the wheels as and when required. If needed, you can choose to engage two wheels or four wheels as per the road condition.
It is important to remember that you use the 4WD system sparingly and reserve the power to use it in slippery or icy road conditions or for off-road driving. Otherwise, you will run the risk of immature tread wear.
However, another type of 4WD is an "always-on" system. This system is equipped with additional requirements that can work on-road and at any speed. This makes the system more fuel efficient and useful for on and off-road usage.
Is 4 Wheeler Drive Better Than 2 Wheeler Drive?
Before you dive into the comparison between a 2WD and a 4WD, let's first understand each of them individually.
A 2WD is, as the name suggests, a system where the engine utilises only 2 of the 4 wheels to keep the vehicle moving. There are 2 types of 2WD – front-wheel drive (FWD) and rear-wheel drive (RWD).
An FWD is more lightweight and fuel-efficient when compared to its counterpart. FWDs have the shortest drivetrain system and are less costly to maintain or manufacture. Typically, the rear wheels follow the course of the front wheels in an FWD.
The primary advantage is that FWD helps maintain a straight line while driving and is less likely to spin out in serious conditions.
Now, coming to the RWD, like FWD, it has its own advantages, the biggest of them being better acceleration and traction in typical situations, which a FWD lacks. Also, when taking a turn, an RWD takes much less effort than an FWD.
In a 4WD, the engine powers all four wheels simultaneously. However, as most 4WDs are driver-engaged, and you can toggle between the wheels when required, you might find a 4WD to come in handier. Also, you should consider the enhanced traction and towing capacity.
Hence, whether a 4WD is better than a 2WD depends entirely on your requirements for the vehicle.