4-Wheel Drive (4WD) vs All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
Terminology for car components can be a little challenging to understand, and the similar goes with 4WD and AWD. Most car-savvy people think that 4WD and AWD are the same, and this idea is undeniably wrong. There are ample differences between these two, and if you are considering buying a new car, you must know AWD vs 4WD. Among all the differences between these two, the primary difference lies in the AWD and 4WD drivetrain that provides power to wheels.
What Is 4WD?
As mentioned earlier, the primary difference between the 4WD and AWD lies in the drive terrain. When 4WD is engaged, the transmission receives more power from the engine, which is then divided into the front and wheel axis. After that, the torque is transferred to the wheels, but in order to move the vehicle, the wheels must have traction on the road. However, if it does not happen, the tyre will only spin, as experienced when a wheel gets stuck in sand or mud.
For instance, if a car tyre gets stuck in the mud, and you have a 2WD, then your car’s tyre will probably go on spinning. On the other hand, if you have a 4-wheel drive, the front wheels will get some traction, and the problem can be easily mitigated. In a word, the 4WD can increase the power and traction on the road, and these are primarily meant for heavy-duty hauling and other works.
Pros of 4WD
- Has the capability of off-roading
- The extra weight of 4WD helps in traction
- Provides more towing capability than AWD
Cons of 4WD
- Can’t operate safely on a dry surface
- Reduces fuel economy
- Extra weight increases topping distances
What Is AWD?
When all four wheels gain traction independent of each other, the system is termed AWD or All Wheel Drive. All Wheel Drive is added to a car with three gearboxes or differentials in different parts of a car. These can be found on the front, centre and rear of the car, and the primary intention is to allow each tyre to receive traction independent of the other. Besides this, it also allows superior traction and better handling in all weather conditions.
Moreover, similar to the 4WD, AWD also sends power to all the 4 wheels and provides enhanced traction. But, unlike 4WD, it is always on and provides superior driving comfort. Sensors and computers monitor the drive wheels for slippage, and when it slips, the system transfers the engine power to the other axle by the route of the centre differential. Moreover, other AWD systems might employ multiple differentials, viscous couplings or multi-plate clutches.
In addition to this, more sophisticated AWD systems have torque vectoring which helps drive on dry pavements. This is because a torque that is vectoring differential on each of the axles decreases the speed of rotation on the inner wheel during acceleration of the rotation of the outer wheel while taking a turn.
Pros of AWD
- Operates effortlessly and automatically
- Adds traction in bad weather
- Comparatively provides more fuel economy than 4WD
Cons of AWD
- Not effectively engineered for extreme conditions
- Costs more than 4WD
What Are the Differences Between AWD & 4WD?
A detailed difference between 4-wheel Drive and all-wheel Drive is provided below in a tabular form –
It refers to 4 Wheel Drive vehicle
It refers to the All-Wheel Drive Vehicle.
The driver controls it
It works automatically
Compared to AWD, this is less safe as the action must be done manually during emergencies.
This is safer as the system automatically sends torque to the wheel as per the requirement.
It has both high and low gearing options.
It has only the high option.
It is favourable for grave climatic conditions, including snow and ice.
It works effectively on slippery surfaces and also in harsh weather conditions.
It is preferable for driving in outlandish areas and regular off-road excursions.
Best suited for occasional off-road excursions.
4WD is much heavier, and it also takes up more space.
Comparatively, it is lighter and consumes less space.
Do You Need AWD or 4WD?
Usually, the need for 4WD and AWD arises if you live in a climate where rain and snow are frequent. Also, if you drive on a dusty road, where it's mostly muddy, the confidence provided by these two is the most important aspect. But, if you want extra peace of mind in rain, snow, ice and sleet, AWD is preferable over 4WD. However, if you want to deal with extreme snow, 4WD is the way to go. Also, if you are likely to wander off-road a lot, 4WD might be better as it offers more towing capacity than AWD vehicles. Although the extra weight of 4WD provides traction better, it can cause a problem in fuel stations.
Additionally, compared with 4WD, AWD provides seamlessness, and you don't have to control it manually. Also, as AWD weights less, it provides more fuel economy, and if this is one of your primary parameters, it is better to go for AWD. Hence, when looking for All-Wheel Drive vs 4-Wheel Drive, keep your preferences regarding 4WD and AWD in mind.
Also, you might wonder about the better chance of driving out if you are stuck in the snow. There is simply no solid answer, as none of the two above-mentioned types is foolproof. So you still have to drive carefully and pay attention to hazards. Most importantly, truck-based SUVs primarily come with 4WD, whereas car-based crossover has AWD, so the choice also depends on the type of vehicle you want to purchase.
Hence, it is evident that if you tally AWD vs 4WD, there will be some subtle considerable differences between those two. So, if you are looking to buy a new car, rather than focusing solely on 4WD and AWD, it is important to find a vehicle with the right combination of vehicle type and configuration.