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Four-Wheel Drive Vs All-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are often used interchangeably. While both terms refer to systems that use all four wheels, they are not exactly the same. And what is even more important, there is a huge difference in performance of a car that has four-wheel drive and a car with all-four drive. This is because the former foresees selective use of 4x4, whereas a car with all-wheel system drives on all four wheels all the time.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

Four-wheel drive, also known under the abbreviation 4WD is typically used on larger, off-road cars and SUVs. Since the 4WD doesn’t have to be on all the time (nor should be), the consumption of fuel is lower than in AWD systems. Also, the 4WD systems have been used for decades and provide the good old reliability and roughness. However, it is also important to note that vehicles with four-wheel drive are more expensive and heavier than their two-wheel drive counterparts.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

All-wheel drive or AWD is a relatively new technology in comparison to 4WD and can be found on a wide range of cars from family cars to race cars and SUVs. As mentioned earlier, a car with the AWD drives on all four wheels all the time. This means more fuel consumption but it also means more safety in unexpected conditions, for example slippery road corners as it provides more grip than two-wheel drive systems. In comparison to 4WD, most cars with AWD are designed for both road and off road driving. Lastly, the weight in many AWD vehicles is distributed more evenly which further increases safety.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there is a difference between 4WD and AWD. Opinions about which one is better are divided but generally, 4WD are recommended for those who plan to drive off-road on a regular basis. AWD systems, on the other hand, are typically the preferred choice of drivers who mostly drive on road and don’t want to be surprised by unfavourable conditions such as snow and rain. While providing a higher level of safety than two-wheel drive systems, however, it is highly important not to rely on AWD (or 4WD) too much and adjust the speed and driving style to the conditions.