2WD vs 4WD vs AWD: What’s the difference

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Passenger vehicles sold all over the world come equipped with different drivetrain system. There is a lot of confusion among these, especially 4WD and AWD.

So, let’s study the difference between these drivetrain systems:

Front-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive is the most common drivetrain system. Popular cars like Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla come with FWD. The front-wheel-drive means that the engine is going to supply power to the front two wheels.

You can also find a few SUVs which come with the front-wheel drivetrain system. Low manufacturing costs are associated with FWD.

Another advantage that FWD gets is great grip and traction when climbing steep roads or hills. This happens because the engine is situated towards the front side.

Rear-wheel drive

Rear-wheel drive is mainly used in pickup trucks and older models of full-size SUVs. The reason behind this is that the pickup trucks have to haul massive loads and RWD makes it easy for them to maintain traction while carrying heavy loads.

Other categories which feature RWD as the drivetrain system are luxurious sedans, high-performance vehicles and sports car. On high-performance cars, rear-wheel-drive enhances the handling abilities by creating a balance between front and rear. Rear-wheel drive is less compatible on slippery roads than an FWD. Newer vehicles are coming with the all-wheel-drive system, a newer innovation in the drivetrain system which we will discuss later on.

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive is the powertrain system that sends acceleration to all the four wheels. AWD offers power to the wheels which need it the most. This comes in handy in slippery road conditions and some uneven terrains.

While you can’t expect the all-wheel-drive to perform perfectly on rough terrains, they grip well in moderate off-road conditions such as mud, sand, or similar loose terrains.

Usually, AWD supply power to either front wheels or rear wheels. When the system detects that the car is losing control or is not able to grip the surface perfectly, it starts sending power to the other two wheels as well.

While all-wheel-drive vehicles are better than two-wheel drive vehicles, all of these are not equal in performance. The way they behave can vary depending upon the brand and model of the car. For instance, the AWD in Subaru’s cars supplies 20% acceleration to the rear and even a larger portion of power if needed.

Some AWD cars supply all the power to front-wheels. Rear-wheels only receive power when the system detects a loss of traction.

Four-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive and 4WD are widely used for off-road vehicles. 4WD is mostly found in pick-up trucks or truck-like SUVs. This powertrain system helps the car to explore tough terrains such as climbing large rocks or steep hills.

4WD comes with a low gear range and high gear range. One can activate the low gear range when the traction is needed the most. For instance, if you are climbing over boulders or stuck in the mud, you can switch to a low gear range to achieve maximum traction.

Modern vehicles are coming to an automatic system. This means the automated system keeps on switching between 4WD and 2WD as required. A few vehicles also feature a part-time four-wheel drive. This allows the driver to switch between two and four-wheel drive. However, you should keep one thing in mind that cars with the part-time system should not be taken to well-paved roads when 4WD is turned on as this could damage the car’s drivetrain.

Which one do you need?

For moderate off-road conditions, such as light snow, ice, or rainy water, you are going to be fine with the two-wheel drivetrain. The front-wheel-drive works well in such conditions. For high-performance cars, RWD is a great option.

All-wheel drive is perfect for moderate off-road excursions or light snow.

If you are an off-road enthusiast or if your city experiences a lot of snowfall, then you’d be better off with a 4WD truck with high ground clearance. SUVs and trucks have power suspensions and the light truck tyres further support the car in maintaining the traction.

Note: Both AWD and 4WD consume more fuel as they increase the weight of the vehicle.




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