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All Wheel Drive versus Four Wheel Drive

Posted at Fri, Dec 4, 2020 12:45 PM

Following on our article from last Friday on the differences and advantages of Front Wheel Drive versus Rear Wheel Drive, today we’ll be taking a look at All Wheel Drive and Four Wheel Drive systems. Each possesses their own advantages in their class, and depending on how and where you intend to drive will be better for your unique situation. As always, North End Motors is committed to providing you with the information you need to help make an informed purchasing decision.

All Wheel Drive is a drivetrain system that sends power to both the front and rear axles, from there, with the help of a computer, power is automatically distributed to individual wheels. This allows for better handling when turning at both high and low speeds, and better traction control when driving in slippery conditions on pavement. With AWD, the vehicle typically operates in Two Wheel Drive unless slippage or certain traction conditions are meant, in which case power will be sent to the front wheels to help stabilize the vehicle.

Due to the way All Wheel Drive operates it’s found its way into a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from sedans to all different sizes of SUVs and even some trucks as the technology behind AWD continues to improve allowing for better off-roading capabilities. All Wheel Drive is particularly capable in performance vehicles, since power is sent directly to all four wheels, it allows for a better start from a full stop, and high speed turning is better due to power being sent to each wheel individually. However, due to the increased power demand on the engine you’ll see reduced fuel efficiency in AWD models.

Four Wheel Drive models also operate in Two Wheel Drive, however unlike AWD where the transfer will be automatic, 4WD requires the driver to activate the system by using a button, lever, or switch depending on the vehicle. In 4WD power is sent through a transfer case which distributes the power between the front and rear axle. Also unlike AWD toque is split evenly, meaning each wheel will rotate at the same speed. On pavement this provides a distinct disadvantage for 4wd systems, as each tire naturally rotates independently leaving a unique arc and with the power distributed locked you’ll likely encounter a noticeable shutter when making tight turns. This disadvantage is made almost null in off-road conditions, especially in packed snow and ice, as the wheels slip allowing for a unique arc to form, lessening the impact on your tires. For this reason, 4WD is best for off-roading, while AWD is the better choice for driving on pavement.

This drivetrain is also available in High and low variants. 4WD High is best for slippery pavement, as power is limited to wheels allowing for better handling in these conditions. While in 4WD low you’ll be better suited to go off-roading, particularly over sand and loose gravel. As with 4WD in general, both variants are activated manually by the driver when they best see fit.

As we’ve learned, both drivetrains are better suited for their own domains. While AWD may be best for the average commuter, especially with the winter months ahead, 4WD offers a great advantage to people looking to get off the beaten path. When comparing vehicles the next time you’re looking for a car, truck, or SUV make sure to reach out to the experts, like our team of sales professionals at 781-575-1002 to help make the best buying decision!

Make sure to check in here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a look at everything automotive, from comparisons on different vehicles to help you shop, and how we here at North End Motors do things different to help you make the best choice!

The article above acts as an introduction to All Wheel Drive and Four Wheel Drive drivetrain systems. Consumers should pursue a variety of sources when in the market to compare and/or purchase new vehicles. This article is not meant to replace research undertaken by consumers and should not be used as the sole source of information on the topic. North End Motors Inc. is not to be held liable should the above information be used in any way other than for what it is intended to be, a cursory overview of the topic.

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