Front Wheel Drive versus All Wheel Drive

Posted at Fri, Dec 18, 2020 12:30 PM

Winter is here, the roads are icy and with more cold days ahead its looking to stay that way. In today’s article we’ll be looking at the differences between All Wheel Drive and Front Wheel Drive, while we’ve covered both separately in past articles we’ll be taking a closer look at how they compare head to head. While front wheel drive is the most common drive train setup you’ll find in most vehicles, with the advent of the powerhouse SUV market and other factors All Wheel Drive’s prevalence is growing every day.

First off, front wheel drive is the lightest and least expensive to maintain out of drive train systems. Why is that? With everything located in the front of the vehicle and power being sent to the front wheels closest to it, there’s less parts involved in delivering the power when compared to All Wheel Drive systems. This’ll translate to lower cost of ownership over the lifetime of your vehicle for maintenance on the system and will save you money at the gas pump due to the marked better fuel economy of the system.

FWD systems operate well in dry and rainy conditions, and with improving technologies such as Automatic Braking Systems and traction control they compensate well in snowier and more slick wintery conditions as well, given that you drive defensively and safely when there’s snowy weather. This system also handles hills exceptionally well due to the weight of the engine being placed over the front wheels, giving you more forward momentum to tackle the toughest hills.

With All Wheel Drive, power is sent to all four of your wheels. This is managed by differentials placed on the axles that distribute power to each wheel as needed. This affords better handling during the winter months as each wheel is able to compensate accordingly when one slips. And increasingly in common offroad conditions as well as these systems improve, however rocky terrain and crossing water is still best left to Four Wheel Drive Systems.

Compared to Front Wheel Drive, you’ll likely spend more throughout the time you own your All Wheel Drive vehicle. This is due to the components being spread out throughout the vehicle, making it heavier, as well as the increased power to all tires leading to a worse fuel economy. However this cost on fuel economy is lesser in part-time AWD systems, where the rear wheels only receive power if the conditions on the road call for it, all controlled by a central computer.

In addition to the increased cost of maintenance and fuel, Front Wheel Drive systems also generally offer more space in the rear passenger seats due to the absence of the transmission tunnel found in AWD vehicles. And, since FWD systems have all of their technology chiefly in the front of the vehicle, manufacturers have been able to open up more space for those sitting in the front as well by optimizing space.

Overall, in terms of traction and control on the road, All Wheel Drive shines through as the clear advantage, especially those of us who receive a larger amount of snow throughout the winter. While in terms of fuel economy and cost of maintenance Front Wheel Drive systems take the cake. As technology advances within each system we’ll be sure to see a greater blurring of the lines between all systems, as systems such as traction control and automatic braking advance, and as the computer systems controlling AWD systems advance as well. Whatever comes, our team here at North End Motors at 390 Turnpike Canton, MA will be here every day (except for Sundays) to help enable you to make the best automotive choice next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle!

From our family to yours, stay safe and stay healthy this holiday season! And, while you’re home, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube for yours on all of our vehicles, and follow us on Twitter to receive updates when new content becomes available!

Thank you for reading!


The article above includes information collected from a variety of sources on All Wheel Drive and Front Wheel Drive systems. Consumers should pursue a variety of sources both online and with their preferred automotive dealer when researching information on vehicle systems. 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 short introduction to these vehicle features.

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