What Is The Difference Between AWD and 4×4

Times have changed, and with that, most vehicles are offering the option to include an AWD or 4×4 feature to your ride. But some might ask, what exactly is the difference between the two – are they not the same thing?

The short answer, is while there are some similarities to the two, ultimately, they offer different functions to your vehicle.

So let’s dive into this a little deeper, what exactly is AWD?  Well, when a vehicle offers AWD on a full time basis, then as the name implies – it is sending power to both the front and rear wheels all of the time. However, there is also part time AWD powertrain which only sends power to the four wheels when additional traction control is needed, otherwise the vehicle functions in two-wheel-drive mode.

Full time AWD drive the front and rear axles all of the time. On pavement that is dry, this can help with ensuring full power gets to the road. In colder and slipperier conditions, it provides additional traction which assists with handling the vehicle more confidently. Part time AWD means that the vehicle is essentially driven in 2-wheel drive most of the time, either front or rear depending on the make. The system will automatically engage the other two wheels depending on if extra traction is needed – no help from the driver is needed as it works off electronic sensors that feed information to a computer and controls the wheel power.

When individuals think of drivetrains that power all four of the vehicle’s wheels, Four-Wheel drive is typically what comes to mind. Four-Wheel drive allows the vehicle to operate at maximum traction under a number of different road conditions.  This system is designed to send torque to all four of the vehicle’s wheels to increase traction if needed. However, Four-Wheel drive can typically handle more rugged terrain as they were originally built for off-roading capabilities. Most 4WD also have high and low ranges that the driver selects based on their preference. The low setting allows for maximum traction in an off-road situation while the high setting is great for slippery conditions including gravel, ice and rain.

Full-time 4WD operates the same as AWD, where all four wheels constantly receive power. Part time is normally when the vehicle is most often in 2-wheel drive but the driver can press a button or shift a lever to engage the 4WD feature.