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AWD & 4WD Vehicles - Which One is Right for You?

snow covered suv

What is the Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

Whether you're new to the automotive world or you're a long-time enthusiast, you may have wondered about the differences between 4WD and AWD. If you'd like to learn how they differ, what their uses are, and what brands commonly carry either, then we here at County Line Wholesale have all the answers! Take a look below to learn more.

What is All-Wheel Drive & How Does is Work?

All wheel drive, also written as AWD, is a more recent innovation than 4WD and is on all the time as opposed to being switched on and off. AWD provides power to all four wheels but, unlike 4WD, it sends more power to the individual wheels with the most traction to pick up the slack for any wheels that are slipping from poor road conditions like ice or water. AWD isn't as useful for off-roading but, for driving on paved roads, it's the absolute best for traction and control.

Who Makes AWD Vehicles?

AWD vehicles are more common than ever these days, being available in cars, crossovers, SUVs, trucks, and minivans. Take a look below for a short list of automakers and just a sampling of some popular AWD vehicles they make:

  • Toyota: RAV4, RAV4 Hyrbid, Highlander, Sienna
  • Ford: Focus, Fusion, Escape
  • Subaru: Forester, Outback, Impreza, Legacy, WRX, Crosstrek
  • Nissan: Juke, Rogue, Murano, Armada
  • Honda: HR-V, CR-V, Pilot
  • Jeep: Grand Cherokee, Compass, Patriot
  • Acura: TLX,  RLX, RDX, MDX
  • Chevrolet: Trax, Equinox, Tahoe
  • Mazda: CX-3
  • BMW: all models with xDrive, including 3 Series, 5 series, X series
  • Audi: A3, A4, A5, Q3, Q5, Q7
  • LexusIS 350, RX350

What is Four-Wheel Drive & How Does it Work?

Four wheel drive, also written as 4WD or 4x4, means "four-wheel drive transmission" and it has its uses primarily in off-roading vehicles. 4WD has the power from the transmission sent to the transfer case, which ensures that all four wheels are turning at the same speed. This can cause problems when trying to go around corners (as the inside wheels needs to turn slower than the outside wheels) so many modern 4WD vehicles have a button or switch to activate the feature. When activated, poor conditions like mud or obstacles like rocks are no longer a problem to tackle. Once you're past the problem, you can switch it off to increase your fuel efficiency and return to normal driving.

What Automakers Offer 4WD Vehicles?

4WD vehicles are typically off-roading vehicles, as said before, so many SUVs and trucks tend to offer it as an available option at least. Below you'll find a non-comprehensive list of automakers and some 4WD vehicles they offer:

  • CADILLAC: Escalade
  • Jeep: Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited, Cherokee, and Renegade
  • Toyota: 4Runner and Tacoma
  • Chevrolet: Silverado and Colorado
  • Ram: 1500, 2500, and 3500
  • Ford: Explorer, F-150, F-250, and F-350
  • GMC: Sierra and Canyon
  • Nissan: Pathfinder, Frontier, Titan

What Are the Best AWD Cars and SUVs?

Each manufacturer offers a slightly different approach to all-wheel drive, however all AWD models will provide better ability to accelerate and gain traction in poor conditions than two-wheel drive vehicles.  Test driving different models can help you decide which one is right for you.  You can also check out Consumer Reports October 6th, 2016, guide to Best All-Wheel-Drive Cars & SUVs.  They came to the conclusion the following 10 models were the best:

  1. Subaru Outback
  2. Subaru Crosstrek
  3. Subaru Forester
  4. Audi Q5
  5. Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL
  6. Jeep Wrangler
  7. Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
  8. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  9. Toyota 4Runner
  10. Ford Expedition

Frequently Asked Questions

Are AWD and 4x4 the same thing?

As stated above, they are similar but have different uses. While 4x4 is good for short uses over obstacles or off-roading through mud, AWD is best for daily driving on nearly any road condition.

Are AWD and 4WD vehicles good in the snow?

Yes, both are excellent in the snow but in different situations. 4WD is great for slow crawling through deep snow while AWD handles wonderfully on snowy roads.

When is 4WD necessary?

4WD is only truly necessary for getting through poor off-roading conditions or climbing over obstacles in vehicles with high ground clearance.

When should I rotate the tires on an AWD vehicle?

We recommend that you rotate the tires of your vehicle every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, even if your tires don't appear to show uneven wear.

Are AWD and 4WD vehicle more expensive to insure?

There are various risk factors associated with 4WD and AWD vehicles (i.e. off-roading and worse road conditions), so their insurance premiums can higher.

Subaru WRX sedan

Subaru vehicles and Jeep SUVs are very popular at our dealership among car shoppers seeking a vehicle that will handle confidently in all driving conditions.

Jeep SUV covered in snow

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