All Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four Wheel Drive (4WD), refers to a setup where the power from the engine is distributed to rotate all four wheels.
This differs from front– and rear-wheel drive cars where the power is sent to either the front or rear wheels only.
- Cars with AWD or 4WD often have more grip when accelerating as the power is sent to the ground via four different points.
This means that even if one or two wheels don’t have traction the other wheels should – this is one of the reasons that all-wheel drive vehicles are essential for off-road driving.
- All-wheel drive systems tend to be heavier than front- or rear-wheel drive systems.
Added weight in a car means that the engine needs to work harder to move the car, which is less efficient.
This is the reason that you will often see an all-wheel drive version of a car have worse fuel economy than a two-wheel drive version of the same car.
Difference between AWD and 4WD
- The terms AWD and 4WD are often used interchangeably, and while they are often similar there tends to be some key differences.
- All-Wheel Drive (AWD) systems are normally found in more road-focused cars where the driver wants the added benefit of better traction and stability.
- Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) systems are normally found in more off-road-focused SUVs and pickups and tend to be more robust to handle rugged terrain.
Often this can mean cars with 4WD aren’t as comfortable on-road.
Check out our recommendations for the desert – all with excellent off-road ability.