To the nearsighted moron who came up with the term “All-Wheel Drive”,
Way to pick a name that immediately confuses everyone who ever reads it. It sounds no different from its competitor, Four-Wheel Drive, since there are four wheels on every All-Wheel Drive vehicle. You’re a nimrod.
What is All-Wheel Drive? (or AWD)
All-Wheel Drive vehicles have a powertrain that allows them to send torque (or, power) to all four wheels at the same time. This results in much better traction and control than Two-Wheel Drive vehicles.
What’s confusing is that Four-Wheel Drive vehicles basically do the same thing. However, the difference between the two is that, for the most part, AWD remains active all the time, while 4WD is turned on or off as the driver sees fit.
AWD can’t match the same level of traction that a 4WD vehicle can, but it’s a system that requires little to no effort from the driver, AWD vehicles typically get better fuel economy than 4WD models, and they’re lighter.
How Does All-Wheel Drive Work?
The biggest difference between how AWD and 4WD work, is that the All-Wheel Drive vehicle employs front, rear, AND center differentials with its transfer case.
Cutting through the auto industry jargon, what this means is that All-Wheel Drive vehicles have the ability to send power to each wheel on a moment-to-moment basis. Four-Wheel Drive vehicles need to be manually activated, which takes more effort on the part of the driver. It’s not an instantaneous decision, whereas All-Wheel Drive kicks-in in a fraction of a second.
As I said above, All-Wheel Drive vehicles can’t match the same levels of traction that Four-Wheel Drive vehicles can, but it’s a much more intuitive system. The computers in AWD vehicles have sensors on each wheel that monitor traction and wheel speed hundreds of times PER SECOND.
So even though it’s not distributing as much torque, it’s better at deciding which wheels need torque.
Do You Need an All-Wheel Drive Vehicle?
If you’re the type of person who plans on driving through difficult off-road conditions like mud, rocks, or slippery hills, then All-Wheel Drive is probably not the way to go. That’s 4WD’s jam.
If you’re more of a city driver who encounters snow, ice, or even gravel roads, then All-Wheel Drive is probably the way to go.
Think of it this way: 4WD is useful for people who are purposely going into poor road conditions. AWD is useful for people who have poor road conditions thrust upon them (slippery roads, for instance).
- Provides increased grip and control under all road conditions
- Gives sportier handling and traction to a broader range of cars.
- Works all the time
- Reduces Fuel Economy (compared to 2WD)
- Increases the weight and complexity of vehicles
- Not as good in extreme off-road conditions as 4WD
Do you prefer AWD over 4WD? What’s your favorite AWD vehicle? Do you have any advice for prospective AWD drivers? Let us know in the comments!