Automobiles

Difference between AWD and 4WD

Main difference

The key difference between AWD and 4WD is the drivetrain that provides power to the wheels of a vehicle by different methods. AWD is a transmission that has a front, rear, and center differential to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle. 4WD employs two differentials and a transfer case to provide power to all four wheels of a vehicle.

What is AWD?

Four-wheel drive (AWD) is a type of vehicle or powertrain that is capable of providing power to all four wheels of the vehicle, either on a full-time or on-demand basis. The most common forms of AWD are: 4 × 4; 6 × 6; and 8 × 8. In 4 × 4, there are two axles with both wheels on each of the axles capable of being driven. Whereas in 6 × 6, there are three axles and in 8 × 8 there are four axles with both wheels on each capable of being driven. AWD vehicles can be part-time with four-wheel drive or full-time. On demand, also known as part-time, where one axle is permanently connected to the transmission and the other is connected as needed. Full-time also known as permanent since in this the axles are permanently connected, with or without differential.

What is 4WD?

Four-wheel drive is a form of four-wheel drive powertrain capable of providing power to all four wheels of the vehicle simultaneously. It can be full-time or on-demand, and it can be connected to multiple drive axles for high and low ranges. 4WD generally refers to four-by-four vehicles which is a general class of vehicles. 4WD refers to vehicles that employ two differentials and a transfer case to provide power to all four wheels of the vehicles, which means that the front and rear driveshafts will lock together when engaged. This provides the maximum torque transfer to the axle with the most traction, but in high-traction turning situations. Full-time or part-time 4WD can also be selected.

Key differences
  1. 4WD displays the best traction in off-road conditions, while AWD provides grip and control in all road conditions.
  2. 4WD can be turned off to improve fuel economy, while AWD only reduces fuel economy and has low fuel consumption.
  3. AWD’s safety ratings are higher than 4WD’s.
  4. The use of AWD is recommended for highway driving, while 4WD is recommended for off-road driving.
  5. 4WD is much heavier and consumes additional space compared to AWD.
  6. 4WD has both shift options; high and low, while AWD only has the high option.

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