Four-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive? Learn the Difference Now
You know what really doesn’t help when it comes to buying a car? People using terms interchangeably. Two terms that seem to mean the same thing being used as though they definitely do, despite there being subtle and important differences. One of the most common examples of this in the world of automobiles is four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, also referred to as 4WD and AWD.
This is a strange one. The reason the terms are used so interchangeably is because, quite often, they do actually refer to the same thing. It has the potential to confuse just about everyone when it comes to reviewing a vehicle with four wheels. After all, if a vehicle has four wheels and the system allows greater control and power of all the wheels, then isn’t it both? Four wheels on a four-wheeled vehicle are all the wheels, right?
The problem is that there are often differences between what all-wheel drive and what four-wheel drive refer to. It’s important that you understand the differences between these types. Let’s say you’re looking at a nice used Audi and the salesperson is telling you that it’s all-wheel drive. But sometimes they refer to it as four-wheel drive. Many Audis are all-wheel drive in a different sense than implied by the term four-wheel drive. Confusing, right? But all-wheel drive is one of the main selling points of many Audis. The famous Audi Quattro system is the king of all-wheel drive systems, so it’s important to learn the difference.
If you’re a newcomer to this entire concept, then it will be best to start with two-wheel drive. This describes vehicles in which two wheels get power from the engine at the same time. In four-wheel vehicles, either the front wheels or the back wheels will have that added power. Either the front or the back will be the main axle moving the car forward. These cars are simple and usually effective, so they’re very popular with police and other public services.
Four-wheel drive has – you guessed it – the engine powering all four wheels. Most of the time, the vehicle has the ability to switch between two-wheel and four-wheel drive. This is because all four wheels being powered by the engine can cause damage to the tyres if used on dry pavement. Four-wheel drive is, for this reason, aimed primarily at people who will going off-road. By allowing for greater control and power of all four wheels, the vehicle becomes more versatile and able to go over uneven ground.
All-wheel drive is a more recent and complex innovation. With all-wheel drive, that all-wheel drive system has been made to work both off-road and on-road. Basically, it’s like four-wheel drive, but it can handle road conditions that four-wheel drive has trouble with. Dry pavement, rain, snow – four-wheel drive usually doesn’t have the traction to handle them all. All-wheel drive tends to make use of more advanced technology – often a computer – that responds to the condition of every wheel. In bad weather, one wheel might not be going through the same condition as the other. One might be on dry pavement while another is on ice, for example. All-wheel drive is made to handle these situations.
So if a car salesperson says “all-wheel drive”, make sure they’re actually talking about all-wheel drive.