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4 Wheel Drive vs. All Wheel Drive

It’s something you hear interchangeably… 4 wheel drive vehicles and all wheel drive vehicles.  So how do you know what the difference between the two is and more importantly, how do you decide which is right for your needs?  Today, we’re breaking down what each drivetrain delivers, the benefits of each and the downsides of either.


Surprisingly, 4 Wheel Drive has been around for over 100 years, with the first documented design by Ferdinand Porsche.  4×4 is a form of drivetrain that allows power to all four wheels simultaneously with equal distribution.  It can be full time, but more frequently found to be part time in vehicles today.  4 Wheel Drive can be engaged in either 4WD Low or 4WD High depending on the task at hand.  Low range 4×4 should be used with speeds under 40mph and is typically engaged when more torque applied to each tire is desired. High range is used for traveling at normal speeds and beneficial when road conditions are slick.

How It Works

Power is supplied from the transmission to a transfer case, where it is then equally split between the front and rear axles for maximum torque.  By doing so, the transfer case ensures that all four wheels turn simultaneously and evenly, allowing the tires to turn at the same speed.  This allows for an increase in both power and in traction with the road.


Driving a vehicle equipped with 4WD allows for better traction, greater towing and hauling capabilities and better handling in icy, snowy, wet or other slick road conditions.  4×4 also ideal for off-road conditions over 2 Wheel Drive vehicles.


Turning all four wheels simultaneously takes a lot of power and in turn, takes more fuel to do it.  4WD vehicles, particularly while 4 Wheel Drive is engaged, are less fuel efficient than their 2 Wheel Drive counterparts.  Because all four tires are turning at the same speed, 4 Wheel Drive vehicles can also feel awkward completing turns due to the ground being covered.  The inside wheel needs to turn slower than the outside wheel, which is covering more ground.  But while 4×4 is engaged, the tires are not permitted to turn at different speeds and this leads to that ‘jerky’ feeling you may have experienced before.  4WD vehicles are also more expensive and weight more than similar 2WD vehicles.




All Wheel Drive is a relatively new innovation and more complicated system than 4WD by using sensors to adjust power to each wheel given the need.  AWD is permanently on and more commonly found in cars and SUVs versus trucks, which typically offer 4WD.  All Wheel Drive vehicles have become ever increasingly more popular not only for their increase in traction when necessary but in their overall handling experience.

How It Works

AWD vehicles achieve a very similar goal, using a slightly different strategy. AWD systems utilize a front, center and rear differential with a variety of sensors, determining which wheels have the most grip, while seamlessly and automatically redirecting power to those with less. This means depending on the road conditions, All Wheel Drive vehicles send a variable amount of power to each wheel.


The biggest advantage of All Wheel Drive vehicles is the peace of mind afforded from not having to worry about turning 4WD on and off.  It’s not always easy to tell if the road conditions are slippery but All Wheel Drive vehicles take the guesswork out of the equation.  Because AWD vehicles are always monitoring how much traction each wheel has, it can allocate power when and where it needs it most.  This advancement has created vehicles that are better at providing sportier handling on all types of road conditions including snow, ice and rain.


Because of the drivetrain utilized in All Wheel Drive vehicles, the power can not be switched on and off, and can negate fuel efficiency.  AWD vehicles can also not match the traction offered by 4×4 vehicles, thus they fall short of providing the same towing and hauling capabilities at lower speeds.  All Wheel Drive vehicles do not perform the same in off-road conditions.  AWD systems also add weight and complexity to vehicles, and typically cost more than similar 2WD vehicles.




If you’re looking for a dependable, 4WD or AWD vehicle in the Hastings area, Broadmoor Motors Hastings can help!  At Broadmoor Motors, we specialize in finding the right used car, minivan, truck, or SUV to fit your personal or business needs, all while giving you the best deal we can on both your purchase and trade in.  Our family has been in the car business for over 60 years and continues to be family owned and operated in both our Caledonia and Hastings locations with financing available to those who qualify, we will find you the right vehicle to fit both your budget and your needs.

Let Broadmoor Motors save you time and money when buying your next quality, Pre-Owned Car or Work Truck and on your next Car Rental.  Whether you need a short term car rental, long term car rental, a replacement while your vehicle is getting serviced or simply need to replace your car, minivan, truck or SUV with a great used vehicle, we can help you out.  Broadmoor Motors is here for all your Car Rental, Car Sales, and Auto Service needs in the greater Grand Rapids and Barry County area.  Give us a call at 616.698.9595 in Caledonia  or 269.320.6304 in Hastings to see how we can get you back on the road!

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