All-Wheel Drive, Four-Wheel Drive and Rear-Wheel Drive: What’s the Difference?

Buying a new vehicle can be a tough task. From advanced emergency braking systems to lane assist control, modern cars are coming with a lot of complex features that are difficult to understand. Learning the basic difference between all-wheel-drive, two-wheel-drive and a four-wheel-drive can help you make the right decision when it comes to buying a new vehicle.

So, let’s explore different wheel drives:


In a 2WD car, the power control is focused on either the front wheels or the rear wheels. As the car only exerts the power for two wheels, it puts less pressure on the vehicle and less fuel is consumed.

If the front wheels are taking all the acceleration then it is called a front-wheel drive
If the rear wheels are consuming all the power then it’s called a rear-wheel drive
Rear-Wheel Drive:
These are mostly found in Pick-up trucks, luxurious cars and sports cars
When compared to FWD, RWD vehicles maintain a better balance as the weight is equally distributed
Rear-wheel drives are ideal for tracks. As the acceleration is transferred to wheels in the rear it helps maintain traction with the road while the car reaches maximum speed.
Front-Wheel Drive:

Front-wheel drive is the most common type of drive in the market today, especially for passenger vehicles.

Just like RWD, FWD cars are not heavy as they don’t distribute the power to all four wheels
As discussed earlier, the fuel-efficiency is greater since the engine has to power only two wheels. This also decreases the production cost of the car which makes these cars more affordable
While rear-wheel drive provides better traction in dry conditions, FWD are great for off-road conditions as the front wheels can balance the weight of engine and transmission directly.
Four-Wheel Drive vs All-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive is not always turned on. In normal condition, the rear-wheels are carrying the vehicle forward as the power is transferred to these, while the tyres in the front spin don’t receive any acceleration. The driver has to manually turn the 4-wheel-drive on by either pulling a lever or pressing a button.

Since the four-wheel drive is not always on, you should know when to turn it on.

Unlike 4WD, all-wheel-drive is always on. The computer in the car is responsible to transfer power to every wheel. The computer decides which car should receive more acceleration. For instance, when you are on a highway, most power is given to rear wheels so your car can attain maximum fuel-efficiency.

When the driving conditions change, if you come across a small puddle of water, the system will adapt to it and transfer the power to the wheel which needs it the most to maintain traction and to avoid hydroplaning.

On the other hand, two-wheel drive vehicles are more vulnerable in such conditions and can lose control. Most drivers can relate to this as they take a turn with wet tyres, the wheels start to spin.

AWD cars are engineered to keep the journey smooth and safe. AWD comes standard in nearly all modern SUVs. The upper-level trims of Pilot Honda, Elite and Black Edition, are equipped with AWD. An AWD makes it more favourable for the car to attain optimal level of traction in snow, ice or mud.

If you want to know what it will be optimum wheel and tyre combination for your car you should try wheel offset calculator

However, a 4WD is better in tough terrains like mud, gravel or sand. In extreme off-road conditions, a four-wheel drive car will offer better grip and better traction for the driver. These vehicles can be dangerous when you take them back to well-paved surfaces as the axles are not created to run at uniform speed in standard cornering.

While a four-wheel-drive could be better for a person who primarily drives on tough terrains, you need to switch them on and off consciously. On the other hand, all-wheel drive is automated and does not require manual handling.

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both AWD and 4WD are not fuel-efficient. An AWD is not fuel-efficient because it is always on, while an 4WD eats more fuel because it is weighty.

An AWD car like Honda Pilot may take slightly more fuel than its 2WD counterpart but will assure your ride comfort and driving safety as the wheels will never lose traction, especially when you are turning through tough turns or driving in heavy rains.

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