Difference Between AWD and 4×4

January 9th, 2016 by

AWD vs 4x4 - Ressler MotorsSo you’ve made the plunge! You’ve decided to ditch the city-only car and get something with a little more oomph. Something rugged. Something more you. Maybe you’ve even already started this new mountain-y car, off-road version of yourself and bought some flannel. A tent. Maybe you made friends with a guy who has a beard and a man-bun. That’s not really as rugged as it sounds. But you know what is? All wheel drive, baby. You know what else is? Four wheel drive, my friend. Now, I know what you’re thinking: aren’t those the same thing? No, no they are not. And before you let your beard-wearing, man-bun-having friend try to explain, well, don’t. He’s not rugged, remember. You are. So, take a look at how we’ve broken down the difference between AWD and 4×4 for you! Once you’ve figured it out, you’re that much closer to choosing the right vehicle for you, and you’re that much closer to getting off the street and onto the real roads!


Also known as four wheel drive, 4×4 is when (bear with us, it’s going to get technical for one second) the power goes from the transmission to this fancy thing called a transfer case. The transfer case then splits the power equally between all four wheels. This is fantastic for when you need your car to make it over rough terrain, a snowy drive, or just a pile of boulders you set up in your yard to test out your new car and it’s torque. This is not so great however, when you need to do things like, turn because if all four wheels are spinning at the same speed and with the same power and you try to make a sharp left, you won’t make it. Ever watch ice skating? Of course not, you’re rugged, but let’s pretend you have on accident. When ice skaters make those wide turns they slow, and almost stop the inside foot to turn while moving the outside one rapidly. That’s what your car needs to do. Luckily, vehicles that have 4WD are usually only on if you activate it, so that you can shift into 2 wheel drive when you need to.


All wheel drive is a more recent addition to the car world than 4 wheel drive is, and though they appear similar (and they are), one of the major differences is that AWD is on all the time. You don’t get to choose when to use it, like you do with 4WD, and that’s because it does the choosing for you. AWD utilizes innovative technology to monitor wheel traction, speed, and lots of other factors to determine which wheels get which power. So, when you’re on a slippery road, or when you need to slow down and turn it figures out which wheels to give speed to and which ones to slow down. This process is often called “torque vectoring”. Throw that term around at dinner parties, you’ll be a hit.

Which One Should You Go With

Well, that really all depends on you. How rugged and outdoorsy are you going to get? If you’re going to be off-roading a ton, and really hitting the dirt, and the rocks, and the trees, then 4×4 might be the best for you. But if you’re only doing that once in awhile, and need the traction for bad weather, snowy roads, and the occasional off road trip then you might want to go with AWD. But it’s really up to you. Put that flannel on and get in touch with your new self! You guys decide, and then get out there. The road is waiting!

Posted in Car Buying Tips