What is AWD (all-wheel drive)?

What is AWD?

AWD is the acronym for all-wheel drive, which is the term used to describe a vehicle capable of delivering power from the engine to all four wheels simultaneously. This can be beneficial to drivers and their safety as it can improve vehicle traction in snow and low-traction conditions.


What’s the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) or 4×4?

First off, 4WD simply means that power is supplied to four wheels in some mechanical form. So AWD and 4×4 are both types of 4WD. The more necessary distinction is between 4×4 and AWD.

If you want a more technical explanation, this link details the differences between 4WD types. If you want a top-level overview of the differences between AWD vs 4×4, here it is:

All-wheel drive 

AWD can supply power to all four wheels, but how it does so will likely depend on the traction conditions. AWD systems can transfer power between the front or rear axle depending on where it’s needed most. Some AWD systems can be in total 2WD (two-wheel drive) mode until additional traction is required, when it will distribute the power to all wheels. Others will put around 70-80% of the power to one axle with the balance of power to the other axle, and distribute it up to 50:50 as necessary. Powering individual wheels rather than axles might even be possible with some AWD systems. AWD systems are more common for consumer vehicles designed for on-road driving conditions.

What is 4×4?

4×4 systems will distribute power to all four wheels equally at all times. Limited slip differentials might permit outside wheels to rotate at slightly higher rates as is necessary when turning as wheels need to rotate at different speeds when cornering. But 4×4 is better oriented for off-road driving and trail riding. So unless you’re planning on using your vehicle to blaze some trails, AWD is probably completely adequate for your needs and more appropriate for typical day-to-day use and getting through any snow the Canadian winter throws our way!

Hope this helps,

Angus McComb

If you would like any assistance finding an AWD or 4×4 vehicle, I’m always here to help.



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