awd cars

awd cars

Best AWD Cars

Planning to go in for an all wheel drive vehicle? Take a look at some of the best ones around, that have been mentioned here.

Planning to go in for an all wheel drive vehicle? Take a look at some of the best ones around, that have been mentioned here…

All Wheel Drive (AWD) is a very prominent technology that is incorporated in heavy vehicles, cargo trucks, and military vehicles. It is a system that enables the engine to control, or send power to all the wheels of the automobile, regardless of how many wheels and axles the vehicle has. On the other hand, Four Wheel Drive (4WD) is a similar technology which is generally found in muscle cars, sports cars, luxury cars, and SUVs manufactured today. Remember that the 4WD system controls only two axles, or four wheels of the vehicle. Many people get confused between the two of these automobile terms. If the vehicle has an AWD system, the driver does not have an option of switching between wheel controls. This means he cannot make the engine control only two wheels in case of an AWD vehicle, whereas, in 4WD cars, the driver can either drive the car with 2×2 or 4×4 control, as and when required.

These are just the basic differences between the two technologies. Both the terms can generally be used interchangeably, as long as you do not get into the technicalities. AWDs are ideal for places with a lot of sand and snow.

The Best AWDs
Audi Q5 Lexus IS 250 AWD
Infiniti G37x BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Chevrolet Equinox
Infiniti G37x AWD Volkswagen Tiguan
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD BMW 335i xDrive Coupe
Subaru Outback Ford Taurus
Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD Suzuki SX4 Crossover
Buick LaCrosse Ford Explorer XLT 4WD
Cadillac CTS 3.6L Performance AWD Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic
Lexus RX 450h AWD Ford Flex
Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited Ford Escape Hybrid
Subaru Legacy 2.5i Volvo V50 T5 AWD
Ford Fusion V6 SE Toyota Sienna LE

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If you are looking for an AWD car with good mileage; you can go in for options such as MINI Cooper S Countryman All4, Nissan Juke AWD, Subaru Impreza, Audi Quattro, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mercury Milan, or the Saab 9-3. Good AWDs that are on the cheaper side are the Dodge Journey SXT, Toyota RAV4 Sport, Honda CR-V, Ford Taurus SEL, Suzuki Kizashi S, Ford Fusion SEL, Toyota Venza, Nissan Rogue, and the Mazda CX-7.

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Every car features one of three basic drivetrain layouts: Front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), and four- or all-wheel drive (4WD or AWD). There are no right- or left-wheel drive models on the market, though Rivian’s electric R1T will come close when it launches, so those are the three configurations you’ve got to choose from.

Further reading

In a front-wheel-drive car, the transmission channels the engine’s power to the front wheels only. Rear-wheel-drive cars rely, as the term implies, on their rear wheels for motion, while four- or all-wheel drive cars have power at all four corners. Each layout comes with pros and cons that affect the way the vehicle behaves and defines its handling, especially in inclement weather. We’re covering the basics before we dive into which layout is best suited to a given situation.

What is rear-wheel drive (RWD)?

Rear-wheel drive, which is often abbreviated as RWD, is the oldest layout. It denotes a configuration in which the engine sends its power through a transmission to the rear axle of a vehicle. The 1885 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, which is often considered the very first car, was rear-wheel drive. In America, a vast majority of cars were rear-wheel drive through the 1970s. The configuration is becoming increasingly rare in 2020, however. Sports cars like the Toyota Supra keep it alive.

What is front-wheel drive (FWD)?

Front-wheel drive, which is often abbreviated FWD, denotes a configuration in which the engine sends its power to the front wheels. Front-wheel drive surfaced during the 1900s on various prototypes, and it became common during the 1930s when French automaker Citroen released the Traction Avant (which means, literally, front-wheel drive). Saab and Audi precursor Auto Union used the layout early on, but the most famous — and most influential — front-wheel drive is undoubtedly the original Mini. Small economy cars began shifting to front-wheel drive during the 1970s, and most new cars sold in 2020 use this configuration.

What is all-wheel drive/four-wheel drive (AWD/4WD)?

All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, abbreviated as AWD and 4WD, denote a configuration in which the engine’s power gets sent to the four wheels for maximum traction. Four-wheel drive is normally used to describe a type of heavy-duty system found on trucks and SUVs, while all-wheel drive often refers to a more basic technology that equips sedans, station wagons, and crossovers. Most pickups and SUVs remain four-wheel drive in 2020, and a growing list of cars offer all-wheel drive either standard or at an extra cost.

There is usually a mechanical connection between the front and rear axles, but electric cars sometimes offer what’s called through-the-road all-wheel drive. Both axles are driven, but there is no connection between them; engineers achieve this by placing an electric motor over each axle.

See our piece on the specific differences between four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive for a closer look at both systems.

Which is better?

That’s one of the most loaded questions in the automotive world. The truth is, it depends on the situation and the application of the system. For instance, any type of four-wheel-drive system is perceived as superior in low-traction situations. That makes it most favorable for those who live in regions where it snows quite a bit, or where paved roads are a luxury. More recently, all-wheel drive has become more prominent in performance applications as a way to increase traction.

When it comes to two-wheel drive layouts, and the argument of front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive, the debate becomes even more complicated. Because of its age and history with the origin of the automobile, rear-wheel drive was once the most prominent type of drivetrain because of its simple and cost-effective design. As technology evolved, cheaper development costs made front-wheel drive more popular due to packaging and fuel economy. That’s because front-wheel drive vehicles require fewer parts since the power- and drivetrain are typically all one unit that sits at the front of the vehicle. There’s no such thing as a rear-engine, front-wheel drive vehicle because it makes zero sense in terms of engineering complexity, though some rear-engined vehicles are four-wheel drive (like the Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro).

As for which is better, well, again, it depends on the situation. Both front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles have their disadvantages, but both have proven themselves well, especially when the car is equipped with the proper tires for the weather.

Bred for the right conditions

How well each configuration performs in inclement weather is what concerns most vehicle buyers, because motorists want a car that can get them from point A to point B reliably. Four-wheel drive is usually the better solution, but not every car offers the option and the ones that do often carry a price premium.

Front-wheel drive vehicles tend to perform better in everyday driving situations, particularly during inclement weather. That’s because both the engine and the transmission sit over the front axle, adding weight to the drive wheels, which increases traction for slippery situations. Most manufacturers of standard cars have resorted to front-wheel drive because they’re cheaper to make, more efficient in operation, and provide better traction to the everyday driver.

Rear-wheel drive vehicles, despite being the original layout and preferred in the earlier days of motoring, have disadvantages to the everyday driver, and become trickier to handle when bad weather sets in. Not everyone is capable of handling a rear-wheel-drive vehicle in a snowstorm, for example. It’s a layout that eats up interior space, too.

In many ways, your environment and daily routine will dictate which drivetrain is right for you. If you live in either a fair-weather or mild, four-season climate with modest levels of snow and rain, you can get away with pretty much any drivetrain choice.

Performance driving behavior

All three layouts have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to driving fast.

Front-wheel drive vehicles tend to exhibit what’s called understeer, or when the vehicle resists its ability to steer because the front axle is overloaded. This is what we know as the sensation of “turning the steering wheel and nothing happens,” and Newton’s first law of inertia physics comes into play. That’s because front-wheel drive vehicles put a lot of demand on the front axle, requiring it to both deliver power and manage steering, which can easily overwhelm the front tires.

Truth be told, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive both have proven themselves as tried and tested in motorsports. Examples of legendary front-wheel drive racers include the original Mini Cooper that won the Monte Carlo Rally and, more recently, the British Touring Car Championship, which almost exclusively features front-wheel driven racing cars.

Rear-wheel drive is preferred in performance applications since its layout offers the most flexibility and versatility without any sacrifice in performance. In other words, rear-wheel-drive cars can have their engine sit either at the front, in the rear-middle, or in some unique cases, the back (like the Porsche 911 or the original Volkswagen Beetle).

For performance drivers, rear-wheel-drive also provides the most balanced feel. Handling characteristics of rear-wheel-drive vehicles are very predictable with the right talent behind the wheel. That’s usually due to weight distribution, and the fact that you’re not asking a set of wheels to do more than one action. Also, because the rear wheels are the drive wheels, they often exhibit what’s called oversteer, which occurs when the rear of the vehicle rotates around a curve because the rear drive wheels lose traction, causing the weight of the vehicle to shift and break the rear end loose. For performance drivers, this is preferred over understeer since oversteer can be recovered a lot more easily — again, if you know what you’re doing behind the wheel.

Photo Gallery

There was a time when all-wheel drive was the exclusive realm of trucks: pickups and SUVs designed to venture far off the beaten path. But these days, you can get all sorts of vehicles with four-wheel traction: sports cars, convertibles, sedans, wagons, hatchbacks, and, yes, electric vehicles.

While most EVs transmit their power and torque to the road through one axle, there are a fair few on the market now (or coming soon) that offer the rare combination of electric propulsion with traction at each corner.

So if our recent list of all-wheel-drive hybrids wasn’t electrified enough for your liking, here are 10 all-wheel-drive cars and trucks that run on battery power alone – no fossil fuels required – ranked from the least expensive to the most (short of exotic, multi-million-dollar supercars).

Top 10 Electric Cars with AWD

Tesla Model 3

  • Range: 310 miles
  • 0-60: 3.2-4.4 seconds
  • Price: $49,900-59,900

The most cost-effective and compelling options come from Tesla, whose entry-level Model 3 starts at under $40,000 in standard-range, rear-drive form. Step up to the Long Range model for just under $50k and you get dual motors – one at each axle, driving all four wheels – and its range climbs from 240 miles to 310. The top-of-the-line Performance model pushes $60k and gets that same range, but drops the 0-60 time down from to just 3.2 seconds.

Tesla Model Y

  • Range: 280 miles
  • 0-60: 3.5-4.8 seconds
  • Price: $52,000-61,000

Dig the Tesla Model 3 but prefer the taller form of a crossover? The new Model Y could be just the ticket. The baby brother to the Model X is a little heavier than 3, so its range and performance suffer slightly – and you’ll pay a little more for it, too. The rear-drive Long Range model starts at $48,000 and delivers the best range of 300 miles. With Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, it goes for $52k and 280 miles but drops the 0-60 time down from 5.5 seconds to 4.8. And for $61k, the top Performance model delivers the same 280-mile range but will sprint to 60 in just 3.5 seconds.

Polestar 2

  • Range: 275 miles
  • 0-60: under 5 seconds
  • Price: $63,000

Volvo’s electrified brand is following up on the upscale Polestar 1 hybrid luxury coupe (itself soon to begin production) with the new Polestar 2. And this time it’s not only (relatively) more accessible – it’s all-electric, too. With typically Scandinavian minimalist, angular design, the five-door fastback promises a 0-60 time of under five seconds and a range of 275 miles. The launch edition is hitting the West Coast first for $63,000, but we’re expecting more affordable versions to proliferate across the country from around $45k.

Rivian R1S & R1T

  • Range: 230-410 miles
  • 0-60: 3.0-4.9 seconds
  • Price: $69,000-72,500

A newcomer to the field, American startup Rivian is gearing up to launch its Electric Adventure Vehicle in two forms: the R1S sport-ute and the R1T pickup. Both are based on the same underpinnings and promise similar specifications in an effort to shake up the truck market dominated by conventional automakers and beat Tesla’s forthcoming pickup to the punch. At around $70k, they won’t come cheap, but they aim to deliver with range as high as 410 miles and a 0-60 time as low as three seconds flat.

Mercedes-Benz EQC

  • Range: 279 miles (NEDC)
  • 0-60: 4.9 seconds
  • Price: est $70,000

The first dedicated electric vehicle from Mercedes’ new EQ line is a crossover. The EQC is about the size of the conventional GLC, but with batteries and electric motors in place of an internal-combustion engine, and more futuristic styling to set it apart. So far Daimler has only quoted a 279-mile range on the outmoded NEDC standard, but we’re anticipating a 0-60 time of under five seconds and a sticker price in the low $70k range. Expect final figures to be announced before it reaches showrooms next year – around the same time that BMW will introduce its own challenger in the form of the forthcoming iX3.

Jaguar I-Pace

  • Range: 234 miles
  • 0-60: 4.5 seconds
  • Price: $70,525

Among the first electric vehicles to come from an established luxury automaker, the I-Pace is the initial salvo in an onslaught of EVs in the pipeline at Jaguar Land Rover. Like so many on this list, the electric Jag is positioned as a crossover, even if it’s closer in form to a hatchback. But whatever you call it, it’s a pretty slick piece of kit that was quickly named World Car of the Year. It’s even yielded a racing version for an undercard support series of the Formula E championship (in which Jaguar also competes).

Tesla Model S

  • Range: 285-370 miles
  • 0-60: 2.4-4.0 seconds
  • Price: $75,000-116,000

The original Tesla (discounting the Lotus-based first-generation Roadster) is still one of the best electric vehicles on the market. Unlike its smaller stablemates, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive now comes standard, starting at $75k with 285 miles of range and a four-second 0-60 time. The Long Range version will hit 60 in 3.7 seconds and go for 370 miles on a charge for $85k. The Performance model can be yours for $96k, sacrificing 25 miles of range for a three-second sprint. But splash out $116k and you get Ludicrous Mode, electrically rocketing to 60 in a mind-blowing 2.4 seconds (while maintaining the Performance model’s quoted range).

Audi E-Tron

  • Range: 204 miles
  • 0-60: 5.5 seconds
  • Price: $75,795

Audi has entered the EV game with… you guessed it: a crossover. The debut E-Tron is larger than its rivals from Mercedes and Jaguar – and bigger, in other terms, than the conventional Q5, but not as big as the Q7 and Q8. It consequently delivers a somewhat lackluster 204-mile range and a 5.5-second 0-60 time. But sure as our climate is changing, you can bet there’ll be more EVs to follow from the German automaker in an array of shapes and sizes.

Tesla Model X

  • Range: 255-325 miles
  • 0-60: 2.7-4.6 seconds
  • Price: $81,000-122,000

Find the new Model Y too small for your liking, or not prepared to wait for it to start rolling off the line in Fremont next year? Tesla can hook you up with a Model X – the one with the trick “falcon-wing” rear doors – but it won’t come cheap. Pricing starts at $81k, which nets you 255 miles of range and a 4.6-second 0-60 time. Step up to the Long Range model and you get 325 miles and a 4.4-second run for $91k. The $102k Performance model goes for 305 miles and a 3.4-second sprint. Splash out an extra $20k and you can experience the Ludicrous acceleration of 2.7 seconds, if you can stomach the sticker price.

Porsche Taycan

  • Range: 310 miles
  • 0-60: under 3.5 seconds
  • Price: est $85,000

Porsche has embraced electrification like few others, at one point offering more plug-in hybrids than any other automaker in the business. Now it’s taking the next step by introducing its first full EV. The Taycan is slated to be revealed in September, and is expected to closely follow the lead set by the Mission E concept (pictured), with a range of over 300 miles and a very Porsche-like 0-62 time in the low-three-second range. And there will be more to follow, including a more rugged version and an all-electric variant of the next-generation Macan.

How Does All Wheel Drive (AWD) Electric Car work? Advantages and Challenges

Last updated on June 13th, 2019 at 11:34 pm

Electric vehicles are considered as the future of transportation. The zero-emission, low noise, green vehicle uses the energy stored in the battery for propulsion. AWD electric cars are not that popular in the automotive market. All-wheel drive conventional vehicles are popular and widely used vehicles.

Electric Vehicles started gaining popularity since major vehicle manufactures declared their plans on electric mobility. Hence electric vehicles expected to have a prominent future in the automotive market.

Research on improvements in the electric vehicle takes place to attract more customers by delivering a quality product.

A single electric motor connected to one set of wheels is widely used electric vehicle configuration. So it powers two wheels of the electric car (either rear or front).

All-wheel drive electric car (AWD electric car) is an electric car in which both front and rear wheels are connected to the electric machine.

It’s not always necessarily connected to the same motor. There can be more than one motors to drive the vehicle. Sometimes there may be more than one battery also.

In all cases, the vehicle configuration is two axle configuration. The electric car is being driven with two motors connected to four wheels.

Total torque demand of the vehicle would be split among two motors and they drive all four wheels.

One motor drives a pair of front wheels and the second motor drives a pair of rear wheels. There can be four motors connected to all the four-wheel of the electric vehicle. The vehicle control unit controls the power split between the motors to run the vehicle.

Advantages of AWD Electric Car

AWD Electric cars help to save energy at low load. Power split among two motors at optimal way would make the motor run at maximum efficiency region and reduces power loss.

More than one motors enhance the performance of an electric car. The combined action of two motors helps to get a sporty feeling to the drivers. At high torque demands, two motors can work together to propel the vehicle.

Challenges in AWD electric car

The electric car itself is not a matured technology compared to gasoline vehicles. AWD in electric cars needs careful design of vehicle control unit.

Power split among the motors has to be optimally carried out to get the advantages of AWD. Otherwise, it adversely affects battery life and range of the vehicle.

Availability of charging stations would increase the popularity of the electric vehicle. The time required for charging the battery of an electric vehicle is much more compared to the time to fill the fuel in conventional vehicles.

All wheel drive electric car

All-wheel drive electric car is a comparative newcomer in the electric vehicle market.

All Wheel Drive Battery Electric Car

A popular AWD battery electric vehicle in the market is Tesla Model S P90D. It does have dual motors and combined power output of 581kW.

In this model car, one motor drives front wheels and other one drives rear wheels.

A complete list of electric cars – All wheel drive electric vehicle, battery electric vehicle, hybrid vehicle are listed here. You can go through the list and find the car suits you.

AWD Hybrid Electric Car

Hybrid Electric Vehicle have different types of configurations

  • Front wheels electric and rear wheels IC engine drive
  • Front wheel IC engine and rear wheels electric drive
  • Combination of IC engine and Electric machine for both front and rear wheels

There are a few all wheel drive hybrid electric vehicle already manufactured.


Electric car research and developments are going on fast in automotive industry.

Main areas that they focus are

  • Battery related research
  • power train efficiency improvement
  • Passenger comfort

All wheel drive electric cars (AWD electric cars) delivered to the market to enhance driver experience and power train efficiency.

What do you think about AWD Electric Vehicles? Please comment and let us know.

Best AWD SUVs in the Snow

These all-wheel-drive SUVs are tops in performance in snowy conditions, based on CR member surveys

We asked CR members about their experience driving in the snow, and they, not surprisingly, told us SUVs with AWD were among the best performers, according to results from the 2019 Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey.

From their responses we compiled a list of the top 10 SUVS with all-wheel-drive for driving in snow. AWD means all four tires work together, which can greatly improve driving performance. The feature is increasingly common on everyday vehicles.

Our results are based on CR member experiences with 19,000 vehicles between model years 2016 and 2019. All survey respondents had driven their vehicles without changing to winter/snow tires and had faced at least six snowy days during the 2018-2019 winter.

It’s important to bear in mind that all-wheel and four-wheel drive systems aren’t foolproof—they do nothing to improve braking on slick surfaces. Good all-season or, better yet, winter/snow tires can give you an edge. It is important to respect the laws of physics and not feel invincible because you are driving an AWD vehicle.

If you’re a CR member, this article and the list below are already available to you. But if you haven’t signed up, click below and become a member to access this list and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for any of the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and appliances.

If you’re shopping for a new car and live in an area where roadways are regularly covered with ice or snow, consider these models. The rankings are based on the percentage of vehicles that were rated Very Good in snow performance, with the first model listed being the highest-rated for winter traction by survey respondents.

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The Top 5: Cheap AWD Cars

Why All-Wheel Drive (AWD)?

The majority of new cars available in today’s market are FWD (front-wheel drive). That’s because a FWD car’s drivetrain, being more compact, saves weight and therefore improves fuel economy. Additionally, the lack of need for a transmission tunnel translates into more interior space. There are also manufacturing advantages to FWD.

However, for those drivers who need optimal traction in all weather conditions (snow, rain, ice) and on all surfaces (tarmac, gravel, dirt), AWD (all-wheel drive) is the way to go. All wheel drive simply means that power is not delivered solely to the front or rear wheels, but distributed to all wheels — at least when wheel slippage occurs.

AWD or 4WD/4X4 — What’s The Difference?

When it comes to power distribution, AWD drivetrains are typically biased toward the front or rear. For example, the system may normally send 70% to 100% of the power to the front or rear wheels. However, when there’s a loss of traction, the system will optimize the torque split to regain traction/control. This is more common to cars (coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks), which is what we’re focusing on for this article.

4WD and 4×4 setups, on the other hand, typically denote a 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels. This is typically regarded as more beneficial for «harder-core» off-road conditions (deep snow, mud, etc), and is therefore more common to trucks and SUVs.

The Best AWD Cars — For Cheap!

In this hub, we’re focusing on the best AWD sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks that can be had for cheap. Of course, «cheap» is a relative term. For some people, it might be less than $20,000, for others less than $5000 or even $3500. In this case, we’re aiming for the low end of the price range. Hey, it’s the post-recession era, right? Spending less is the new cool, so let’s look at the best used AWD cars that won’t break the bank!

DSM Talon/Eclipse

The 1990-1998 Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse, which were basically the same car, were both available with AWD. These were the top option levels. For the Eagle, it was the Talon TSi AWD. For the Mitsubishi, it was the Eclipse GS-X. All of the all-wheel drive models came with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the 4G63, that offered 200+ horsepower. For the performance-minded buyer, this could be a big plus. These coupes can be had for really cheap these days. You can find a ’92 model in very good condition for about $2500.

Mitsubishi Galant VR-4

This is a car that few of you have probably heard of, but it’s one very cool little AWD sedan. Specifically, I’m talking about the sixth-gen version, built from 1988-1992. This car is actually the predecessor to the better-known MItsubishi Lancer, which was a bit too expensive to make this list, and it was originally built for the Group A class of the World Rally Championship (WRC). So, just like the Subaru Impreza, it has real rally-car pedigree. It came with a version of the same 4G63 turbocharged engine available in the Talon/Eclipse. With a 0-60 time of sub-7.5 seconds, this car had some solid pep. These cars go for about $1500 these days. Of course, at this age/mileage you may have maintenance issues to deal with. Still, it’s hard to get an AWD rally-bred machine for this cheap.

Subaru Impreza/WRX

Did you know that ALL Subarus are all-wheel drive (with the exception of the new RWD BRZ)? That’s right. Pretty much any used Subaru that fits your budget is a good buy. The Impreza is the best-known Subaru, and it’s been offered as a coupe, sedan, or wagon. The WRX is a performance-oriented edition with a turbocharged engine and rallying heritage, first available in the US in 2002. You can get an ’02 WRX for $6000 to 7000 these days. Non-turbo versions of the Impreza are significantly cheaper: $3500 to $5000, depending on model year and condition. If you want the sporty look of the WRX but don’t have the budget, take a look at the naturally-aspirated 2.5RS.

BMW E30 325iX

It’s hard to beat the E30 BMW model line for class, performance, and affordability. Few people realize that there was an AWD model available, the 325iX. It had a slightly elevated ride height and cool fender flares, and came with the 168-horsepower M20 inline six. The only problem is that these cars, built from ’86 to ’91, are getting quite old. Many have 200K miles or more, which could be some serious maintenance is required. Still, if you aren’t afraid of working on your own car, you can get one of these fun, lightweight, torque-happy Beemers for less than $2000.

Suzuki SX4

If the other cars on this list are a bit older than you’d like, the SX4 might be worth considering. First introduced in 2007, the SX4 isn’t as performance-oriented like some of the other cars on this list. However, many people simply need a fuel-efficient, cost-effective vehicle that performs well in inclement weather. Enter the SX4. It gets 30+ mpg on the highway, and you can get a 2007 model in good condition for around $7000. However, if you think this entry-level compact can’t pack a punch, you’d be wrong: Suzuki’s WRC team campaigned an SX4 in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Reader’s Poll

Do You Currently Drive a FWD, RWD, or AWD Car?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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The statement all Subarus are all-wheel drive it is not accurate. Subaru Justys had a front wheel drive version and a part time 4×4 version and Subaru brats had a part time 4×4 version.

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AWD Vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?

By Joe Wiesenfelder

September 30, 2019

All-wheel drive is a type of four-wheel-drive system or mode that automatically shifts power between the front and rear wheels to maintain traction and is usually adequate for lighter-duty winter driving and light off-pavement use. Four-wheel drive can reasonably be used as an umbrella term for any system that powers all four wheels, but in the context of this-or-that, the term is often used to describe such a system or mode that excludes the properties of AWD and is heavier duty, meant for serious off-roading.

The above description is the best we can do at this point in history, because the definition of AWD and any distinction between it and 4WD has become less ironclad as technology has evolved and people (and automakers) have begun using terms however they see fit. AWD is so different from how it started out decades ago — and there are now so many exceptions even to my good-faith definition above — that I suspect one or the other designation isn’t long for this world, though it won’t go without a fight, like the long-obsolete term “crossover.” The best approach for consumers is to focus on what a vehicle and its features can do, not merely what they’re called.

Look around the internet (if you must), and you’ll find explanations different from the one you see here — some from smart people who insist that, if a system has a particular piece of hardware, it’s 4WD, and if it doesn’t, it’s AWD. There was a time when it was that simple, when AWD and non-AWD were opposites in most ways, but those days are long gone. To grasp all of this better, it might help to understand what “all-wheel drive” originally meant, and how it’s changed.

No Intervention From the Driver?

When early AWD came along, most 4WD systems had to be turned on when needed and then off again when decent traction was restored, so one of AWD’s big plusses was that it did the work for you — so much so that there were no controls at all. That changed with the increasingly common AWD lock button that divides torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles, ostensibly for slippery surfaces. Wait, doesn’t the AWD system already automatically compensate and shift power? Yes. Most AWD systems lack this button, and its necessity is indeed questionable. In what’s usually considered an AWD system (the light-duty type), this button doesn’t lock the front and rear axles together as solidly as an old-school 4WD system does; it merely pre-activates the same clutches that would otherwise react once underway and wheels start slipping — but because it’s done beforehand, the lock is more reliable and it can help prevent unnecessary overheating of the center differential that might result as its clutches engage and release repeatedly while attempting to achieve the same ends: steady forward progress.

Many AWD systems now also have different modes, such as Snow, Sand/Mud, etc. Technically, these are traction-control modes, but even as I type this, I realize I’m reinforcing my own argument that using underlying hardware to define AWD or 4WD rather than driver-facing features and capabilities is ridiculous. You buy AWD for traction and I’m going to try to convince you that something called “traction control” is unrelated?

Light Duty and No Low Gear?

Without a doubt, if you wanted to do some real off-roading in the early years of AWD, what you needed was 4WD, because only 4WD had a transfer case with a low gear for hill climbing and rock crawling. Behold: the Dodge Durango, an off-road-capable relative of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and one of today’s notable exceptions to that old rule. This might just be a marketing decision to call this system all-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive, but once that starts….Beyond that, compact Jeeps for years offered a Crawl mode via transmissions with very wide gear-ratio spreads — such as continuously variable transmissions. Is the proliferation of low gears in AWD systems around the corner?

A System, Not a Mode?

Perhaps it was part of the no-intervention ethos, but early on, AWD generally represented an exclusive system, not a setting that could be selected among others, such as a two-wheel-drive mode. That has changed, as well. The Cadillac XT4 is an example of a recent AWD vehicle that also operates as front-wheel drive (meaning the rear wheels don’t engage even if the front ones slip) if the driver has chosen the Touring drive mode. Other vehicles are more explicit: For years, some versions of the Ford Expedition SUV and F-150 pickup have combined a rear-wheel-drive setting (2H, where H refers to the high gear) with a 4A (realistically, AWD or automatic 4WD) and a 4L (that low gear AWD vehicles aren’t supposed to have). The F-150 Raptor, a pinnacle of heavy-duty off-roading, includes these modes and adds 4H (4WD high, which locks the center differential).

Purists may protest that 4A is not AWD but, rather, full-time 4WD. I could get into all the definitions of full-time, part-time and permanent 4WD, but it’s pointless, because there’s no difference in the way a modern AWD and full-time 4WD system behave from the perspective of the driver: They both can be left on regardless of the road surface and operate automatically to transfer torque in less-demanding low-traction scenarios.

The Only Question That Matters

So what functional argument is left for the supposed distinction between AWD and 4WD? That AWD is for light applications only and Dodge should be publicly shamed for the Durango? Enter BMW, respected manufacturer of xDrive all-wheel drive, whose current M5 super sedan is another recent model that allows you to select rear- or all-wheel drive — though the car itself calls it 4WD.

What’s the point? There’s plenty of confusion already, countless examples of why this confusion exists and there’s sure to be more confusion to come as technology changes. The AWD and 4WD distinctions are barely effective today. Shoppers are better off asking not what the drive system is called or what’s under the skin but rather what it can do.

Honda SUVs offer class leading space, features and technology. Explore our range of new AWD SUVs which intelligently offer real time 4WD performance when you need it.

Under normal driving conditions, when you don’t need 4WD, an AWD will operate as a 2WD giving you greater fuel economy. Both the compact HR-V range and the larger CR-V range offer AWD models.

All Honda 4WD vehicles are backed by Honda’s Price Promise and come with a 5 Year transferrable Warranty with unlimited kilometres, and 24 hour Roadside Assistance.

Why choose Honda?

Whoever you are, wherever you are, or whenever you buy, you will always pay the same best price for your new Honda. That’s why the price you see here is the same as the price in-store at any Honda Agent. We promise.

Every new Honda comes with a transferable 5 Year Warranty, with unlimited kilometres. You’ll also enjoy 5 Year Roadside Assistance, 24 hours a day, no matter where you travel in New Zealand.

Honda’s Price Promise enables you to get an instant online quote, whether you want to pay Cash, Finance or Lease a new Honda. This quote will be honoured in-store at any Honda Agent nationwide. We promise.

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CR-V AWD Sport Sensing

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If you want a quick comparison between the various AWD models: HR-V or CR-V or a full comparison of specs, this is a useful tool to use.

You can even compare the AWD models with any of the other new Honda vehicles in our range.

Frequently asked questions

Which HR-V and CR-V models offer AWD?

The HR-V AWD is the only 4WD vehicle in the range and there are two AWD CR-Vs — the CR-V AWD Sensing and CR-V AWD Sport Sensing.

What’s the difference between AWD and 4WD?

Some vehicles (build for tough off-road conditions) offer permanent 4WD which means just that your vehicle will always be powering 4 wheels at all time, which means it will also be less economical to run. The driver usually has a choice between 4-High ( for everyday use) and 4-low ( for towing or difficult terrain) and there is rarely a 2WD option.

The addition of Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System means that no matter what the conditions, your CR-V AWD transfers power to where it’s needed to help you stay on the road and in control. So you could be in 4WD or 2WD mode depending on the road and conditions.

Can the HR-V and the CR-V tow?

The HR-V can tow a small trailer or boat (up to 800kg braking weight). However one needs to be aware of a few limits. The unbraked limit (weight of trailer plus load is 500kg max) and the braked towing capacity is between 500 and 800kg. The unbraked limit is when the trailer being towed does not have its own braking system and has to make use of the car’s brakes. Braked is when the trailer being towed has its own braking system.

The CR-V has a braked towing capacity of 1500kgs (1000kg for the 2WD Limted 7 and 2WD Sport 7). What’s more, all CR-Vs are equipped with Trailer Stability Assist which is additional safety technology to give the driver peace of mind. Trailer Stability Assist corrects any dangerous trailer swing before it gets out of control. The system also automatically warns drivers behind the vehicle by flashing a brake light on both the car and the trailer.

2WD vs AWD vs 4WD

A gu >Last updated: July 2015

Front-wheel drive

Most passenger vehicles on the road today use front-wheel drive (FWD), where the engine’s power is routed to the front wheels. In fact, all but a handful of SUVs are primarily front-wheel drive vehicles, with additional components that send some power to the rear wheels as the need arises. Front-wheel drive designs are cheaper to manufacture and more space-efficient than rear-drive systems. Plus, FWD has the added advantage of better traction while climbing hills because the engine’s weight is poised over the front wheels. From a packaging standpoint, front-drive also precludes the need for a space-robbing driveline hump running down the middle of the cabin floor.

Rear-wheel drive

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is commonly found on pickups and old-school truck-based SUVs, along with sports cars and high-performance and luxury sedans. For trucks, RWD allows the use of bulky, heavy-duty components, and it provides better traction with a hefty load. On a performance car, rear-wheel-drive improves handling by balancing the car’s weight more evenly front to rear. And because the front wheels don’t have to do double duty—both driving and steering—designers can optimize the suspension for handling prowess. However, RWD provides less traction on slippery roads. These days, most high-end cars offer all-wheel drive either standard or as an option.

All-wheel drive

As the name implies, all-wheel drive (AWD) feeds power to each corner. Depending on the system (designs vary), AWD can provide maximum forward traction during acceleration. It is especially helpful in sloppy road conditions and when driving over moderate off-road terrain. It can help get you going and keep you moving through mud, sand, and other loose surfaces. Most AWD systems deliver power primarily to one set of wheels, front or rear. When slippage is detected at one axle, power is diverted to the other axle, in hopes of finding more traction there.

Not all AWD systems are equal. Subaru’s AWD system always directs at least 20-percent of the engine’s power to the rear, and it can direct a larger amount aft if needed. Many other systems fitted to front-wheel-drive vehicles operate with 100 percent of the power normally going to the front wheels; the rear wheels then only receive power only when the front wheels start slipping.

Four-wheel drive

Although four-wheel drive (4WD) and AWD are designations that are often used interchangeably in advertising and sales literature, there is a difference. Generally, 4WD is optimized for severe off-road driving situations such as climbing over boulders, fording deep water, and tackling steep hills with loose, low-traction surfaces. Most 4WD systems have high and a low gear range, the latter used to increase low-speed climbing power. Some have differentials (which allow left and right wheels and front and rear axles to turn at different speeds) to be locked for maximum traction.

Modern 4WD systems are either full-time, which means they stay engaged; automatic, where the vehicle automatically switches between two- and four-wheel-drive mode; and part-time, which require the driver to manually shift between two- and four-wheel drive. Vehicles with a part-time system shouldn’t be driven on dry pavement when in 4WD mode, which could risk damage to the vehicle’s drivetrain.

Aside from serious off-road enthusiasts, most drivers never come close to needing the capability that 4WD systems provide over and above AWD systems.

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Driving in snow is no layman’s work! You ought to be a skilled driver who knows how to maneuver the slippery lands. The other thing that matters is whether your vehicle is an FWD, i.e., front-wheel drive, or an AWD, i.e., all-wheel drive. Before you choose your drive system, here’s a detailed analysis of FWD vs AWD in snow.

FWD Vs AWD In Snow: Knowing The Difference

Front-wheel drive or FWD is a system where the engine’s power is concentrated on the front wheels. On the other hand, an AWD is a system where the engine’s power is concentrated on all the four wheels equally. The question here is, which one would perform better in snow? Let’s evaluate drive performance based on front wheel drive vs all wheel drive in snow.

1. An AWD To Keep You Moving

To start your car in a puddle of snow is one of the most challenging tasks at hand. If the tires are depressed down in the snow, it will take a lot of efforts to pull down the stuck tires. It is an AWD or the all-wheel drive that could save the day. The only thing to keep in mind is the AWD should be supported by limited slip differential (diffs) and transfer case.

Comparing the success rate of an AWD, it promises to take you where you need to be 95 percent of times. The success rate becomes 100 percent with added snow 4X4 tires. The AWD vehicles that have been popular for snow driving are Chev Trailblazer or a Tahoe LTZ. This is just one facet of FWD vs AWD in snow. Let’s see how FWD helps in the harsh winters.

Drivers can feel confident when steering an AWD in snow


2. The FWD For Fair Driving

If you have a FWD vehicle to drive your way through the snow, you will surely have an advantage of shorter brake distance. Moreover, almost all passenger vehicles on the road are front-wheel drive. If you wish to make your FWD a fairly suitable vehicle in the snow, make sure you have snow tires.

FWD also offers better traction when climbing up a hill. This is due to the engine’s weight being concentrated on the front wheels. The added advantage of driving an FWD reflects in the low cost of snow tires. When you have to choose FWD or AWD for snow though, the latter is the best with snow tires. You can also go through our driving tips here for the right way to drive your RWD in snow.

A FWD in snow is a fair choice

3. The Comparison

Here’s a comparison chart for your better understanding:


All-Wheel Drive System

Front-Wheel Drive System


Power is distributed equally in the front and rear wheels

Power is only concentrated on the front wheels

Good For

Seamless traction on slippery surfaces

No driver involvement required for engaging

Cheaper than AWD

Bad For

Problem while braking or cornering in snow

Poor towing capability

Low fuel economy

Not suitable for heavy snow

What Works

Best: AWD with winter tires

Better: FWD with winter tires

What Does Not Work

OK: AWD with summer tires

Poor: FWD with summer tires

Matsumoto Naoki is senior car blogger at Car From Japan. Having background in mechanical engineering, he has a unique perspective on a lot of new car innovations. Prior to Car From Japan, Matsumoto was Mechanical Design Engineer at Yajima Plant, Subaru Corporation. His articles provide detailed DIY instructions and how-tos to help you get your new car on the road. If you want to save money and feel more confident when working on your cars, you should not ignore Matsumoto’s sharing posts. He presents driving tips and tricks for everyone through easy-following steps and mechanically but friendly writing.

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