All-Wheel Drive vs. Four-Wheel Drive – What’s the Difference?

Don Franklin Automotive Group has both All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive Models Available

When it comes to buying a new SUV or Crossover, there is a lot of talk about all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. In theory, both options are capable of driving all four wheels, so they should be interchangeable, right? There are some differences between the systems which we have explained below.

What Defines All-Wheel Drive?

Essentially, all-wheel drive systems engage all wheels all the time. Regardless of the driving situation, selected drive mode, or any other factor, vehicles with all-wheel drive are always sending power to all four wheels.

What Defines Four-Wheel Drive?

Simply put, vehicles with four-wheel drive give drivers the option to run in a two-wheel drive mode. In this scenario, one of two things happens to activate drive to all four wheels:

  • Driver Selectable Option
    • In many four-wheel drive vehicles, the driver has the option to manually select whether they want power sent to all four wheels. This can be done via a lever similar to a gear shift, a button, or by selecting a specific drive mode.
  • Automatic Four Wheel Drive
    • In this instance, the vehicle uses traction control sensors to activate power to all wheels when it senses a loss of grip. This can be something from attempting to drive through heavy snow or a loose rock or sand road surface, or by entering a scenario where the grip level suddenly changes such as encountering unexpected water or sand on an otherwise dry road. Either way, the computer decides when to activate four-wheel drive, and the majority of the time it runs on just two-wheel drive.

Okay…So What are the Benefits of Four-Wheel Drive and All-Wheel Drive?

The main benefit of all-wheel drive is that is always active, and therefore it gives drivers additional control all the time, without any delay in reaction time by either a computer or the driver. This means that in sudden grip-loss scenarios all-wheel drive is already working to help keep you moving forward.

On the other hand, the major benefit of four-wheel drive is fuel economy. Since the vehicle is in two-wheel drive mode most of the time, the fuel savings during normal driving can be up to 5 miles per gallon on certain models. However, if pitched into a corner that is more slippery than anticipated, it won’t be as able to immediately assist in regaining control the way an all-wheel drive system would.

Still Have Questions? Stop in and See Us!

If you’re still unsure, the team at Don Franklin Automotive Group is here to help. Visit our dealership with any of your questions, and we’ll be more than happy to help you find the answer you’re looking for.