AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?

July 28th, 2021 by
2021 Jeep Compass


If you’ve ever been car, truck, or SUV shopping around Williston, you’ve probably heard about all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). What do these terms mean, and what’s the difference between them? We here at Ryan Chrysler Jeep Dodge have answers! Essentially, AWD and 4WD are just two types of vehicle drivelines, but what are drivelines and why does the way they work make such a difference on your Watford City or Stanley commute? Read on for more information or contact our service experts for more information.


What is AWD?

All-wheel drive, or AWD for short, is a type of driveline configuration. Basically, drivelines transfer power from the engine to the wheels and are made up of:

  • Axles
  • Wheels
  • Joints
  • Differentials
  • Driveshafts

The way that AWD works is different from the way 4WD works. As the name hints at, full-time AWD systems send torque to the front and rear axles all the time. Part-time AWD systems, on the other hand (sometimes called intelligent AWD systems) are able to monitor road conditions and driving behavior to intelligently send torque only to the front axle or rear axle as needed. This can help save fuel compared to full-time AWD. It can also increase traction significantly compared to front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles.

What is 4WD?

4WD, AKA “four-wheel drive,” is a traditional 4×4 drivetrain. While 4WD systems are able to send power to the front and rear axles, they’re also able to direct a specific amount of power between the left and right wheels. 4WD systems are designed for maximum off-road capability and are usually built into vehicles with truck-based platforms. They may, however, reduce fuel economy more than AWD systems.

Which is Better: AWD or 4WD?

As you can see above, there are benefits to both AWD and 4WD. That said, you may still be wondering, “Is AWD the same as 4WD and is AWD better than 4WD?” The answer to both questions is no. Truthfully, which driveline system you will prefer ultimately depends on your unique priorities and needs. Here are some tips for whether AWD vs. 4WD may work better for you:

  • Consider AWD If: You’re an urban or suburban driver looking for extra traction in inclement weather and bad road conditions.
  • Consider 4WD If: You need a vehicle to traipse through the roughest of off-road conditions.

Shop AWD & 4WD SUVs for Sale at Ryan Chrysler Jeep Dodge!

Ready to find your next AWD or 4WD vehicle for sale near Dickinson? We’ve got plenty of AWD and 4WD models for sale at Ryan Chrysler Jeep Dodge! Check out our new inventory now, then apply for financing online or call 701-695-4533 to book a test drive.


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