All Wheel Drive versus 4 Wheel Drive

My husband and I are in the market for a medium, used, SUV. He insists it needs to have AWD which seems to limit the available selection. We don’t live in a “severe” winter climate. Would appreciate any and all opinions on recommended manufacturers and AWD vs. 4WH.

Thanks, Marsha

Do you even need AWD???

AWD is decent for snow…but I wouldn’t do any off-roading. And most of the AWD systems I’ve seen on SUV’s are for SUV’s that are fwd.

It really comes down to what you need the SUV for.

The one thing I hate about AWD…is if one of the tires needs to be replaced…you have to replace all 4. Now I’ll admit that it’s rare…but it does happen…and it can be costly.

Many SUVs are now labeled ‘4wd’ when they’re really ‘awd’. Which ones are you considering?

I have an AWD 4Runner (for my model year the V8 had AWD and the V6 had 4WD). I wanted it mostly for traction when pulling my boat out of the water. I have found that it really makes a difference when cornering on wet or snowy streets. There is no wheel spin or side slip. So it’s not necessary to just have it for snow. For replacing tires, the dealership says to replace the axle so just 2 at a time.

Awd and 4WH are the same thing in cars with awd feature. 4WH means high range awd for roads. That is if you meant H instead of D.

But…Awd vs 4 wd labeling is used in a confusing way by many car makers to sell cars. The Honda CRV says 4 wd on the back when it is really awd in function. 4wd traditionally is a system that locks or doesn’t have a center differential. This makes driving on dry pavement very hard on the vehicle. Your husband is right. If you decide you want an awd or 4wheel drive vehicle for traveling mostly over roads in slippery conditions, it should have the awd feature so you can with out shifting in and out of “4wd”.

Btw, like “richw46” we have a 4’runner. It also has a locking feature so you can use it like a 4wd truck for off roading and such. If I were to choose an suv, it would be with awd or 4wd. Otherwise, consider a 2wd extended cab truck if the feature isn’t needed.

And like “rich” says, you can replace the tires, one axle at a time. Both my 4 runner manual and my Rav 4 manual with strictly awd, say the same thing. Geeee, that’s the same advice as 2wd car manuals often give. Consider a compact awd suv should you choose to. They are now nearly as big as the older used medium SUVs…and much cheaper.

We have one vehicle with each system, and definitely prefer the AWD under all but the most severe weather or off-road conditions. Because our AWD is built on a more modern platform it handles and brakes more safely and gets much better mileage, and it has good traction in most situations (including moderate off-roading). 4WD is more for severe off-roading, where you need a compound low gearing for very difficult trails, but I have seen many 4WD vehicles stuck on bad roads (probably because many drivers are overconfident with them).

You are right about having a limited selection – and you will also pay a higher price because AWD and 4WD systems will be more expensive – so be sure you really need one. In some conditions an AWD will be safer than a 2WD system, but not in all, and many 2WD vehicles may have better braking and handling than similar vehicles with AWD. You seem concerned about a safer driving experience, and I’d recommend a professional driving class – we took one through a car club and it was an excellent investment.

Most manufacturers these days build reasonably good vehicles (although people will argue this point), but be sure to check the vehicle for signs of abuse. Good luck with your decision.

AWD vs 4wd means very little just reading the label on a SUV. In find the SUV you like and don’t worry a lot about the label.

Each brands system is unique in capability. Some range from a Front Wheel Drive with 10% power kicked to the rear. Others power can power front or rear wheels or all four. For example my sisters RAV4 AWD can actually do pseudo 4wd center differntial lock in for deep snow or mud under 25MPH at the flick of a switch.

My AWD in my Acura MDX called SH-AWD is really not intended for doing anything heavy offroad. However on-road its incredible as it enhances the handling since it actually kicks power to individual rear wheels to maintain the vehicles cornering on dry, wet or slippery conditions if vehicle sense it needs it. SH-AWD is the next extension of stability control.

Contrary to what many routinely say, are you saying that awd enhances handling over fwd cars ; you mean they can help keep on the road…(^^^^)