Is all-wheel or 4-wheel drive better for driving in snow?
I found that tires were more important than 4WD or AWD. With several front wheel drive cars and either Michelin Xice or Blizzacks I rarely had trouble in snow or ice. Summer tires (or all season) with 4WD/AWD won’t do much good and may even get you into trouble because you might be able to go but not be able to stop
It comes down to the type of vehicle you want, right? True 4wd is pretty much only with pickups and pickup-based SUVs. Everything else (just about), even with a 4wd label, is what I’d call AWD.
And I agree, great winter tires make a huge difference. I drove 12 years in Anchorage with FWD, never got stuck.
There are so many different and highly complex AWD systems nowadays that I’m not sure how to compare them to 4WD, assuming 4WD means having a transfer case with a low range.
I’d just get the vehicle that appeals to me, and assume it’s about as capable as similar vehicles with torque to every wheel.
I had 4WD ant then bought a 2013 RAV4. I never had to shift the RAV4 to get it going in snow and never had to shift it out to drive on cleared roads. Easier was better and got twice the fuel economy. Now I have a minivan and snow tires.
AWD is far superior for on pavement driving.4wd is great for plowing, off road and unplowed deep snow. You should never be driving at highway speeds in 4wd. It can spin you like a top if it is slippery.
By four-wheel drive, I assume you mean a part-time system. If so, one advantage of AWD is that it’s always on, which is helpful when the road is partly dry and partly snow-covered.
I agree with the comment that tires are important. For many people, even front-wheel drive is fine with good winter tires.
AWD systems also vary a bit in their performance. My understanding is that Subaru’s system is probably the best (at the cost of having to keep matching tire circumferences at all times) and that Audi’s system is also very good.
How much snow are you talking about and where . I have managed just fine with Front wheel drive and good tires for years .
GM had a great feature with their automatic 4WD system IMO. I first experienced this on my 2003 Trailblazer. What a great system for patchy snow/ice. In 4WD mode (High or Low), it is constantly engaged. When switched to automatic mode, it doesn’t engage unless wheel spin is detected. The reaction time for engagement is quick and provides great traction when needed but turns off when not necessary. No worries leaving it in that mode when patchy slippery conditions exist…
I’ve owned both types of vehicles. The problem is no all 4wd systems and AWD systems are designed the same. You can lock the differential on many newer AWD systems which basically make it operate like a 4wd system. And newer 4wd systems can be driven on dry pavement without a problem.
But in general 4wd is better in for off-roading and unplowed roads. But the big question is - do, you really NEED it. For most parts of snow country the answer is NO.
My question was more philosophical than practical in nature. I was just curious if one or the other was superior. From the other replies, it appears each has its niche depending on desired vehicle or application. I agree, front wheel drive is good for most conditions. Thanks.
I have a 2014 Subaru Legacy and this summer I found out that it sucks in snow. I hit about 3" of snow up in Utah and could hardly control the vehicle above 20 mph. I had once had a Dodge with a limited slip that was good up to 28 MPH. All other rear drive vehicles I’ve had were good to 35+ and all the FWD were good up to about 45.
None of these were on winter tires, but I do use good touring tires. The Subaru has the new Michelin tires that are supposed to be as good when the tread is half worn as when new, but they don’t come with much tread to begin with. 8/32" new.
Edit: I should add that both the FWD and RWD would get stuck if stopped on snow or ice and refuse to go. The Subaru will do this also if the rear tires are on ice until you rev the engine up enough to get the viscous clutch to engage. The Dodge never got stuck, it would always launch, just had to keep the speed at 28 or lower.
FWIW, when Consumer Reports tested the Honda CRV, Toyota Rav4, and Subaru Forester on snow, the Subaru’s AWD worked much better for snow traction than the other two’s AWD systems did. Winter tires would have stepped up the performance of all of them.
Growing up on all season tires with 2wd in the rear in WI, ND and MN, and always made it through not sure what to say. Plenty of front wheel drive cars make it through. Our roads are decently plowed, 2017 Rav4 got awd for the wife, trailblazer great with on demand 4wd to show off at acceleration from stoplight, see a bunch of 2wd that can’t handle 2" of snow, the awd rav4 was just fine.
Well from my perspective, if you are just driving in deep snow, 4WD would be better because the four wheels are being continuously driven (or at least two). But once you get on dryer pavement, it is not so good. With an AWD, before the rear wheels will activate, it needs to slip a little. That’s just fine for heavy snow, but not much good on an icy highway. Do you really want the rear wheels to slip a little on the highway? For all purpose driving and the boost when you need it, AWD is the one. For mountain driving and country roads, probably 4WD. Of course it all depends on the system design.
From 2015, Even with AWD you can get stuck, almost happened to me this winter a block from home. This winter was much worse than the last several combined.