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Is 4x4 in a truck a necessity?

I need to get a truck due to having to haul material around and I am wondering if I should spring the extra money for 4x4. We already have an Audi s4 with all wheel drive for going out to the mountains to go skiing but I am wondering for the occasional time we want to go off-road to go mountain biking would it be necessary to have 4x4 or will RWD suffice for minor off-road driving. I am thinking we are going to go with the Nissan Frontier.

That all depends on the road. What are you driving now?

As long as you have the ground clearance and don’t run into deep mud/snow a 2wd truck with limited slip rear differential will do a lot. The occasion you slip off the side of the road off the beaten track into a mud hole or get hung up, AAA won’t be there to help. Mount a winch.
Limited slips and the best, locking rear differentials can get a lot of people by w/o 4wd if used correctly withing their own limitations.
Your options and like Jos. says, it depends upon what you’re using it for. Have you really gone off roading ? If not, 4wd offers security in emergency traction you may seldom really need…

But like the guys from the NRA say about privately owned and registered guns. For some 4wd owners, "it’s better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it."
Personally, I’d dump the Audi, get a 2wd sedan and a compact SUV awd with a utility trailer…but that’s me.

2WD pickups are sturdy and can go lots of places without 4WD. I wouldn’t consider it for serious “off road” but fine for dirt roads, rutted logging roads, etc.

I was thinking more along the lines of having to go on the occasional logging road/fire road, not going rock crawling or hitting the rubicon trail. The majority of miles the truck will see will be highway and city for hauling around weights.

I can’t give up the Audi, it’s one of my daily driver dream cars. With the snow tires on it has been pretty unstoppable. Even took it on a road with about 8" of snow on it in spots and made it through just fine. The vw rabbit is the car that will be replaced.

I am looking at two Nissan frontiers, one with 4x4 and one with rwd. 4x4 has about 65k miles and red is 48 so they are priced about the same.

One other issue is that the 2wd and 4wd versions of these compact Japanese trucks are usually actually quite different vehicles, with the 4wd having generally beefier components. So check what the payload capacities of the two versions are and if you need the extra capacity that might be there with the 4x4. Toyota offers a “prerunner” version of the Tacoma, which is the 4wd truck without the 4wd components-- I’m not sure if Nissan has something similar or not.

If you plan to drive on any snow, I’d go with the 4x4. Or you’ll need a lot of weight in the back end.

Sorry to repeat the issue, but all Toyota Tacoma models in 2 and 4wd the last couple of years have come standard with limited slip rears. Many American brand and others do too. I would feel very comfortable with this feature as many off road races (Baja for example) are dominated by 2wd with limited slip/locking rears and not 4wd.

For deep snow, I fully agree with Goldwing !
I’ve had a bunch of compact 4wd PUs and the ride is poor. I loved them and they were unstopable in most conditions with the right tires, much better than full size PUs. But oh my aching back !

To sort of clarify this a little, they don’t come with actual mechanical LSD’s, but rather use a traction control system that simulates an LSD by activating the brakes on the individual wheels when it detects slippage. There are epic arguments among off-roader types about whether such systems really are as good as a mechanical one. As of '09, mechanical LSD’s aren’t even options any more.

If you’re not driving in deep snow all the time then 2wd is fine…The bad thing about pickups is they have a very light rear-end…and don’t make the best vehicles to drive in snow.


Maybe you’re talking about some newer, 2009/2010 but Toyota for several years lists the LSD as mechanical, ie. its a traditional LSD, not the newer brake activated style that Nissan uses and the newer models. And we are talking used trucks. The newer still use an electronic off road version in 4wd which “they claim” rivals mechanical. ATRAC on my 4 Runner is outstanding though electronic. Only thing better, true lockers IMO.
Whether it’s electronic or not, I’d trust the newer version too as a great improvement in all conditions over non assist 2 wd in other makes.

I’M surprised no one has mentioned Money, Maintenance and Fuel Costs, all of which are considerably MORE with 4WD…

I agree initial cost is higher…

Maintenance - Never had ANY 4wd issue for my 4wd vehicles in the past 30 years (Even my junk S-15).

Fuel Costs - Lets face it…a pickup does NOT get good gas mileage…even a 2wd one. Most of the time I drive in 2wd mode…Which is only about 2mpg less then the comparable truck which is 2wd only.

My 1985 toyota twd truck gets 26 to 28 mpg avg, between highway and city. All city it gets over 24, so yes some pick ups do get reasonalbe gas milage. 4wd trucks not so much, partly because of extra wt. but also because most have v6 not i4 engines. A lot of the choice depends on how well you can drive on dirt and rocky roads. get skip plates installed under the pan at a min, and a 4inch lift kit will help too. I have been on many a road that most people in the sierra club would call 4wd roade in my little truck. mind you it has an all metal gem top on the back.

That sort of gets to the point I was making further up. The reason why the 2wd Toyotas get phenominally better mileage than the 4wd version isn’t just because of the transfer case and front axle (or V6’s-- they weren’t even avaliable until '89). They are radically different vehicles-- the 2wd trucks are very low slung and have car-style suspensions and steering components and ride around on car tires. Other than the body styling, they really have more in common with something like an El Camino than a traditional domestic pickup truck. The 4x4’s ride much higher and have much more substantial suspensions and tires, which makes them much more capable off road, even if you never use the 4wd.

Nope, not according to the brochure I took home the other night, or per the two Toyota pickups I’ve owned. Or the test drive I took recently. The 2WDs have full frames (the same frames as the 4x4s) with truck components, leaf springs in the back, RWD, the whole nine yards. They are not built on unibody chassis and do not have “car type” suspensions and steering components. No rear coil springs, no transverse FWD engine setups, none of that “car stuff”. They’re trucks through and through.

Same engines available as the 4x4s. Same gears. Same frames. Same suspensions. Same evrything except for the smaller wheels and tires. And, or course, the transfer case and some suspension geometry tweaks to accept the 4x4 componenst and the larger wheels & tires.

I owned 2WD Toyota pickups for a total of 28 years. Worked on them myself. Hauled wood and stone with them and just about everything else. And I’ve been looking at the new ones. They have absolutely zero similarity to a car.

Perhaps I should have been clearer-- I’m not saying they’re like a “modern” front wheel drive unibody car, I was thinking more along the lines of an older rear wheel drive frame-on cars (like an El Camino). Maybe the newer ones are more similar, but on the old ones I’m familiar with it’s a lot more than tweaks-- almost nothing other than the engine and the body and interior parts are the same between the the two versions and almost everything is bigger on the 4x4, even things like the rear suspension and the brakes that don’t have to be beefed up soley because of the 4wd. I owned a 4x4 for a long time and knew a guy who has a field full of all sorts of Toyota trucks and so I became intimately aquainted with what does and doesn’t interchange, and almost nothing does.

The 2wd Toyotas (and other 2wd minitrucks) are wonderfully economical and capable vehicles, and I’m certainly not suggesting that they’re anything other than great work vehicles. I’m just pointing out that despite the two vehicles sharing a model name and appearance they are in fact quite different and designed to do different things. So if you’re deciding between a 2wd truck and a 4wd truck like this, you have to consider more than just if you need the actual 4-wheel drive or not.

Maintenance and fuel costs don’t scare me, I have been driving a premium gas guzzling, expensive part eating, Audi for the past four years :). The truck would go maybe 20 miles in a day usually. It will be caring about 700-900lbs during half that time. My wife runs a bootcamp workout program and she has to haul around weights for about 15 people.

With the exception of the rolling stock, I have to respectfully disagree.
Car characteristocs to me include a single body/rearend (in the El Camino it would be a bed) assembly, automotive rear suspension, car-type clearance, even coil rear springs, basically a car with a bed rather than a trunk El Camino was one (see attached). Modern versions would even have McPhereson strut front ends.

Toyota 2WD pickups on the other hand have seperate cabs and beds mounted on a full frame (the same frame as the 4X4) with a longitudinally mounted engine with driveshaft, solid rear axles, leaf rear springs and even better clearance than cars. They have twin A-frame front ends with shocks instead of struts, torsion bar front suspension, and every single configuration characteristc of a truck. They use the same engines as the 4X4s, and the same cabs and beds. They come in standard cabs, optional extended cabs, and even crew cabs. The only real difference is the rolling gear and the transfer case, and larger wheels and tires.

Sorry, but the new Tacomas cannot in any way be considered car-based. A car-based pickup would be like the old El Camino which used the actual car chassis, or in more modern configuration like the old VW Golf pickups, which used a tansverse mounted FWD setup mounted on a unibody with the car rear suspension.

Sorry, but I have to disagree on this one. Pick up a brochure and you’ll see what I mean.

I can’t speak for the newest Tacoma versions except for friends 2wd which appears in every way to be similar to 4wd model sans 4wd components and perhaps spring rates etc.
But, I’ve had 5 different Toyota trucks, 2 2wd and 3 4wd and “same” I have to agree. Except for torsion bars in one 2wd and coils in a similar generation 4wd and again spring rates, the differences were knit picking. I’m sure there were engineering necessities for each but did not alter that my 2 wd Toyotas were tough working trucks. Brothers Rangers were breakable puppies in comparisons; and being they were based upon 1983 models, little has changed.