AWD vs 4WD: What is the difference?
5 MIN READ
The preferred on-road option
What Is AWD?
If you’re going to compare all-wheel drive (AWD) to anything, it’s more accurate to think of it as an upgrade over front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. While AWD has the ability to send power to all four tires at the same time (perfect for when rain or snow make gaining or keeping traction a challenge), it also has the ability to shift to two-wheel drive. This dynamic awareness means your vehicle can prioritize fuel economy when driving conditions are good, and compensate accordingly when they’re not.
Because of its utility on both good roads and in bad weather, most modern, passenger-first vehicles – such as sedans, crossovers and SUVs – will come equipped with AWD.
INFINITI’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system – found in INFINITI models like the QX50, QX55 and QX60 – functions a bit differently. It monitors wheel spin and throttle position in addition to vehicle speed, which allows it to diverts up to 50 percent of available power to the front wheels. This translates to enhanced grip when you need it most. And when the system senses that all-wheel drive isn’t required, it sends 100 percent of the power to your rear wheels for more responsive road performance.
The ultimate off-road mode
What Is 4WD?
Unlike AWD, four-wheel drive (4WD) typically doesn’t kick in automatically. Instead, it is a predominantly off-road driving mode that you, the driver, must engage manually. It works by locking the front and rear driveshafts, ensuring that the front and rear axles turn at the same rate – which in turn ensures that engine torque is always making its way to at least one front and rear wheel. This not only helps the vehicle maintain purchase in unstable or slippery driving conditions, but can also help you regain traction and get you moving in the event that your vehicle becomes stuck.
INFINITI’s All-Mode 4WD®, available exclusively in the QX80, takes traditional 4WD a step further by automatically adjusting the vehicle’s traction. Not only is it useful when facing unpredictable weather, but it’s especially helpful when dealing with a combination of difficult driving conditions – such as half-thawed back roads or pothole-ridden side streets during a downpour.
Is AWD better than 4WD?
It depends. If you’re the type of driver who sticks to city streets and highways? Definitely. In those settings, AWD functions the way it’s intended: as an always-on system that helps you drive more safely in bad weather, and more efficiently in good weather.
But if you live out in the country or like to spend your weekends going camping, hiking, or anywhere there isn’t paved roads? Then you may want to consider 4WD. While not always-on like AWD, its added utility can be a lifesaver. In situations - and settings – where you’re on your own and needing to power through rough conditions, 4WD is absolutely worth it.
Which is better in winter weather?
AWD vs 4WD on Snow and Ice
Again, it depends. On the kind of snowy and icy roads that most Canadian drivers face, AWD is the preferred day-to-day option due to it always being on and offering that added layer of peace of mind. You don’t need to react, because the AWD does it for you.
If, on the other hand, your winter driving involves more snowdrifts, icy hills and other “extreme” cold weather conditions, then 4WD would be of more use to you. Similarly, if you live on a back road or somewhere that doesn’t have its streets plowed regularly, 4WD can be a big help – especially when there’s a big snowfall.
Deciding between AWD and 4WD
If you’re still not sure which one is right for you, try considering them as part of a fuller package. INFINITI has two models in particular worth considering, largely because they both champion their respective drive modes so well.
If you need AWD
The INFINITI QX60's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system makes a big difference. With its ability to transfer power between the front and rear wheels, QX60’s advanced AWD will have your back in even the most inclement weather.
If you need 4WD
The INFINITI QX80’s All-Mode 4WD is the answer if enhanced handling and traction are on your must-have list. It automatically adjusts torque to negotiate the trickiest terrain, helping you to get wherever you’re going.