4-Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive vs. Front-Wheel Drive

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Difference between 4-Wheel Drive, All-Wheel Drive and Front-Wheel Drive

In the automotive world, options for drive designs include the 4-wheel drive, the all-wheel drive, and the front-wheel drive. Most cars typically come in the front-wheel drive variety, although 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles (which are basically the same as 4-wheel drives) seem to be catching up in terms of market value. The decision to go with one or the other isn't always just about sheer power as you may have thought, so here we have put together a comparison of the different drive designs.

4-Wheel Drive
Front-Wheel Drive

Concept

The terms 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are often used to refer to the same classes of vehicles, since both designs involve the engine sending power to all four wheels. The main advantage the 4-wheel drive has over the all-wheel drive is its ability to switch between two speeds. In all-wheel drive vehicles however, up to 90% of the engine's power is sent to the front wheels.

The front-wheel drive for its part receives power only in the two front wheels. This design results in a lighter and more fuel-efficient car, due to the absence of components necessary to drive the rear wheels. This also gives the front-wheel drive a lot more interior space in most cases.

Design

The design of the front-wheel drive is pretty straightforward and the differences between the 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are more apparent in the designs and functions of the two. The 4-wheel drive obviously offers a lot more flexibility, with the two speed ranges of the engine and power transmitted to all four wheels. All-wheel drive vehicles don’t have this feature.

4-wheel drive vehicles also send most of the engine's power to the rear wheels, while all-wheel drive vehicles send up to 90% of the engine torque to the front wheels and energy is diverted to the rear wheels only in instances when the front wheels begin to slip.

Performance

With most of the weight in front-wheel drive designs placed towards the front, traditional thinking held that this would produce a smoother drive. While this many be true in most cases, innovations in modern automotive technology has rendered this benefit largely irrelevant. In addition, this also makes RWD vehicles a bit harder to control.

Both 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles provide superior control and traction over a wider variety of driving surfaces and road conditions and this gives them an advantage that most front-wheel drive can't begin to compete with.

Summary

4-wheel drive

  • Engine drives all four wheels of the vehicle
  • Most of the power is sent to the rear wheels of the vehicle
  • Engine can be switched between two speeds
  • All-wheel drive
  • Like the 4-wheel drive, power generated by the engine is sent to all four wheels
  • Up to 90% of the engine’s power is sent to the front wheels

Front-wheel drive

  • Design aims to minimize vehicle weight
  • Most of the weight is on the front of the vehicle
  • Propelled via the front tires
  • Often has more interior space than vehicles of other drive designs
  • Cannot be used for "drifting"

4-Wheel Drive and All-Wheel Drive and Front-Wheel Drive Video

Which type of wheel drive will you buy next time around?
  • 4-Wheel Drive
  • All-Wheel Drive
  • Front-Wheel Drive
 
 

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