The drivetrain of a car, which is a system of components that connect the engine to the wheels to make the car move, can be set in a variety of ways that greatly affect the performance of cars and power on the roads. These three different systems are known as two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive.
Many are still confused about the big differences between these systems because some may seem the same, but it is important to note their differences in capabilities and power.
So let’s break up!
- Two-Wheel Drive (2WD): As the name suggests, 2WD cars are the ones having power into the two wheels. This can be done with the rear wheels or the front wheels.
In simple terms, 2WD is a system in which all engine power is directed either to the Front Wheels (FWD) or to the Rear Wheels (RWD).
|Best value||Poor off-road ability|
|Weight distribution||Compromised handling|
- Front-Wheel Drive (FWD): It directs the engine’s power to the two front wheels. Because this is the cheapest type of design drive, it is the most installed in cars. Often cars have FWD base models and more expensive options will provide other types of systems. Most sedans come with FWD. A good example is the Honda City car.
|Cheap design and installation save money||Not optimal for driving in poor conditions|
|Better traction because of weight distribution||Tire wear|
|Better in tricky spots||Worst handling at high speeds|
- Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD): It directs the engine’s power to the two-back wheels actually “pushing” the car to the rear. This is a very old drive structure that distributes its weight evenly over the front and back of the car, with many different effects on performance and power. This type of system is most commonly found in luxury cars as well as trucks that plan to tow heavy loads.
|More agile and responsive handling||Less common|
|Load bearing capabilities||Less passenger rooms|
|Durable||Poor handling in rain or snow|
- Four-Wheel Drive: A four-wheel drive, often called a 4×4 or four-by-four, is a system often installed on trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles intended for off-road use. The transmission will apply power to all 4 tires equally – suitable for a low tread area that may not fit or be easy to grip on. By sending the same amount of power to each wheel, the car will be better suited to many more situations. You may need to use front tires, rear tires, or a combination of both.
The 4WD can be turned on and off by switching off the button – switching between 2WD and 4WD.
|Improved traction for off-road||More expensive|
|Power capable of pulling loads||Limited stock|
|More versatility in performance||High risk on sharp turns|
- All-Wheel Drive: Similar to the 4WD, the AWD drivetrain system provides power to all four wheels at the same time. It does not do the same, however, thanks to its computer system that detects which wheels need more power in terms of traction and driving angles.
For example; a car that makes sharp turns will provide more power to the outer wheel that needs to cover a larger area than the inner wheel.
|Adapts to different surfaces and terrains||Cost|
|Automatically senses road conditions||Limited off-roading capabilities|
|Works well at all speeds|
Difference between AWD and 4WD:
Many people use the terms all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive interchangeably because they are very same, but this is completely wrong. Although both drive systems deliver power to all 4 wheels, there are important differences between the two that affect the performance of the vehicles.
- AWD automatically detects road conditions and enables to adjust the power supply itself while the 4WD should be turned on manually
- The distribution of AWD power to the tires is constantly changing while the 4WD remains uniform – allowing for smooth AWD handling
- ● AWD cars can be operated in most terrains while 4WD is only recommended for off-road.