AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?

2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

The CDJR model lineup is full of fantastic options, and among them are several AWD and 4WD vehicles. This of course begs the question, “Are AWD and 4WD the same?” The answer, in short, is no. The 4WD system in a new Jeep Wrangler, for instance, is very different from the AWD system in a Dodge Durango. Read on or contact us to learn more.



What is AWD?

AWD, otherwise known as “all-wheel drive,” is a driveline configuration in which torque is directed from the engine to the front and rear axles then to all four wheels via differentials. 

Different types of AWD systems, including full-time AWD and part-time AWD exist. What are the differences between full-time AWD and part-time AWD systems? Here’s an overview:

  • Full-time AWD systems send torque to the front and rear axles all the time.
  • Part-time AWD systems are able to monitor road conditions and driving behavior in order to decide when it makes sense to send torque only to the front axle. 

It is more common to see AWD systems on vehicles equipped with unibody frames, such as the Dodge Durango or Chrysler Pacifica vs. body-on-frame vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler.

What is 4WD?

4WD, or “four-wheel drive,” is a traditional 4×4 (pronounced “four-by-four”) drivetrain. What is the main difference between 4WD and AWD? While 4WD systems are able to send power to the front and rear axles, they’re also able to direct a specific amount of power between the left and right wheels.

The above perk of 4WD makes vehicles equipped with this driveline technology well-equipped for off-roading. Consequently, you’ll more often find 4WD equipped on trucks or heavy-duty SUVs.

Which is Better: AWD or 4WD?

Is AWD better than 4WD or vice versa? In short, no. If you’re looking for a vehicle with increased traction and optimal fuel economy and don’t plan to do much off-roading, then AWD is likely a good fit. If, however, you love hitting the trails or need a vehicle with maximum off-road abilities and foul-weather driving capabilities, then 4WD is the better bet.

A Note on Drivelines vs. Drivetrains

We’ve referred to AWD as 4WD as types of “drivelines.” You may have heard them referred to as “drivetrains” before. What’s the difference? Technically, a driveline is part of a drivetrain. Drivetrains include everything that makes a vehicle “go,” which also includes the vehicle’s transmission. The driveline is simply the power delivery system minus the transmission, thus making it a more accurate description of what 4WD and AWD are. 

Browse the Chrysler, Jeep AWD & 4WD SUVs at Myrtle Beach Chrysler Jeep!

Looking for a new 4WD or AWD SUV or truck for sale in Myrtle Beach now that you know the definitive answer to the question “Is AWD the same as 4WD?” We are happy to help you find and finance the vehicle of your dreams. Call 843-353-6349 today for the next steps or simply apply for a lease or loan online now!


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