AWD, 4WD, FWD and RWD – What’s the Difference?

How is an AWD (All Wheel Drive) different from other drive systems? I am going to settle the mystery around FWD, RWD, AWD & 4WD in the simplest language possible.

First the expansion:

FWD – Front Wheel Drive
RWD – Rear Wheel Drive
AWD – All Wheel Drive
4WD – 4 Wheel Drive

Simply put, these four types denote the different ways in which the engine is connected to the wheels. We all understand that the engines in our automobiles need to be connected to the wheels for them to rotate and for the car/truck to move.

Now, it is a minimum requirement that at least two of the wheels are connected to the engine. If the front two wheels are connected it is called as Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and if the read two wheels are connected to the power source (engine) it is called as Rear Wheel Drive (RWD). We will see what difference this makes when we dive into each of them.

On the other hand, if all the 4 wheels are connected to the power source (engine) it is called either an AWD (All Wheel Drive) or 4WD (4 Wheel Drive). There is a slight difference between AWD and 4WD as well, but you will not be interested in it unless you are a car enthusiast and hence we shall see that when we discuss each of them in detail.

Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

What is it

  • The power from the engine flows to the front two wheels of the car/truck
  • Common among small cars and sedans

The Good

  • Improves fuel efficiency
  • Reduces production cost of the vehicle and hence reduces the cost to the customer

The Bad

Does not offer the driving comfort and acceleration when compared against Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) vehicles

  • If you are someone who enjoys driving, you will feel like you are being dragged behind by the car rather than steering and controlling it
  • Very poor for driving in slippery or snow filled roads

Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

What is it

  • The power from the engine flows to the rear two wheels of the car/truck
  • Common among muscle cars, old sports cars & some old trucks

The Good

  • Offers much greater drive comfort when compared to Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vehicles
  • Better ride handling and acceleration compared to FWD vehicles
  • For the driving enthusiast, it offers the satisfaction of being in control of the vehicle
  • Offers better control on slippery or snow-covered roads than Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vehicles but still lags behind than AWD and 4WD vehicles

 

The Bad

  • Reduces fuel efficiency slightly
  • Expensive to manufacture making the car dearer to the customer
  • Makes the vehicle heavier because of the addition of longer drive shafts and other mechanisms

All Wheel Drive (AWD) & 4 Wheel Drive (4WD)

What is it

  • The power from the engine flows to all the four wheels of the car/truck
  • There is a difference between AWD and 4WD but we can discuss that more in a separate post

The Good

  • Offers the best traction amongst all of them
  • Great for slippery and snow covered roads
  • Offers real off-road experience for the car enthusiast

The Bad

  • Very low on fuel economy
  • High on maintenance
  • Most expensive to manufacture and hence makes it the most dearest for the customer