There was a time when AWD (all-wheel drive) and 4WD (four-wheel drive) were monikers attached to only a select group of vehicles, specifically primed for those in rough conditions, engaging in tough work utility and who found themselves off-road often. Nowadays, AWD and 4WD are incredibly commonplace on a wide variety of vehicles, allowing them to be more capable, versatile and safe. You’ve surely seen these acronyms before, but may not know how exactly they differ, how they work, their pros & cons and which drive system is best for you. Follow along with our team here at Southside Dodge as we outline all of the details comparing and contrasting AWD and 4WD, so you’ll know which one is the right fit for your next vehicle!


What is AWD & 4WD?


All-Wheel Drive (AWD)


All-Wheel Drive powers both the front and rear wheels, allowing each wheel to get the proper traction and control it desires, given the environment you’re driving on. You can find AWD on a selection of FCA vehicles, highlighted by models like the Chrysler PacificaDodge DurangoDodge Charger and more. Commonly, there are two types of AWD:


Full Time AWD: This system will engage all four wheels continuously at the same time.


Part Time AWD: The system will only be activated when needed, using two-wheel drive to conserve fuel when the ability of AWD isn’t needed, and then once traction is needed, switching over.


Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

Four-wheel drive is most specifically found in SUVs and pickups, primed to tackle the roughest of off-road terrain. As compared to AWD, which is mostly concerned with providing traction and control on roads that may turn sour due to the effects of weather, 4WD is designed for travelling off-road, such as over rocks, sand, water, snow and more! 4WD is mostly commonly found on our rough and rugged Jeep and Ram truck models, under the FCA banner!


How do these Drive Systems Work?


All-Wheel Drive

All-Wheel Drive doesn’t need any help from the driver to operate, but there are some variations on models with different modes that let you control which wheels get the power. Power will be distributed to the wheels who need it most, allowing its traction to be optimized to meet the demands of the road. For full-time AWD, the system is always on for both smooth driving and when conditions get dicey, while part-time AWD will have the torque to either the front or rear wheels during normal driving conditions, then activates the other set when traction is needed.


Four-Wheel Drive

Four-Wheel Drive acts similarly to All-Wheel Drive in sending torque to its wheels that need it to boost up that traction ability, but does so in a bit more complex of a manner due to its higher demands. 4WD also can exist as full-time or part-time like AWD, and has different ranges that can be chosen, working like modes with, for example, a low setting used to provide the best in traction off-road, while a high setting may be used to comfortably take you over ground with loose impediments like sand, gravel or snow.



AWD & 4WD: Pros & Cons


All-Wheel Drive




  • Driver doesn’t have to make any decisions
  • Vehicle senses loss of traction and activates itself
  • Becoming more and more common on modern vehicles
  • Available on a variety of model types, from SUVs to cars




  • Designed for on-road driving, not off-roading
  • No ability to decide when you’d like to engage the system
  • Increased cost for vehicle
  • Reduction in fuel efficiency



Four-Wheel Drive


  • Superior traction in off-road environments
  • Wide availability, from luxury vehicles to rugged models
  • Can engage the system as you please
  • Higher vehicle ground clearance




  • Can provide a stiffer ride given the build and resulting suspension
  • Added weight
  • Increased cost for vehicle
  • Reduction in fuel efficiency



Is AWD or 4WD Best for You?

Alberta is the perfect place for both AWD and 4WD, given our propensity for extreme weather (snow, ice, rain, hail, etc. we have it all!) and the seemingly limitless areas to explore off-road, including mountain regions and rocky areas aplenty. That means whether you get AWD or 4WD depends on how often you drive your vehicle and what kind of driving you intend on doing. With that being said, here in Red Deer we live in a place with extreme swings in weather across the year, winter driving elements often sticking around for half the year, requiring the best in traction capability. Due to the fact that our weather isn’t consistent year-round, it’s a good idea to look into getting a vehicle with some kind of AWD system. 4WD, on the other-hand, is more limited to those who purposefully go off road and need that kind of utility, if you’re just driving on traditional roads, to work, to the store and back, and on highways, you likely don’t need 4WD.


Looking to get a vehicle that’s perfectly primed for life in Alberta with AWD or 4WD? You’ve come to the right place at Southside Dodge with our prime selection of capable Ram, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler modelsContact us with any questions you may have regarding these all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems, whether you’re looking to buy or need service, we’d be happy to help!


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