What is the difference between All Wheel Drive, 4 Wheel Drive and Rear Wheel Drive?

Ever gaining in popularity, over 45 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. have either all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), according to an Edmunds analysis. There are many reasons why car buyers are trending towards the drivetrains that allow for more traction, control and power. These two terms can be confusing and even used interchangeably, so it is important to distinguish the pros and cons of the different systems to make the most informed decision as to what would be best for your specific needs.

Four Wheel Drive is a traditional system which powers all four of a vehicle's wheels. 4WD is found primarily in large trucks and SUVs, delivering torque through differentials, transfer cases and couplings allowing for maximum traction under most conditions. The capability for 4WD vehicles to navigate off-road and handle deep snow conditions also allows it to manage icy hills and get the vehicle out of ditches and snowdrifts with more ease. Traditionally made for more severe driving conditions, 4WD engineering is becoming increasingly sophisticated and being incorporated into more luxurious models offering better comfort. 4WD vehicles were ultimately designed for maximum pulling power and navigating rough terrain, making it the better choice for adverse conditions on and off the road. Drivers that prefer to have control over when to engage four-wheel drive prefer this drivetrain. In addition, 4WD vehicles tend to have a better fuel economy and decreased initial cost of the vehicle.  Nissan offers many models with 4WD including the Pathfinder, Armada, Frontier, Titan, and Titan XD.

All Wheel Drive can be broken down into two types, part-time AWD and full-time drive. These systems power all four tires, but the drivetrains work differently. Full-time AWD drives all the wheels continuously, while part-time operates primarily in two-wheel with power to all four wheels when the vehicle senses that additional traction control is needed. With the system designed to send power to the extra wheels when traction is lost, this is beneficial to the driver as the car makes the decision and no action is needed from the driver. AWD vehicles also offer a smoother ride than traditional 4WD and can handle conditions from rain and snow to light off-roading.  AWD vehicles can be offered in compact sedans up to large SUVs, making the selection appeal to more car buyers. Nissan offers several great options for AWD vehicles, including the Altima, Rogue, Rogue Sport, Murano and GT-R.

With winter in Crystal Lake quickly approaching, now is the time of year that consumers begin to think of how their car or truck will perform in the upcoming inclement weather. According to Edmunds.com, “Driving in cold weather often means encountering a variety of rapidly changing road surfaces, from soft snow to hard-packed snow to glare ice. AWD systems, which deliver power to all four wheels all the time, or automatically engage four-wheel torque when needed, are best at dealing with these changing conditions.

Lastly, there are vehicles that still rely on the Rear-Wheel drivetrain, which are likely pick-up trucks and some SUVs along with various luxury sedans and sports cars. For heavy vehicles, RWD offers better traction especially with a heavy load. Sports cars with RWD can see improved handling as the vehicles are designed to optimize suspension for handling. However, because RWD can become very slippery with little traction on slick roads, the majority of newer released models have AWD as an option for those who would prefer the added safety value. Currently, Nissan has new cargo vans available with RWD.


What is the difference between All Wheel Drive, 4 Wheel Drive and Rear Wheel Drive? - M'Lady Nissan

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