The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

All Wheel Drive vs. Four Wheel Drive

September 2017, by Peter A. Salinas

All-wheel-drive vehicles make sense for drivers who demand safety and predictability in all driving conditions. Photo: ©istockphoto.com/AGrigorjeva
All-wheel-drive vehicles make sense for drivers who demand safety and predictability in all driving conditions. Photo: ©istockphoto.com/AGrigorjeva

Technology has enhanced both the traditional four-wheel-drive (4WD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems so they hardly compare to those of just five model-years ago.
Whether a 4WD or AWD vehicle will be better for your fleet is based on your fleet applications and geographical location. Investing in vehicles with 4WD or AWD can not only improve performance in certain scenarios, but it also has the potential to improve driver safety.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles provide stellar performance in off-road situation and for towing purposes. AWD systems, on the other hand, make sense for drivers that demand safety and predictability in all driving conditions and get some snow, rain, and ice throughout the year.

However, if you operate an area that doesn’t get snow, lacks hills, or rugged terrain, you can probably live without 4WD or AWD and not notice any issues.

Planning on towing heavy payloads? Then consider a 4WD vehicle. Driving in an urban setting over sloppy roads, then consider an AWD vehicle.

Four-Wheeling (4WD)

Not too long ago the hallmark of 4WD was an output shaft from the transmission that powered the transfer case, which shared the engine power to the front and rear driveshafts. Selecting four-wheel drive high or low power involved turning a switch, flipping a lever, or hitting a button, which would engage a chain drive that would turn the front and rear driveshafts and pinions at the same speed. This would allow greater torque to move the vehicle over or through snow or gravel with more power and surefootedness.

These so-called “part-time” 4WD systems (part-time because the operator had to manually engage the front wheels) have had, and still do have their place.

Many 4WD vehicles today employ computers chips with smart algorithms embedded in them that make decisions for the driver. Higher ground clearances, larger wheels and tires, give these vehicles the ability to go just about anywhere safely, without damaging expensive systems.

There are trade-offs when choosing a 4WD vehicle, and the first is the weight. The systems are complex and robust, and use heavier metals for strength, reliability, and durability. Added weight, means lower fuel economy, an issue even computers and algorithms cannot address. Second is cost. For the same reasons as weight, costs are higher and so is the price for maintenance and repairs.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

By definition, an AWD vehicle has an “on-demand” feature that can send power to the non-primary powered wheels when necessary. While 4WD has been around for many decades, AWD is more of a newcomer.

Typically, the most basic systems are front-wheel drivetrains that have a differential inside the transmission that can send engine power through a shaft to a rear differential and to the rear wheels.

Once again, computer power has enhanced these systems, and sensors detect front wheel slips and can redirect more power to the front and/or rear wheels. Today’s crossovers and SUVs — many of which were derived from passenger car designs — are more readily adaptable to AWD systems.

While AWD doesn’t typically offer low-range gear settings for climbing rocks or sashaying up sand dunes, they do offer excellent traction on wet roads and in snow and ice conditions. Computers have significantly enhanced the reliability of AWD systems in almost any conditions.

Predictable stability is the goal for the AWD system. Today’s system relies far-more on computers and less on complicated machinery, so costs and repairs have come down in price considerably. Without the heavier metals and more robust systems, they do not negatively affect fuel economy.

Twitter Facebook Google+

Comments

Please note that comments may be moderated. 
Leave this field empty:
 
 

  1. 1. Ross Friedmann [ September 04, 2017 @ 09:08AM ]

    Actually, Hyundai has a unique system in its AWD SUVs that offers a specific switch on the instrument panel, that affords the option of both AWD and 4x4. If the switch is engaged, it will lock both axles 50 / 50. When disengaged, it returns to AWD.

 

Fleet Incentives

Determine the actual cost of owning and running a vehicle in your fleet. Compare vehicles by class and model.

FleetFAQ

Fleet Tracking And Telematics

Todd Ewing from Fleetmatics will answer your questions and challenges

View All

 

Fleet Management And Leasing

Merchants Experts will answer your questions and challenges

View All

 

Sponsored by

An abbreviation for Request for Proposal.

Read more

Blog

Market Trends

Mike Antich
Fleet Will Need to Reinvent Itself as a New Vision of Fleet Management Emerges

By Mike Antich
Over the past several decades, the purchasing managers of yesteryear reinvented themselves into procurement professionals whose function is now viewed as a strategic asset that provides a competitive advantage to a corporation. Can fleet management, likewise, elevate its perceived value to a corporation, especially in the eyes of its senior management? I say yes, and the timing is right to do so.

Deciphering the DNA of Award-Winning Fleet Professionals

By Mike Antich

View All

Driving Notes

Chris Brown
2018 Mercedes Benz GLS450 4MATIC

By Chris Brown
The Mercedes-Benz GLS450 is the S class of SUVs. That’s expressed through Mercedes’ new nomenclature, which as of the 2017 model year carries the same levels across SUVs, sedans, coupes, and roadsters.

2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Chief

By Stephane Babcock

View All

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Sherb Brown
Fair and Balanced

By Sherb Brown
The mainstream media may have sold out lock stock and barrel to the fringe elements but as a fleet decision maker you still have some tremendous resources that you can rely on.

New Faces in Safe Places

By Sherb Brown

View All

Data Points

Dylan Brown
What Are the Most Valuable Services Offered by FMCs?

By Dylan Brown
What do fleet managers value in their relationships with fleet management companies? The answer may surprise you.

Demand More From Your Fuel Card Provider

By Dylan Brown

View All

In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

Ed Bobit
Thinking of the Newbies of the Future

By Ed Bobit
A lot has changed in the past 10-15 years, so we can only imagine this momentum will continue into the next decade-plus. How will this change impact the fleet manager of tomorrow?

Managing a Car vs. Work Truck Fleet

By Ed Bobit

View All

STORE

Up Next

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher