Pros and Cons of All Wheel Drive

May 15th, 2019 by

Pros and Cons of All-Wheel Drive

Where, oh where to start…

Twelve. That’s how many different car brands potential buyers have to choose from in the US alone. Let alone narrowing those down to specific models and features like drivetrains (like all-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, etc.).

This choice can be complicated even further when looking at all-wheel drive advantages and disadvantages.

Now, you might be thinking, how are YOU going to help me pick a car?

The truth is that picking the right car for your needs doesn’t have to be rocket science. In fact, a perfect place to start your car search could be by looking at the different drivetrains available today.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the different drivetrains available and why all wheel drive might be the right drivetrain for your needs.

What are My Options?

Before we get into drivetrains, let’s get one thing out of the way. There is no perfect drivetrain.

You may find other articles, videos, or even car manufacturers claiming to have the perfect drivetrain but the reality is that there is no such thing.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at your options.

RWD (Rear-Wheel Drive)

This is the first drivetrain ever used, which can be dated back to the 1885 Benz Patent Motor Car, commonly regarded as the first car ever. In fact, even Henry Ford’s Model T had a RWD drivetrain.

While rear-wheel drive was the first drivetrain ever used, most major automakers are moving away from this drivetrain for a couple of reasons.

Affordability

For those in the market for a cheap car, rear-wheel drive may not be the way to go. This is due to reduced production volumes (because of the increased popularity of FWD vehicles), greater weight, and the additional materials needed to produce these drivetrains.

Fuel Economy

Rear-wheel drivetrains often mean heavier cars because of the metal driveshaft, which is needed to take the power from the engine to the rear wheels. This extra weight means that RWD vehicles often have lower fuel economy than their FWD counterparts.

FWD (Front-Wheel Drive)

Automakers are increasingly choosing to include this type of drivetrain in their cars, especially for the affordability, fuel economy, and everyday traction that these drivetrains provide. That is not to say, however, that FWD drivetrains are for everyone.

Driving Conditions

Having a car with FWD means that the two front wheels do the work of pushing your car along and steering at the same time. This often means that the two front wheels wear down quicker than usual and put more strain on components like the drive shaft. FWD cars are often more fragile than their RWD cousins because of this.

FWD cars are also harder to control since the two front wheels are doing all the work. This is further aggravated when accelerating from a complete stop. Thankfully, this can be minimized by slowly pulling your foot off the gas pedal while accelerating.

All-Wheel Drive Advantages and Disadvantages

Now, what is the difference between AWD and 4WD?

Don’t worry, it’s actually quite simple. All-wheel drive is a newer version of four-wheel drive where specific amounts of power are sent to each individual wheel. On the other hand, four-wheel drive simply sends the same power to all four wheels.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s simply refer AWD and 4WD as simply AWD because of their similarity.

Logically, it would make sense that AWD is superior to FWD and RWD in every way. As it turns, that is not exactly the case.

Advantages

Let’s take look at why AWD may be the right drivetrain for you. To do this, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Here are the major benefits of AWD over its cousins:

  • Stability – since modern AWD cars are often equipped with sensors to monitor the individual wheels, these cars often achieve superior traction in a variety of terrains and weather conditions (pebbles, snow, ice, rain, etc.). A car that does this particularly well is the 2019 Dodge Charger SXT AWD.
  • Performance – being able to monitor and adjust power individually to four different wheels is no easy task, which is why AWD is often found in modern performance vehicles. The Dodge Charger mentioned above is an excellent example of how versatile AWD can be in providing the best of both worlds in safety and performance.
  • Fuel Efficiency – not only is AWD automatically engaged from ignition, but it also provides superior fuel economy than its RWD counterparts.

Disadvantages

While AWD may seem to be the sweet spot for drivetrains, it does come with some considerable drawbacks.

Too Many Options

AWD only gets more complicated as you learn about it. The wealth of options to choose from can make it challenging to pick the right car for you.

  • Part-Time 4WD – this is the first 4WD drivetrain to be used, dating back to the Jeeps used in WW2. This drivetrain is designed to be used on rough terrain and at low speeds.
  • Full-Time 4WD – as the name suggests, this drivetrain operates at any speed and on any terrain. One major drawback is the significant amount of fuel that it consumes. The tradeoff is the stability and safety it consistently provides.
  • On-Demand 4WD – for most, this is the golden gem of 4WD drivetrains. Complex sensors let the car’s computers recognize and even predict slips before they happen. When the danger has passed, the car goes back to its fuel-efficient drivetrain, which may be RWD or FWD. This 4WD variation provides the best of both worlds in fuel economy and safety.

Evaluating which drivetrain is right for your needs is a major challenge when it comes to purchasing a car, and the wealth of AWD options can make this decision harder. Furthermore, the specific drivetrain that you desire may not be offered with the make and model of car that you are looking to purchase.

Fuel Efficiency

Depending on which of the aforementioned variations of AWD and 4WD you pick, the sacrifice you make could come in the form of fuel efficiency.

Here is a ranking of which drivetrains are the most fuel efficient to least fuel efficient:

  1. On-Demand 4WD
  2. Part-Time 4WD
  3. Full-Time 4WD

But Wait, There’s More!

Now that you have any idea of what your options are you should have a sense of what you want and need out of your car. Additionally, you have hopefully gained some insight into all-wheel drive advantages and disadvantages.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether you value fuel efficiency or safety more, or if you are willing to make a tradeoff in both areas (where AWD excels).

Make sure to check out our webpage for a variety of cars for all your needs, ranging from new to used, AWD to RWD, and much more.

Posted in AWD