How to Choose Between All-Wheel-Drive and 4-Wheel-Drive

August 19th, 2021 by

Honda for Sale in Centennial, CO

Rain. Snow. Sleet. Ice. Blizzards. Living in the Denver area means putting up with whatever Mother Nature throws at us during the winter months.

It, therefore, shouldn’t come as a surprise that vehicles equipped with either All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) or 4-Wheel-Drive (4WD) are quite popular with Coloradans. A recent study by iSeeCars.com bears this out. According to their research, Colorado ranks ninth in the states with the most AWD and 4WD vehicles, coming in at 64.7%. Of those vehicles, 35.5% are equipped with AWD compared to just 29.2% with 4WD.

The Difference Between AWD and 4WD

Many people may think that the terms “AWD” and “4WD” are interchangeable. After all, both AWD and 4WD are designed to route power to all four wheels. While this is true, how and when these two systems go about transferring power to the wheels is what sets them apart. Making this even more confusing is that both AWD and 4WD systems are becoming more sophisticated and advanced, meaning that they are more similar to one another in function than ever before.

AWD is becoming increasingly popular on vehicles because it requires little input from the driver. It functions automatically, sensing changes in road conditions and applying the appropriate amount of power to the wheels that need the most traction.

Two Flavors of AWD

There are two different types of AWD systems. The first is often referred to as “full-time AWD.” As the name implies, full-time AWD continuously delivers power to all four wheels for improved handling in a variety of road conditions, from dry pavement to ice or snow. Many of these systems allow the driver some degree of control by setting the system to “Normal,” “Mud,” or “Snow.” A downside to full-time AWD is that it can cause reduced fuel economy.

The second type of AWD is called “Part-Time AWD.” Under normal driving conditions, this system delivers power to either the front or the rear wheels. If electronic sensors detect a change in road conditions, the system will automatically send power to all four wheels to improve traction and handling. The benefit to this approach is improved fuel economy; although fuel economy is still less than cars equipped with either Front-Wheel-Drive (FWD) or Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD).

While AWD is more than adequate for most adverse road conditions, being over-confident and driving too fast in an AWD-equipped vehicle could still have you winding up in a snowbank or rear-ending someone. Common sense is still your best friend when it comes to safely navigate Denver’s roadways in bad weather.

4WD Offers More Robust Capabilities

4WD Honda

While Four-Wheel-Drive is similar to AWD in some respects, it is more robust and is, therefore, more suited for off-roading or more challenging road and weather conditions. Unlike most AWD systems, 4WD uses a transfer case, differentials, and couplings to route power to all four wheels, either automatically or on-demand.

Traditionally, “part-time” 4WD systems allow drivers to select from “2-hi”, “4-hi”, or “4-lo” modes by way of turning a dial, pushing a button, or pulling on a lever. In 2-hi mode, also referred to as “part-time” 4WD, the front axels are decoupled, allowing the vehicle to operate in rear-wheel-drive which is best suited for normal driving conditions. Switching to “4-lo” affords the most traction for off-roading while “4-hi” is similar to AWD in that it is more suited for a variety of road conditions and is usually the default setting.

Like AWD, you can also find some full-time 4WD systems that continuously provide power to all four wheels.

You’re more likely to find 4WD on trucks and SUVs than passenger cars since these vehicles appeal more to people who enjoy backroads adventures. While 4WD can come in handy in more extreme weather conditions, it does have few drawbacks, including a stiffer ride and poorer fuel economy when compared to two-wheel-drive.

A Word About Front-Wheel-Drive and Rear-Wheel-Drive

Both Front-Wheel-Drive and Rear-Wheel-Drive are more commonplace. RWD was the standard up until around the 1980s with the advent of FWD. Rear-Wheel-Drive is terrific when it comes to handling and cornering in dry conditions, which is why it’s so popular with performance cars. But RWD can be problematic when driving in rain, ice, snow, or sleet. If too much power is directed to the rear wheels, it can result in oversteer and loss of traction, which can cause drivers to lose control when cornering.

Front-Wheel-Drive vehicles perform somewhat better than RWD vehicles in snowy or icy conditions because they benefit from all the weight of the engine over the front wheels, which provides better traction. Nevertheless, FWD vehicles can suffer from something called “torque steer,” which occurs when too much power is sent to the front wheels, causing the vehicle to abruptly veer to the right or left. Additionally, FWD-equipped vehicles will tend to understeer into a corner.

Many people may think that the terms “AWD” and “4WD” are interchangeable. After all, both AWD and 4WD are designed to route power to all four wheels. While this is true, how and when these two systems go about transferring power to the wheels is what sets them apart. Making this even more confusing is that both AWD and 4WD systems are becoming more sophisticated and advanced, meaning that they are more similar to one another in function than ever before.

AWD is becoming increasingly popular on vehicles because it requires little input from the driver. It functions automatically, sensing changes in road conditions and applying the appropriate amount of power to the wheels that need the most traction.

AWD Or 4WD: Which Should You Choose?

4WD vs AWD

The answer to this question really depends on your lifestyle, driving habits, and where you live. With its ability to automatically adjust to changing road conditions, AWD is more adaptable and responsive to Denver’s changeable weather during the fall and winter, making it an ideal choice for daily driving and commuting.

However, if you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys off-roading and superior handling capabilities in severe weather, then you may want to consider the more robust capabilities of a true 4WD-equipped vehicle.

Honda’s Advanced AWD Systems

Honda’s Advanced AWD Systems

If you’re in the market for AWD SUVs or Trucks near Denver, Honda offers two advanced, cutting-edge AWD systems: Intelligent Traction Management and Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ (i-VTM4®) All-Wheel-Drive.

You’ll find AWD capabilities on four Honda models: The HR-V, CR-V, Pilot, and Ridgeline. Let’s take a look at how Intelligent Traction Management and the i-VTM4 systems operate on the luxurious and family-friendly 8-passenger 2022 Honda Pilot:

According to Honda, iVTM4 is “…the most sophisticated and technologically advanced all-wheel-drive system offered in a mainstream three-row SUV.”

On two-wheel-drive Pilot models, drivers have the option of using Intelligent Traction Management in either Normal or Snow modes. Intelligent Traction Management also works seamlessly with Pilots equipped with i-VTM4 All-Wheel-Drive. When equipped with i-VTM4, the driver can choose between Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand for enhanced traction in varying road conditions.

Other key iVTM4 benefits include a sophisticated, variable torque vectoring system delivering precise and responsive traction and handling independently to each wheel for optimal traction and stability in snowy or icy conditions. The system also improves dry-weather handling by directing torque to the outside rear wheel when turning.

Shop New Hondas at Kuni Honda

With their superior AWD technology, today’s AWD-equipped Hondas, like the spacious and versatile 2021 Honda Pilot, are the perfect choice for tackling Denver’s wintery road conditions. We have a large inventory of new Honda SUVs for sale near Denver to choose from.

Contact us today at 720-636-7000 and request a quote on a new AWD-equipped Honda, just in time for the upcoming winter season. Or stop by Kuni Honda on Arapahoe, conveniently located at 10750 E. Arapahoe Road, Centennial, CO 80112. Kuni Honda serves the greater Denver metro area, including Centennial, Englewood, Aurora, and Littleton.

Posted in Honda News