AWD vs. 4WD on Edmunds.com

Here are the criteria that Edmunds.com uses to determine if a vehicle is 4WD (four-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive). Please note that the names some manufacturers use are marketing terms and do not take into account actual functionality.

4WD — Part-Time

  • Four wheels driven or Two wheels driven
  • Requires driver input to activate
  • Has transfer case with 2-speed capability
  • Very good on tough terrain or off-roading.
  • Not meant to be driven in 4WD (4WD-Hi or 4WD-low) on high-traction surfaces (dry pavement) or severe damage will occur (because vehicle does not have a center differential to allow different speeds between front and rear axles)
  • For high-traction surfaces (dry pavement) the 2WD mode must be used

4WD — On-Demand

  • Not part-time or AWD but a combination of both types of functionality
  • Generally will allow driver to choose several different 4WD modes, including 2WD
  • Driver should be able to choose an "AWD" mode
  • Center Differential: Manual or Viscous

4WD — Full-Time

  • Also called Permanent 4WD
  • Four wheels driven
  • Not part-time or AWD but a combination of both types of functionality
  • Generally will allow driver to choose only either 4WD Hi or 4WD Lo modes
  • 2WD is not available
  • Center Differential: Manual or Viscous
  • 4WD system that can be used on all surfaces (addition of a differential in the transfer case allows for the Full-Time 4WD)
  • System was created to make 4WD more useable in everyday driving. 

AWD

  • 4 wheels driven
  • Selectable electronically controlled modes/settings: available
  • 4WD-Lo mode is NOT AVAILABLE
  • Designed for improved road safety, not intended for off-road use
  • Center Differential: Mechanical or Viscous
  • Limited Slip: Center

For more details, see Do You Need an All-Wheel-Drive or Four-Wheel-Drive Car?

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