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Sep 13, 2023
Landcruiser 120 D4D
"What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

The difference between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive is pretty simple: Either the front 2 wheels pull the vehicle or the back ones push it. But what about terms like 4-wheel drive (4WD or 4x4) and all-wheel drive (AWD)? Cars and trucks typically have 4 wheels, so these can sound like they might be same thing. And it’s true that both are systems that power both the front and rear axles, but the differences are in how they work and what situations they’re good for. If you’re wondering whether you need AWD or 4WD, this quick guide is for you.

What's All-Wheel Drive?
AWD systems direct torque (the force you feel on acceleration) from the engine to both axles, delivering power to all 4 wheels. This gives extra traction during acceleration in slippery conditions on the road. AWD allows for a variation in the power that’s sent to each axle which allows the wheels to rotate at different speeds, providing better handling on dry pavement, too.

AWD is becoming common in passenger cars and SUVs and comes in 2 flavors: full-time AWD and part-time—or automatic—AWD. Full-time AWD systems continuously power both the front and rear axles. Part-time AWD is found on front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles; relying on sensors to detect when it’s needed, it kicks in automatically when the road gets dicey. This has a bonus of better fuel economy when compared to a full-time AWD system. Whether full-time or part time, all-wheel drive systems typically operate without the driver needing to do anything to engage them.

What's 4-Wheel Drive?
More commonly found in trucks and beefier SUVs, 4WD systems are more at home when going off road and hauling heavy loads. Like AWD, 4WD sends power to both front and rear axles, but 4WD locks the front and rear driveshafts together. This means the power sent to both axles is the same. This gives the vehicle extra traction when off-roading in conditions like mud, snow, and sand.

Another point where 4WD differs from AWD is that in most cases, 4WD systems need to be manually engaged by the driver, usually by pushing a button or flipping a switch. While 4WD shines when the vehicle’s gone off the beaten path, it’s not to be used on dry pavement as it makes turning difficult and is typically not well-suited to on-road conditions. An exception is a 4WD system that has both “high” and “low” configurations that can be selected by the driver. The high setting may help with slippery on-road conditions while the low setting gives max traction when off-roading.

Do I Need AWD or 4WD?

While both AWD and 4WD exist to provide extra traction under acceleration, neither of them help with stopping or cornering. They do both help when conditions get tough, though. If you’re considering getting a vehicle equipped with either AWD or 4WD and wondering which you need, consider how you plan to use your vehicle. If you’re planning to use it for off-roading or need that extra oomph for towing, 4WD is what you want. AWD, on the other hand, is there to help give you more traction during on-road use in icy and wet conditions."

Good info! Brings back memories. Owned a vehicle with a Detroit Locker. Unstoppable off-road, but would "snap" frequently on dry pavement when locking/unlocking. Bulletproof, never an issue. As I understand it, Torsen is now owned by Toyota.
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I should confess that more I read about these modern systems more I believe my Landcruiser 120 is brilliant. I bought the base model back in 2007 because it was the only one with rear differential lock :rolleyes: . Because it has no electronics at all. No ESP no Traction Control. 6 speed manual. I drive the car 100%.
Permanent AWD with a Torsen lockable center differential and the lockable rear differential. I did not add anything yet, except some agresive all terrain tires. In addition it is a 8 seater and I can remove the third row in 1 min. Huge cargo space.
Average mpg this summer 29mpg.
And BTW there is one model missing at the Landcruiser Museum in Salt Lake City. LC120.🤕