What's The Difference Between 4x4 and AWD?

If you're like most people shopping for a new SUV, you've come across the terms four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. At first glance, both of these drive systems appear to be the same. And for a good reason. For starters, 4x4 drive systems and AWD systems are both designed to give you more traction on wet and slippery surfaces. At the same time, most people use the terms four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive interchangeably. However, if you take a close look, you'll quickly notice that 4x4 SUVs are different than AWD drive SUVs. Not sure what we mean?

Take a look at our 4WD vs. AWD comparison review below. Once you're done, visit our local Lansing Jeep dealership near you. One of our professional SUV experts will walk you through the differences between 4x4 SUVs and AWD SUVs. We will also allow you to take a 4WD SUV for a free test drive. Sound interesting?

Let's get started!

What Is A Four-Wheel-Drive SUV (4x4)?

Four-wheel-drive SUVs, also known as 4x4 and 4WD SUVs, have been engineered to give you more traction for more action. Unlike All-Wheel-Drive SUVS, four-wheel-drive SUVs enable extreme off-road handling. Which means, four-wheel-drive SUVs can crawl over boulders, climb over steep hills, water-ford creeks, and take on the most severe weather conditions.

To achieve this, 4x4 SUVs come standard with an electric two-axled drivetrain. In essence, this drivetrain is designed to distribute torque to all four wheels simultaneously equally. As a further convenience, most four-wheel-drive SUVs also come available with durable transfer cases, additional low gear rations, locking gear differentials. You'll also be glad to know that there are two different kinds of four-wheel-drive systems: 

  • Full-Time 4WD Systems: equally distributes engine power to all four-wheels that need it most. Full-time 4x4 SUVs offer low gear ratios, locking differentials, and are always engaged on and off-road. Some of the most reliable 4x4 SUVs are Jeep Trail Rated brand vehicles.
  • On-Demand 4WD Systems: Part-time 4-Wheel-Drive SUVs remain in rear-wheel-drive mode until additional traction is needed. On-Demand 4x4 SUVs make it easier for drivers to drive on wet or slippery surfaces without compromising their fuel economy. 

What is All-Wheel-Drive (AWD)?

All-Wheel Drive Systems are built for domestic driving on the road. While it doesn't give you the same power and capability as the 4x4 drive system, it does offer enhanced traction and acceleration. Chances are, if you purchase an all-wheel-drive system, you'll be able to drive through snow, rain, and sleet.

You'll also be able to stop accidents before they happen. However, you'll have to limit your driving experience. But for what it's worth, all-wheel-drive systems come in several different configurations. Here's a list of the top All-Wheel Drive Systems: 

  • Full-Time All-Wheel Drive: both front and rear axles are driven all the time. Drivers do not have to worry about engaging the AWD system. 
  • Automatic All-Wheel Drive: part-time all-wheel-drive systems automatically engage whenever vehicle experiences wheel-spin or slippage. During this time, the all-wheel-drive system will direct power were needed to help vehicle enhance traction.


When it comes down to severe snow conditions, four-wheel-drive SUVs are the perfect solution. Not only will a 4x4 SUV help you climb out of the snow, but it will also help you grip the road. Chances are if you live in Chicago, you've experienced a few blizzards. Therefore, you already know how difficult it can be to climb out of snow pits. But it doesn't have to be. 4x4 SUVs give you the power and capability to plow through the snow. It also makes it easier to climb over obstacles.

On the other hand, driving an AWD SUV in the snow can hinder your driving experience. For starters, AWD SUVs are not designed to help you climb over obstacles. As a result, an all-wheel-drive system can slow you down in the winter. It also does give you the same traction as the 4WD SUV. As a result, 4x4 SUVs are great vehicles to drive in the snow. But don't just take our word for it. See for yourself. Visit our local River Oaks Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership near you.

4x4 SUV vs AWD SUV: Off-Road

As far as off-road goes, there's nothing quite like driving a new 4x4 SUV. For starters, 4x4 SUV gives you the best of all worlds. Not only can 4WD SUVs crawl through the mud, but they're also capable of water-fording. As a result, this makes it easier for drivers to pass through difficult terrain without worry about getting stuck.

Also, four-wheel-drive SUVs typically come standard with locking differentials. Ultimately, this helps drivers grip the road with more traction. Not to mention, Jeep 4x4 SUVs come standard with a durable transfer case, and fuel skid plates. Therefore, you don't have to worry about damaging the bottom of your vehicle while driving off-road.

On the other hand, AWD SUVs do not offer the same off-road SUV capability as 4WD SUVs. If you're thinking about driving an AWD SUV off-road, you should consider the fact that all-wheel-drive SUV doesn't come standard with the same drive-range ratios for low-speed crawling.

They also don't come standard with the same articulation, which prevents them from tipping over while climbing over boulders. Come to think of it, AWD SUVs cannot crawl through muddy terrains. As a result, there's a chance your new AWD SUV will leave you stuck.

4x4 SUV vs AWD SUV: Pavement

When it comes down to commuting in the city, the AWD SUVs are the perfect solution. On the pavement, this vehicle gives you more traction, better acceleration, and an enhanced fuel economy. You'll also be glad to know that AWD SUVs make it easy to cut through sharp turns. In short, AWD SUV's are great for simple driving on the road.

4x4 SUV vs. AWD SUV? Which Is The Best For You?

At the end of the day, everyone wants to drive a reliable SUV that they can always count on. With this in mind, we recommend driving a new four-wheel-drive SUV. Ultimately, it gives you the best of all worlds. Not only does it perform well on the road, but it's also tough enough to take on the most severe weather conditions. On top of that, four-wheel-drive SUVs offer superior off-road handling capabilities.

You're going to love how much more you can do with a new 4x4 SUV. Come experience the power of our new Jeep 4x4 SUVs for sale near Chicago today. Visit our local SUV dealership located at 
 17225 Torrence Ave Lansing, IL 60438-1016. We will look forward to helping everyone in Lansing, Calumet City, South Holland, Dolton, and surrounding areas, get their hands on a new SUV for sale.

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