All You Need To Know About All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

Are you thinking of buying an AWD vehicle, or just want to know what it's all about? Read on for answers to all your burning questions about all-wheel drive.

Nov 09, 2016

All You Need To Know About All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
Taking America’s lead, small to large SUV’s have become the car of choice for many UK motorists over the past few years – with a surge of them appearing on our roads. For this reason, you will probably have heard the term ‘All-Wheel Drive’ being batted around more often. But what does it mean? How is it different from 4-Wheel Drive?
In this post, we will explain All-Wheel Drive and answer those burning questions you’ve maybe been too embarrassed to ask. You will also find out why All-Wheel Drive is so desirable in modern SUVs, saloons and sports cars and why it’s a feature worth considering for your next car. 

What is all-wheel drive?

Let’s get the basics straight first. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is a fairly recent driving system which transfers power to the wheels with the most traction. Power can be split between the front and rear wheel axles or individual wheels, via three ‘differentials’: central, front and rear. A differential is a combination of the AWD gear box and advanced engineering, which takes power from a car’s transmission and distributes it to the right axles. 
There are two types of All-Wheel Drive: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical AWD makes use of the differential-based method above, however SUV’s of 2015 and 2016 also involve computerised ‘electronic’ AWD in their systems. Sensors are placed on each wheel of the car, to accurately monitor traction, wheel speed and more. An ECU uses this data to decide where power is sent, depending on which wheel has the most grip. Electronic AWD is commonly called ‘torque vectoring’. 
The most revolutionary type of all-wheel drive to-date is Ford’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD). Available in a number of new Ford models, iAWD takes outdoor conditions into consideration when it adjusts wheel grip, such as wet, dry or icy. It also offers superb handling, responsiveness and engine efficiency at low to high speeds.  
intelligent all-wheel drive system

What are the benefits of All-Wheel Drive?

All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is complicated, but it’s a very useful innovation in modern cars which can dramatically improve road safety and driving capabilities. 
• Better grip in slippery conditions - 
If the road is very wet or icy with unexpected slippery areas, an all-wheel driving system will distribute traction quickly and expertly to the right wheels. This helps to keep your car stable in these adverse conditions. 
• Improves general handling - 
From everyday crossovers to super-cars, the latest AWD systems use intelligent torque vectoring to improve handling. Traction and speed in each wheel is kept under control by the ECU, making uneven driving surfaces easier to tackle. 
• Works all the time –
All-Wheel Drive is activated as soon as you start the car, whereas the 4-Wheel Drive system has to be activated manually by the driver. 
• Gives sportier handling and traction to a range of cars - 
With AWD, your SUV can handle tight cornering and enhance other aspects of sports car performance. Many popular car models from the likes of Ford and Nissan have upgraded from 4x4 to AWD for dynamic everyday driving, whereas the 2016 Nissan GT-R uses it to improve acceleration on the track. 

How is All-Wheel Drive different from 4-Wheel Drive?

People often use the terms ‘all-wheel’ and ‘4-wheel’ drive interchangeably, but they are not the same thing! 
4-Wheel Drive (4WD) or 4x4 is most common in off-road vehicles because the system works well at low speeds, for example through mud. Although All-Wheel Drive is suitable for all road conditions, it is used more for sporty performance and handling tricky weather conditions. 
Another difference is how power from the car’s transmission is distributed to the wheels. 4WD cars use a transfer case, which ensures that all wheels turn at the same speed when power is split evenly. This can cause problems with turning. However AWD systems use differentials and torque vectoring to adjust traction and speed.

The Best Cars at Sandicliffe with AWD

At Sandicliffe, you can find a diverse range of low to high price SUVs, crossovers and saloons with AWD at our East Midlands dealerships. Here are just some of the best-selling AWD vehicles from Ford, Nissan, Skoda, Kia and Mazda. 

Ford Edge 


Nissan Juke


Mazda CX-5


Skoda Octavia 


Kia Sportage 

Our manufacturer-trained staff can advise you on any of our all-wheel drive cars and commercial vehicles and take you out for a test drive – so you can feel the power of AWD for yourself. 

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