RWD, FWD, AWD, 2WD and 4WD, there are many ways that a car can be “propelled”, and each have their respective merits and disadvantages.
Here’s a handy guide from The Motor Ombudsman to help you make the decision for what’s right for you when choosing a car.
Rear-wheel drive (RWD)
In a rear-wheel drive car, the engine powers the back wheels via a drive shaft and differential, “pushing” the vehicle forward. One of the advantages of rear-wheel drive is better weight distribution across the car, leading to improved braking and handling. However, with the added components, the vehicle can weigh more. Traction may also be lost during poor weather such as in the rain and snow, even if the car is fitted with traction control.
Front-wheel drive (FWD)
In a front-wheel drive car, the engine powers the front wheels only and effectively “pulls” the car along. Advantages of owning a front-wheel drive car include improved traction on slippery surfaces and greater interior space, thanks to the absence of a drive shaft and transmission tunnel. On the flip side, tyre wear can be uneven as the front tyres can wear out quicker than the rears because of the weight distribution
Four-wheel drive (4WD)
Four-wheel drive is typically found on an SUV or off-road vehicle (4×4), and this is where the engine propels all four wheels at the same time when the system is activated. An advantage of this type of configuration is that it improves grip, but at the same time, weight is added to the car, and fuel consumption can be higher than a two-wheel drive equivalent.
Two-wheel drive (2WD)
Two-wheel drive cars are referred to those which use a front or rear-wheel drive setup.
All-wheel drive (AWD)
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are sometimes misunderstood. All-wheel drive systems are always on, and they use electronic sensors to determine which wheel should get a car’s power. Four-wheel drive, meanwhile, is not usually automatically active, meaning that you need to engage it via a lever or switch to make all four wheels turn at the same time when off-roading etc.