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FWD versus AWD system – What’s the difference?

FWD versus AWD system – What’s the difference?


Regardless of the type of car that interests you, it’s highly probably that you will come face to face with the terms front-wheel drive (FWD), and all-wheel drive (AWD). It’s possible that you will also hear the terms rear-wheel drive (RWD) or 4×4. These terminologies refer to the wheels of a vehicle receiving power from the engine.

The engine is the element that propels the car. Obviously the wheels are connected to the road, and so the way the power is transmitted to the road is affected by the handling of the car as a whole. Keep in mind, the behaviour of the car can change when driving over snow or ice.

“If you look at Honda’s lineup, the majority of the vehicles are FWD models, but there is the option of an AWD on vehicles like the CR-V and the Pilot, while others like the Ridgeline offer it in the series,” says Patrick Aceto, General Sales Manager at St-Basile Honda, Quebec.

On a FWD vehicle, the front wheels are the only ones receiving power and engine torque. The rear wheels are guided by the front wheels like, for example, a tricycle.

From the point of view of handling the car, the FWD models are, to an extent, considered to be less dynamic than the AWD or RWD vehicles. For instance, on the track a rear-wheel drive car is more agile as it “pushes” the car in the curves, while the AWD model has better traction.

That being said, most people will not venture out to a track. On a normal road, a front-wheel drive car has a better fuel economy than the AWD vehicle with the same power. This is due to its inferior weight, while it will be more stable in the curves compared to the RWD.

The AWD is a tad more complex than the FWD, since there are several types of AWD. That being said, and in any case the engine’s power is sent to the four wheels of the vehicle and not just the two. The distribution between the front and rear wheels vary, and it’s sometimes possible to lock the centre differential to obtain a perfect 50/50 balance between the front and the rear.

On Honda vehicles with AWD configuration, the majority of the power is sent to the front wheels, but when the rear wheels lose traction, the torque is transferred to the rear in order to restore the balance.

The advantage of the AWD is mostly felt in the winter. When all four wheels receive power, it is easier to get out of a snowbank as opposed to an icy or snow-covered road. The vehicle has more stability in the curves.

In short, the FWD models are preferred if you’re looking for a better fuel economy, while the AWD models are worth considering if you often have to leave the house, regardless of a snowstorm.

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