Bismarck Motor Company

1025 East Bismarck Expressway
Bismarck, ND 58504

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AWD vs FWD | All Wheel Drive Vehicles

AWD vs FWD -- And What About RWD? Some Helpful Tips 

There are many options available between different drive system types, i.e. AWD vs FWD, as well as RWD. All wheel drive (AWD), front wheel drive (FWD), and rear wheel drive (RWD) -- each drive system has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few things to consider if and when you are evaluating AWD vs FWD, or even rear wheel drive.

AWD vs FWD - Features and Benefits of All Wheel Drive (AWD)

AWD can be based or modeled around a FWD, like any new Subaru. AWD gives you advantages of both RWD and FWD. In poor weather, and on dry pavement, AWD vehicles provide their drivers with great traction. Many people are impressed with the AWD performance and how it balances control and handling along with bad weather capabilities. That is why AWD appeals to people who are interested in both performance and bad weather handling.

The disadvantages of AWD vs FWD are cost and weight. AWD vehicles can weigh several hundred pounds more than a FWD or RWD vehicle, which affects the vehicle's acceleration. AWD costs quite a bit more than FWD or RWD because there are more components and more things that may need repair at some point in the future. So, to buy an AWD will cost more upfront, more at the pump because of its weight, and probably more down the road when it comes time to be serviced. These costs may be worth it to you -- to have a vehicle that is competent in the snow and rain, and still performs and handles well in dry weather. All of which may make a good case for AWD vs FWD.

AWD vs FWD - Features and Benefits of Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

FWD is found mostly in economy vehicles and less expensive vehicles because it is less expensive to design and build. The assembly line production is easier with FWD vs AWD or RWD because there are fewer parts to install. Since FWD vehicles are less weight compared to RWD, these vehicles tend to get better gas mileage. FWD vehicles are better in rain and snow compared to a RWD. FWD gets better traction from the weight of the engine/transaxle sitting on top of the front wheels and the front wheels pull the vehicle through the rain and snow (rather than RWD, where the wheels try to push the vehicle). FWD vehicles are great vehicles in poor weather conditions and even better when they have snow tires.

The disadvantages of FWD vehicles is that they tend to require more repairs than a RWD due to these vehicles being nose-heavy. There is more pressure on different parts of the vehicle. This extra weight upfront also negatively affects the way the vehicle handles. This is why most performance cars are not FWD. It can be difficult to steer FWD vehicles at higher speeds. The problem is that the front wheels have to steer the car and provide power. "Torque steer" may result during acceleration; the power and the steering combined can cause the wheels to jerk left or right. Newer vehicles may have electronic traction control to help with this problem, but performance drivers still favour RWD vs FWD.

AWD vs FWD - Let's Not Forget Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

RWD vehicles are simple and sturdy. A lot of service vehicles, like cop cars for instance, are RWD for these very reasons. They most likely have solid axle designs to take the abuse from rough driving. You can back over a curb and not worry about repairs.Another advantage to RWD is that these vehicles have better balance and handle better as well. The weight of the vehicle's drive train is spread fairly evenly from front to rear.  Whereas, in a FWD the transmission and axle are one unit and most of its weight is over the front wheels. Most sports cars (like the Nissan 370Z Touring Convertible) and race cars are RWD because of the way the car handles is especially important in cars traveling at high speeds.

The disadvantage of RWD is that these vehicles do not handle well in poor weather conditions. Especially in snow -- they are better left in the garage. They are known to be at their weakest and lose traction in slick conditions.

So, how do you make a decision between AWD vs FWD -- or a rear wheel drive vehicle? Consider what is most important to you: 1) performance, 2) control in bad weather, or 3) costs. Research each type of drive system and speak with people you know about each of the different styles. What have you been driving lately? How does your current vehicle handle and perform? Maybe you will decide to stay with the type of drive system you already know and have experienced, or maybe you will make an informed decision and try to settle the argument between AWD vs FWD -- or rear wheel?