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AWD vs. FWD: What’s the Real Difference?

Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are undoubtedly the best drivetrains for maximum grip and better traction. 

Many people argue that you need all-wheel drive in order to be able to drive in inclement weather or on poor quality roads. This simply isn’t the case. Many front-wheel drive cars can hold their own against their four-wheel drive counterparts.

The main difference between AWD vs. FWD vehicles is simply in the name. FWD cars have their power delivered to only the front wheels, whereas AWD cars deliver their power through all four wheels.

The vast majority of cars sold in the United States are front-wheel drive. Most of these cars have all-wheel drive variants as well. Almost every front-wheel drive car has a transverse-mounted engine. This isn’t changed when a four-wheel drive variant is produced, and power reaches the rear wheels via a transfer case.

Many modern all-wheel drive cars have use torque vectoring or similar systems to split power between axles and wheels. This makes them very effective in off-road conditions, even more so than their older predecessors.

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The main problem with front-wheel drive cars, at least for car enthusiasts, is their tendency to understeer. Of course, a limited-slip differential helps things, but it is an inherent fault with the car’s layout. All-wheel drive vehicles tend to take a decent percentage of the power that would have originally gone to the front wheels and send it to the rear wheels. This cuts down on understeer but doesn’t completely rectify the problem.

The plus side is that AWD vehicles tend to have excellent grip, which makes them fast off of the line. If torque is vectored well, they can handle very well, too.

Front-wheel drive vehicles can be very fun to drive. Take the Fiesta ST, for instance. It’s quick, light, and nimble, and can do epic front-wheel drive drifts, despite its seemingly low power output.

All-wheel drive performance cars are aplenty and fun as well. Take the Focus RS, with 350 horsepower and all-wheel drive, it can hold a candle to any rear-wheel drive German counterpart, such as the BMW M3 and the Mercedes C63.

All in all, there are quite a few differences between front-wheel drive systems and AWD systems, but all in all, they are both excellent layouts with great options available on the market.

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