Article Comment: 4WD vs AWD

Submitted: Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 20:25
ThreadID: 131810 Views:2836 Replies:9 FollowUps:10
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I note thet you list the Subaru Forester as an AWD. I drive a manual Forester with a low range available via a lever. Does this qualify the Forester as a 4WD?
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Reply By: Frank P (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 20:33

Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 20:33
By definition your vehicle qualifies as a 4WD.

Doesn't give it high clearance and the ruggedness of a larger, commonly accepted 4WD though. (Think Prado, Pajero and the like and the full sized 4WDs), but you'll get the traction of a 4WD and the benefits of light weight.

Could be fun like my first 4WD, a Kia Sportage, was. A very under-rated vehicle.


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Reply By: Peter S64 - Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 21:41

Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 21:41
Thanks for the comment Frank. My clearance is 220 mm. (as per the Subaru owner's manual) but I don't think the low range locks the diff
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Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 23:44

Saturday, Mar 12, 2016 at 23:44
I have the hi/low lever in my Impreza. There's not much difference in the ratio between the two - much closer than a full blown 4by.
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Reply By: gbc - Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 08:56

Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 08:56
The line is fairly blurred between 4wd/awd. For example my pick of all the subarus for offroad work would be one of the 5 speed automatic versions with the torque sensing diffs and traction control. They have the ability to transfer all engine drive to a single wheel with traction (progression in the realms of a twin locked 4wd, just without decent clearance or wheel travel). Coupled with the 3.6 flat six and a few less clearance issues It will literally climb walls. No transfer case with the autos though. Our TriBeCa has that system - most certainly an 'SUV' though. Subes rule the world in countries which have a snow line. They are a bit of a fish out of water in Oz apart from when it rains a bit.
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Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 12:11

Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 12:11
As gbc has started off with, these days the lines are fairly blurred. There are heaps of vehicles that fit into the catagory that has become known as "soft roaders". Certainly much better than your average 2WD family car but a long way short of the examples at the other end of the true 4WD spectrum.

Many years ago a 4WD was a pretty agricultural bit of kit as far as the creature comforts went. The characteristic that separated them from the rest was the fact that they had differentials front and rear. Usually they also had a transfer case that offered high and low range as well, but not always. They were designed to get you into much more remote locations before you got bogged so most had much superior under body to road clearance.

Now you get the option of locking center diffs, locking front and or rear diffs, active suspension, uphill and down hill traction assist, auto crawl ability, hill start assist and so on.

Also they quite often offer levels of comfort that challenge some of the top of range road cars and in some instances exceed them.

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Reply By: Michael H9 - Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 10:12

Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 10:12
There is a simple test really and it has nothing to do with whether you have low range or not. Find a position where you can lift a single wheel of your car while stationary. Try to drive off and if that wheel spins and you don't move then you aren't in a 4wd. I had an 04 Subaru Outback that wouldn't move from that position, I think it was the model before symmetrical awd. There are youtube videos of this using ramps and rollers and most awd suv's fail. Subaru's pass and so do Land Rover Freelander 2's and Evoques. There may be others who pass but I don't know them.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 15:25

Sunday, Mar 13, 2016 at 15:25
Many modern 4WD (or AWDs - what's in a name?) are not intended for off road use at all.
They are designed to handle icy roads better and safer than 2WDs because many people in the northern hemisphere need to do that on a regular basis. They may have good traction and traction control but low ground clearance.
And they do what they are designed to do.

What is becoming an issue is that the number of vehicles that are designed to go off road is diminishing very rapidly.
You can take the current Range Rovers and Landcruiser 200s etc off the list, purely as a result of the low profile tyres they are fitting, with no option of something with a decent profile that will fit over the brakes. Ridiculous.

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Reply By: Kumunara (NT) - Monday, Mar 14, 2016 at 16:50

Monday, Mar 14, 2016 at 16:50
Just my thoughts
An AWD does not have a centre diff lock. A 4WD with AWD has a centre diff lock (or electronic equivalent). When the centre diff lock is activated it becomes a 4WD.

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Reply By: PajeroTD - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 15:03

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 15:03
It used to be that 4x4/4wd was a part time system for 2 wheel drive on pavement and 4x4 high and low on slippery roads. AWD was power to both axles with a centre differential for on-road driving. Now the lines are blurred, but generally the only difference is now is that 4wd is marketed toward OffRoad and AWD is marketed on-road. I'm living in the US now and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo has QuadraDrive I, and the Dodge Durango has the exact same system. The Jeep says 4x4 on the back, the Durango says AWD. The new Ford Explorer has "4x4" on the back, but it is what we have traditionally called AWD. I still personally make the distinction, but the industry no longer makes a technical distinction between the two.
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 19:46

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 19:46
Yes the lines blurred back in about 1970 - permanent 4wd is not exactly new.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 19:22

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 19:22
As mentioned "proper" 4WD is part time, but I just wanted to add . . . a mate has a Subi Forester with low range (the last year before it was stopped with this feature), it isn't as low range as a "proper" 4WD drop in ratio, but it is handy.
He has done Border Track Pinnaroo - Bordertown end, if you don't know it there are some decent sand dunes and it handled them fine with the AT light truck grade tyres at lowered pressures.
He didn't go into the slightly wet stuff at the southern end, took the easiest route which is sensible.
Enjoy the vehicle, it's a reasonable compromise and will get you to some good places cheaply and comfortably.
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter S64 - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 20:22

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 20:22
I could not find any LT or AT tyres to fit my Subi's profile, 17 ", 55, 225, What tyres did your mate get?
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:13

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:13
Really lowered tyre pressures are fairly critical for most 4wd'n . . . I am sure mates rims would be less than 17", are yours after market ?
Not sure of his brand, but had a rim size easy enough to have numerous choices.

I am sure you will have to change rim size to offroad with any seriousness, those road rims / tyres just won't take much punishment, or give you traction where needed / comfort with lowered pressures.
Would talk to you local tyre place, one that is a bit specialised in the 4WD market might be worthwhile.

I can find out mates tyre info if you really want, he's away interstate now and going away Easter, but should catch up with him next week / following weekend sometime, but really that will be irrelevant (lots of choices in mainstream rims), you just need to go 16" or 15" to get something decent AT / LT grade under the wheel arches.
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter S64 - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:33

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:33
My car is bog standard apart from a nudge bar and underbody sump protection from SubaXtreme. I agree that 16 " rims would be better, but the people at Eblen's Subaru said that the car is really a passenger car (despite how it is sometimes portrayed?) I didn't know the lower range has been discontinued. So far, no problems in the Red Centre.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:57

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016 at 21:57
Maybe it's been reintroduced ?
What year is yours ?

AFAIK, mates Subi F was the last year to have low range at the time, not sure of his vehicles year.
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Follow Up By: Member - Peter S64 - Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 08:12

Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 08:12
Mine is just on 5 years old, a 2011 model.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 08:50

Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 08:50
I'll check with mate next week to see what his is, have a feeling it's about that, so you might also have last year LR was available.
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 10:13

Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 10:13
Quote "As mentioned "proper" 4WD is part time",

Who says that - proper 4wds with full time systems have been around for years - even the very first Landrovers in the late 40s were constant 4wd.

So saying a proper 4wd is part time is nonsense and is definitely not a criteria to determine whether a vehicle is a proper 4wd vs an AWD.

I think that the total package needs to be assessed and how it delivers offroad performance.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:18

Thursday, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:18
Yes, that is the old way of differentiating between the two, Landcruisers have certainly changed that with full time 4WD, but then that is possibly different to AWD is some ways.

If you see (or better still drive) a part time 4WD vs a Subi or other AWD in all sorts of offroad situations, I'm sure you will see the difference in performance.
Perhaps sand on reasonable firm beaches, with short soft sections, would be ideal for most AWD with reasonable clearance, correct pressures in tyres etc, they are so light and float nicely.
Hilly stuff without low range (or Forester low range, which is nowhere near part time low range level) would likely cause issues where getting relatively steep up and down.
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