You are serious off-roader. You have all the aggression & adventure in your blood. Riding on roads to Ladakh, going through desserts of Rajasthan, passing through rains of Cherrapunji & crawling snowy peaks are the usual affairs you do. Conquering difficult terrain, up-hilling steepest mountains, blazing the gravel roads, burning the clutch & spinning the tyres are food for your adventurous appetite.

To do all this, you need a rugged vehicle. A soft roader won’t click because off-roading situations are very demanding & hostile. Vehicle is tested on various aspects & these torturous situations test the validity of tall claims of manufacturers. In these situations, having a capable off-roader with special drive feature is logical & intelligent choice as no one wants to be stranded in remote area with no signs of civilization.

To quench your thirst for adventure, your vehicle requires some special technology which is meant for off-roading. Not only massive churn out of power along with gut-wrenching torque is required, but also a proper mechanism must be in place to transfer the punch to the wheels. Don’t get confused with technologies available in market like 2-Wheel Drive, 4-Wheel Drive & All-Wheel Drive. All these are distinctive & have their unique working methodology. The difference between off-roader & serious off-roader, some times, could turn out to be critical. We took a spin around these drive-systems to help you make the right choice.


Two-Wheel Drive: This is one of the most used technologies in real world situations. Most of vehicle running on the roads are Two-Wheel Drive (2WD). 2WD describes vehicles that allow only two wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously.

2WD can be either Front wheel Drive & Rear Wheel Drive.

Front-wheel drive (FWD):  is most common form of transmission layout used in motor vehicles, where the engine drives the front wheels only. Most of hatchbacks & Sedans fall into this category. This is useful in normal driving. This type of arrangement is also called Pull-Up arrangement with front tyres pulling the car. It

Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD): In this arrangement, power is transmitted to rear wheels & these pushes the vehicle forward. This is called PUSH arrangement. Here rear wheels push the vehicle forward. This type of arrangement is seen in load carrying vehicles.

Examples include Sports Utility Vehicles, Light & Heavy Commercial Vehicles.


Four-Wheel Drive 4-WD vehicle with a drive-train that allows all four wheels to receive torque from the engine simultaneously. Powering all four wheels provides better control than normal road cars on demanding surfaces. The abbreviation normally used for such drive systems is 4×4; the number normally represents the total number of wheels and the second is the number of powered wheels. A 4×2 Drive configuration a vehicle with 4 wheels where in 2 wheels are powered wheels. is a four-wheeled,

Types of 4-WD system

Full-time 4-WD (Permanent 4-WDmeans the vehicle is constantly providing power to all four wheels, usually with power being shifted between the front and rear axles as needed. This provides maximum traction in both dry and slippery driving conditions and requires no action from the driver to activate it. Toyota Fortuner & Skoda Yeti uses the full time 4-WD system.): It

Part-Time 4-WD: It requires the driver to manually shift between 2-WD & 4-WD. There is either a liver or button to shift between the two. Examples are Ford Endeavour, Tata Aria & Mahindra Scorpio.

Automatic 4-WD: It is a full-time system that lets the vehicle operate in 2WD until the system judges that 4-WD in needed. Usually slipping wheel activates the system.

4-WD can also be High 4-WD & Low 4-WD.

a) High 4-WD: High 4-WD maintains forward movement with a reduced risk of slipping and spinning. Select it to have better use of traction. The added stability of 4WD makes it less likely to slip sideways. It should be used for extra traction such as in snow or icy roads or in off-road situations.

b) LOW 4-WD: Low 4-WD is used to get more torque from the engine rather than traction. Here vehicle runs substantially slower than normal but power generation ability is considerably enhanced. Importantly system does not create more traction - it creates more torque and that can be detrimental when traction is marginal. Sandy areas, Ascending-Descending steep-hills, Going through shallow water are some of conditions demanding Low 4-WD. Slipping tires are more likely in Low 4-WD than in High 4-WD. For that reason Low 4-WD is not a good choice for snow or ice and mud also.


Generally the terms 4-WD( Four Wheel Drive) and AWD ( All Wheel Drive) both describe vehicles in which engine power is transmitted to all four wheels, unlike normal vehicles in which only two wheels receive torque from the engine.

AWD is similar to four wheel drive but lacks two speed transfer feature of 4-WD. It doesn’t have high or low end & therefore can’t match the off-road capabilities of 4-WD.

Another key difference found between today’s AWD and 4WD vehicles is the way engine power is shared between front and rear wheels. Under normal driving, AWD vehicles deliver major percent of its engine power to the rear wheels. Additional engine power is diverted to wheels only when the wheels start to slip. On the other hand, usually a full time 4-WD transmits all of its engine power to both front & rear wheels.

Audi’s famous Quattro system is AWD with the power distribution of 40: 60 leading to better traction & improved safety. 40% of the power goes to front axle & 60% goes to rear axle. It means if one wheel on the axle slips & tends to spin, the power is transmitted to other axle with the help of permanent mounted central differential.

One key differentiator factor between 4-WD & AWD is the absence of low & high gearing option. AWD won’t be able to meet the demands of off-roading as well as 4-WD does. If you are frequent off-roader, then it will make more sense to buy 4-WD than AWD but in case of occasional tripping then AWD ticks the right box.


  Front Wheel Drive  
Two-Wheel Drive   Hatchbacks & Sedans.
  Rear Wheel Drive  
  Part Time 4-WD Suv's like Tata Safari, Scorpio
Four Wheel Drive    
    Low 4-WD
  Full Time 4-WD  
    High 4-WD
    Toyota Fortuner, Skoda Yeti
All Wheel Drive   Audi Quattro System used in A4, A7



Advance Drive system, in case of 4-WD & AWD, implies more complicated chassis with expensive mechanical hardware which makes the drive system a costly proposition.

If you are serious Off-roader then opting for 4-WD makes more sense than All Wheel drive. Full- time 4 WD is better equipped to handle and conquer rough terrains.

AWD on the other hand, is more sophisticated technology used in routine driving conditions. It’s a soft off-roader designed to enhance driving pleasure than deliver extreme adventure. It provides you better control & traction in normal driving condition. 
Type of Drive System
Two-Wheel Drive
Simper construction & less costly
Not suitable for off-Roading.
More fuel efficiency.
Inferior Dynamics.
More suitable in general driving conditions
Cheaper to maintain
Four Wheel Drive
Superior Off-roading capability
Complicated Construction.
More flexibility in terms of low & high gearing
High cost: purchasing & maintaining.
Less fuel efficiency.
All Wheel Drive
Superior dynamics in normal driving condition.
Low fuel efficiency.
Better traction & torque control than Two-wheel Drive.
High cost of maintenance.
Less flexibility than Full time 4-WD.
Good things come at price. Additional drive technology may be costly to purchase & maintain but then you get trade off in terms of driving pleasure, superior grip & predictable handing crossing through any type of terrain. If your heart beats for off-roading, pick up full time 4-WD & make your own roads. 

Popular Car Comparisons

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Fortuner Vs Endeavour full blown SUV Competing for Buyers Wallet. Real SUV for SUV lovers from Toyota and Ford. Endeavour and Fortuner comes in 4*2 and 4*4 drive train. Fortunately both have the muscle, looks and power under their hoods to take any terrain with ease. Whilst, on paper feature to feature and engine comparison seems to be tilting the balance in favour of the Endeavour, however, Toyota has enough fan following who will willingly ignore any marquee for a Toyota at any price. Lucky Toyota.

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