Characteristics of Four-Wheel-Drive Vehicles
You can find new 4-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs in just about every shape and size, from small, compact crossovers, to the most reliable full-size pickups. So their characteristics can vary wildly. However, there are a few things that set the best apart from the rest:
- Drivetrain: Naturally, a 4WD vehicle requires the appropriate oily bits. Though it functions similarly to an all-wheel drivetrain, the two should not be confused. 4WD can be either part-time or full-time four-wheel drive, and they come with a low-range transfer case for optimal torque delivery. 4WD vehicles also often have locking differentials to help get you out of sticky situations, but less ideal for on-road handling.
- Power: 4x4 vehicles are generally oriented to being superior off-roading machines and they aren’t designed to go fast; in fact, the opposite is true as they clamber up rough terrain. This works well when paired with a manual transmission, although some offer manual gearboxes that do the job just as well, even at low speeds or in low-range gearing.
- Safety: There is no denying that improved traction helps a vehicle remain poised and planted on the road, and this has inherent safety benefits. Four-wheel drivetrains are also heavier than 2WD cars, which benefits road-holding. Since many high-end or specialist SUVs come equipped with 4WD, comprehensive driver-assistance suites are expected. And, with various drive modes designed specifically for conditions like mud, gravel, snow, or wet, you are more likely to get the traction you need to keep occupants safe.
- Price: A four-wheel drivetrain is a complex piece of machinery and, therefore, it doesn’t come cheap. Some of the pickup trucks that come equipped with 4WD aren’t too expensive, but most of the SUVs that get it as standard are pricey. The added weight of the drivetrain also means that these heavy vehicles don’t get good gas mileage.
What to Consider When Buying a 4WD Vehicle
Even the best 4WD vehicles have drawbacks, but if you know what they are, you can tailor your shortlist with only the best models.
- High levels of power and torque
- Great traction in adverse weather conditions
- Special drive modes for snow, mud, and gravel roads
- The best drivetrain for spirited off-roading
- Good safety expectations
- Good ground clearance and approach/ramp/departure angles
- Lacks comfort on-road
- More expensive to buy and maintain
- Higher curb weights due to extra mechanical bits
- Expect high gas mileage and a hefty bill
What type of cars are 4-wheel drive?
Generally speaking, it is the off-road-oriented vehicles that come with either part-time or full-time four-wheel drive. This includes crossovers, SUVs, and pickup trucks. While some may offer it as an option, for trail-rated icons like the Jeep Rubicon, this is a standard configuration.
What car has the best 4-wheel-drive system?
Identifying the best can be subjective, but when considering the best-functioning 4WD system on the market, it’s logical to follow the route of off-roading specialists such as Jeep and Land Rover, however, Ford offers brilliant vehicles such as the Bronco, while EV company Rivian has won people over with its R1T.
What is the most affordable 4WD car?
In terms of pickup trucks, the Ford Ranger is one of the cheapest ways to get a true-blue 4x4 vehicle. Among SUVs that have a proper four-wheel drivetrain instead of just AWD, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Ford EcoSport, and Jeep Renegade are some of the cheapest options.