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HomeFeatured ArticlesGoMechanic InformativeFWD vs RWD vs AWD vs 4WD | Car Drivetrains Explained

FWD vs RWD vs AWD vs 4WD | Car Drivetrains Explained

Now if you call yourself a car buff you should be well aware of each and every component of not only your car but most of the cars you know of. It’s not geeky or nerdy it’s just about being aware. One such thing and a fairly common one these days is the drivetrain of a car. Now, when you talk about drivetrain it’s possible that most of us know the types of drivetrains in cars today or even the types.

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But what do they do exactly? What’s the difference? Which one is better out of those? Read below to answer all these questions that might be popping up in your mind.

What is a car drivetrain?

A drivetrain is a system that connects the car’s transmission to the axles through which the car drives. In simpler terms, a drivetrain is the combination of parts that send power from the engine to the wheels in order to move the vehicle.

A drivetrain basically includes parts such as driveshaft, axle shafts, U joints, CV joints, etc. and helps a car to provide power to the wheels.

Types of Drivetrain

In the early days of the motoring world, most of the cars were rear-wheel driven i.e. the power from the transmission went straight to the rear tyres. But as the motoring world advanced and companies invested in R&D, the drivetrain game started to change and different drivetrains came into view.

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  • Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

    A rear-wheel driven car is the one which transfers power strictly to its rear wheels. An RWD car works on the basis of the amount of power transmitted to the rear axles.

    The RWD cars used to be all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s. The RWD cars have always found a special place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts as these RWD cars allow them to slide the rear end out. The RWD cars tend to have a better balance due to a more evenly spread out weight throughout the vehicle. RWD cars are usually known to handle more horsepower and vehicle weight, which justifies the fact that technology is used mostly in sports sedans, law enforcement vehicles, race cars etc.

    Although, due to the driveshaft the cars tend to have lesser space in the interior and might not have great traction on slippery roads.

  • Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

    Starting 1895 the car manufacturers experimented with front-wheel driven vehicles. FWD means that the power is being delivered to the front wheels of the vehicle.

    FWD technology came into the limelight in the 1970s when manufacturers like Audi and Saab began adopting this configuration. Most of the cars in India as well as around the world run on the FWD drivetrain.
    The front wheeled drivetrain is said to be more efficient due to its less weight which results in lower carbon dioxide emissions, gives better fuel economy, offers good traction on a slippery patch of road and gives a spacious cabin to the passengers.

  • 4-Wheel Drive (4WD)

    This is the go-to option for most of the off-roading vehicles. The four-wheel driven option tends to provide power to all 4 wheels of a vehicle providing much better power and traction.

    The 4WD vehicles are usually equipped with a transfer case which allows the car to change to RWD transmission in order to save fuel and get back to 4WD mode if and when required. The 4×4 represents the number of wheels and the number of wheels that are powered through the transmission.

    In India, the Maruti Gypsy and the Mahindra Thar are the most popular 4×4 vehicles which are known for their ruggedness and versatility. However, due to its RWD mature a 4×4 vehicle might have less traction than its AWD counterparts.

  • All Wheel Drive (AWD)

    The general misconception is that AWD and 4×4 are the same things. While both of them have all the 4 wheels running, and they run on the same principles, there are some key differences which set the two breeds apart.

    While most of the 4×4 send power to the rear wheels if and when required, the AWD cars are mostly FWD or RWD, depending upon the situation.

    Most of the AWD vehicles these days are equipped with an engine control unit (ECU) which decides the amount of power and traction that a wheel gets unlike a 4WD vehicle which provides an equal amount of power to all the wheels irrespective of the situation, the car is in.

Which is the best drivetrain for India?

At the end of the day, the drivetrain of the car does matter. You should go for a car that best suits your needs. If you are someone who is an automotive enthusiast and loves to drive then RWD is the vehicle to go for. Some of the RWD vehicles in our country are Mahindra Scorpio, XUV 500, Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner.

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Whereas, if you need a vehicle that is economical, and does the daily job then the front wheel driven cars are something which you can go for.

Most of the cars in India are front wheeled and popular among the masses due to its low cost, easy maintenance, and better fuel economy.

However, if you’re someone confused between the 4WD and an AWD vehicle then you might not have much choice. Most of the cars in the country are marketed as 4×4. Go for a vehicle that serves both the purpose i.e a rugged off-roader and a versatile and dynamic vehicle cruising comfortably on the highway.

Why are Front Wheel Drive cars popular in India?

As observed, in India most of the cars are usually front wheel. So why is that so? Let’s find out.

  • A front wheeled vehicle usually has a lower turning radius than a rear wheeled vehicle or an AWD.
  • The propeller shafts transfer power to a longer distance in a front wheeled vehicle which leads to greater power loss.
  • The greater power loss leads to better fuel economy, mileage and acceleration.
  • Due to smaller and lighter components, the space inside the vehicle is increased and hence a spacious cabin attracts more consumers.

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Which is the better car drivetrain?

This is the question doing the rounds in the motoring world from many years. While there have been many debates around it but the straight answer to this question is – none and yet everyone.

  • While Front-wheel driven cars provide better traction due to the weight in the front they also tend to understeer more often.
  • The RWD vehicles have less costly maintenance than their counterparts but then the additional materials lead to a higher purchase price.

Although drivetrain usually takes a backseat when people go for buying a car but even then at the end of the day, we would suggest you go for a car which is apt for your own use and the one which fits your budget and makes you happy as well.

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Rishav Shrivastav
WordPress Strategist at GoMechanic | Content Contributor | Website Builder | Actor | YouTuber | Music | Badminton


  1. Front wheel drive is most used in Indian vehicles, as it is more fuel efficient. And has a better stability. There are 4 drivetrain AWD, rwd, fwd, 4wd


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