Knowing the difference between a 4×2 (also known as two-wheel drive) and a 4×4 (also known as four-wheel drive) vehicle can be difficult.
When you don’t know the difference, you don’t know which one is best for you.
Well I’m here to help solve this problem.
This article will go into extensive detail about the difference between a 4×2 and a 4×4 truck/car.
The main difference between a 4×2 and 4×4 car is that a 4×2 only provides driving power to one axle, and a 4×4 car provides drive power to both axles.
Read on for a more detailed comparison.
What does 4×2 mean on a truck?
A 4×2 truck means that power from the engine is only applied to either the front or back axle. Of the four wheels, only two of them deliver any power.
A 4×2 or two-wheel drive car can either apply power to the front or rear axle.
Rear wheel drive 4×2
Rear-wheel drive cars and trucks are more common in the most recent years and are the standard type for 4×2 cars today.
This type of drive train allows the front wheels to focus on steering while the back focuses on power.
Most rear 4×2 cars and trucks are bigger than front-wheel drive trucks because they require more parts (like driveshaft) and connections to power the back axle from the engine in the front. But this distribution actually makes it more balanced than the front-wheel drive equivalent.
Rear-wheel drive cars are not meant for off-roading because power in the front is required to propel the vehicle, so asphalt driving is best for these cars.
Front wheel drive 4×2
Front-wheel drive cars, and especially trucks are less common today. Since many pickup truck drivers are not concerned as much with size, they will benefit more from a rear-wheel drive car.
Front-wheel drive allows the power to come from over the engine and transmission which can provide more pulling power on tough terrain. The traction provided from the front axle is higher.
Another advantage to front-wheel drive cars is that they usually have better fuel efficiency.
What does 4×4 mean on a truck?
4×4 or four-wheel drive trucks and cars are ones in which engine power is sent to both the front and back wheels.
There are two different types of four-wheel drive that a truck or car can have, 4WD and AWD (all-wheel drive).
4WD vs AWD
4WD and AWD are very similar in the sense that when activated they both supply power to both the front and rear axles.
The main difference here is the AWD cars always have 4WD activated all the time and the 4×4 cars have to manually be selected to be activated.
4WD is not meant to be on all of the time, whereas AWD cars are.
In an AWD vehicle, the computer managers the system to determine the best time to activate power to each axle. During highway driving, it often supplies more power to the back axle to improve fuel efficiency, but when road conditions get tougher, a more balanced supply of force is activated.
So when should you get AWD vs 4WD?
4WD cars are the best 4×4 option for off-roading. They typically are used to apply more traction and control to the system making it easier to navigate tough terrain.
The AWD cars and trucks are best for those looking for more control and less slipping under normal driving conditions.
Being someone in New England, I also buy a car or truck that has AWD to navigate the snowstorms.
The video below does a great job of explaining these differences.
4×2 vs 4×4 – Which is best for you?
So now that you know what makes a 4×2 and 4×4 vehicle, you might be wondering “what is really best?”
There is, unfortunately, no single right answer because it depends on many factors. In this section of the article, we will discuss each of the 7 categories and how the two systems compare.
Many truck owners use their vehicles for towing. 4×2 trucks perform much better in towing capacity than 4×4 trucks.
If you plan to tow large cargo frequently, you will want to compare the towing capacity of each type of truck and then decide whether the increase in towing capacity is worth it for the 4×2 truck.
Because 4×4 trucks require more parts and engineering to create more power to both axles, they are more expensive.
There does not seem to be a specific average value between a 4×4 and 4×2 truck, but it is very likely that you will always find a two-wheel drive truck cheaper than its four-wheel drive equivalent.
Power, Performance, and Control
The drive system has no direct relationship to the power of the engine. Whether you have a 4×2 or 4×4 vehicle, with the same engine you can expect the same power and performance.
When it comes to controlling, however, 4×4 trucks tend to have better control both off-road and in tough weather conditions.
As mentioned above, 4×4 trucks do tend to be the better option than 4×2 trucks for off-roading. This is because the extra power and force applied to both axles provide extra control and maneuvering power.
According to the video below, you can use a 4×2 truck for off-roading, but in limited conditions. Custom Offsets tested 2WD trucks vs AWD trucks and found that the 4×2 trucks underperformed when tested going uphill and through deeper waters.
It was able to make it up rockier terrain and can gain significantly more speed than 4×4 trucks, so depending on your goals, you may off-road with a 4×2, but for most applications, 4×4 will be better.
Either way, you should always make sure your truck is properly equipped for off-roading.
Because there are more components and parts required to provide power to both axles, the weight of the 4×4 truck is always heavier.
This is the reason that the towing is lower. Towing capacity is calculated by subtracting the curb weight from the GCWR, so the higher the curb weight, the lower the capacity.
Need help understanding that? Check out How Towing Capacity is Calculated
In snowy conditions, as well as slippery, wet conditions, 4×4 trucks and cars will perform better. The control and power on both axles create more traction preventing the vehicle from spinning out of control.
That’s not to say it isn’t possible to slip on snow, but it is significantly less likely with a four-wheel drive truck or car.
When you supply power to both axles, you require extra fuel. A two-wheel drive truck is overall more fuel-efficient than a 4×4 truck.
The video below found about a 10% difference in fuel efficiency for a car in 2WD vs 4WD.
4×2 Pros and Cons
|Higher towing capacity||Less traction|
|Lower cost||Poor performance in tough conditions/off-roading|
|Better fuel economy|
4×4 Pros and Cons
|Better control in poor weather conditions||More expensive|
|Good for off-roading||Lower towing and payload|
|Lower fuel efficiency|