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The Drive Train Difference

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If you have ever shopped around for a car you have probably heard the term “drive train.”   But while the term sounds like it might be very complicated, “drive train” just refers to the way your engine distributes power to the wheels.  Basically, then, there are four different types of drive trains:  front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive.


These days it seems that most cars are made with front wheel drive, by default.  Nearly every vehicle on the road today is most likely front wheel drive. Perhaps a few SUV or truck models have a different drive train (but we’ll get into those later).  There are basically two reasons manufacturers are now opting more for front wheel drive.

  • Front wheel drive is less expensive to manufacture
  • Front wheel drive is “easier” to manufacture because it is “space-efficient”

And the good news for consumers is that front wheel drive actually provides better traction for uphill climbs (because the power is, essentially, over the front wheels). Also, (in reference to “space”) front wheel drive removes the need for the central driveline that would otherwise run down the middle of the cabin floor.


While not as common, rear wheel drive is still used today, though it is more notably present in older truck styles and a few modern pickups.  Some modern high-performance sports cars and luxury sedans have also been known to use rear wheel drive for a variety of reasons.  Actually, one of these reasons—used in heavy-duty, hauling vehicles—is for better management of large payloads.  Obviously, this drive train shifts the power to the rear wheels, which allows manufacturers to approach suspension customization for improved handling.  It is important to note, however, that this drive train does not handle slipper roads very well.


If you follow the logic, then, all-wheel drive provides power to both the front and rear wheels.  It might sound simple but this is actually a pretty versatile drive train that provides maximum forward traction for a variety of acceleration types.  This drive train performs very well in “sloppy” road conditions like mud, sand, and other loose surfaces.


Similar to all-wheel drive “four-wheel drive” is not quite the same. This type of drive train is actually optimized specifically for “off-road” conditions, designed for the best handling in even the most extreme conditions.