If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you’ve likely stumbled across the terms 4x4 and 4x2 when describing certain SUVs and trucks.
This terminology describes the kind of drivetrain that the advertised vehicle has. Both types of wheel drive each have pros and cons; the decision boils down to your personal preference. It’s important to take note of them, however, so that you can make a more informed buying decision.
What’s the difference between 4x4 and 4x2 SUVs? Which is more suitable for your needs? In this article, we detail each type, as well as its pros and cons.
What Are 4×2 Wheels?
A 4x2 drivetrain (also called a two-wheel drive) simply means that while the car obviously has four tires, only two are actively driven. It could either be the front set of tires (called the front-wheel-drive), or the rear set (called the rear-wheel-drive).
SUVs with two-wheel drives have a less complicated setup and are more readily available for purchase on the market.
The Rear Two-Wheel Drive
Most vehicles with a 4x2 drivetrain are usually rear-wheel drives (RWD). Cars with rear-wheel drives are usually larger in size. They became popular in the 1980s, when car manufacturers began to manufacture smaller cars as they switched to front-wheel drive.
Most 4x2 SUVs use a rear-wheel-drive because this format gives the vehicle better weight distribution than front-wheel drives. While the rear wheels are powered by the engine to drive the vehicle, the front wheels steer it.
The Front Two-Wheel Drive
With front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles, the engine powers only the front wheels as they propel the vehicle. FWDs are smaller, conserve more fuel, and emit less carbon dioxide.
FWD vehicles also have better traction on snowy roads, because the weight of the engine is located over the driving wheels. However, they’re less fun to drive on difficult roads.
Pros Of A 4×2 Vehicle
There are several benefits to choosing a 4×2 SUV. They include:
A 4x2 SUV is superior to a 4×4 truck in terms of body weight and superior towing capacity. For car buyers who prefer a more steady and lightweight vehicle, choosing a 4×2 is your best bet.
When it comes to buying a car, your budget may very well be the most decisive factor. 4×2 SUVs are typically less expensive than their 4×4 counterparts, even in the same model. They have fewer parts and also cost less to maintain.
4×2 vehicles are also less prone to accidents, which automatically translates to cheaper insurance rates.
Because a 4x2 drivetrain is lightweight and has a more even weight distribution, it’s easier to handle and to maneuver the wheels.
Because a two-wheel-drive vehicle is lighter, has simpler construction, and uses less energy when powering the wheels it consumes less fuel than 4x4s of the same model.
Because of their lighter weight and higher torque, 4x2s have better payload and towing capacity than the 4x4 versions of the same model.
Cons Of A 4×2 Vehicle
A 4×2 vehicle definitely has its benefits, but it also has some weaknesses. Some of these weaknesses include:
Lower performance is one of the major issues of a 4×2 SUV. This is because they use two wheels instead of 4. Their low stability also contributes to lower performance.
Lesser Resale Value
Because a 4x2 vehicle is typically cheaper, especially when compared to the 4x4 version of the same model, its resale value also reduces as well.
Less Off-Road Capability
In terms of road capabilities, a 4×2 SUV is pretty similar to most regular cars. They’re built to have less stability and traction. This makes it difficult for them to handle certain conditions, like snowy or wet roads. They’re also not suitable for all terrains or most off-roading.
What Are 4×4 Wheels?
In a 4×4 drivetrain, the torque and the power produced are distributed to all four wheels. Vehicles with the 4×4 drivetrain commonly have larger tires and a wider chassis. They also have more ground clearance than a typical 4×2 SUV.
The common belief is that when it comes to 4x4s, all four tires turn at once. However, it ‘s way more complicated than that for this type of drivetrain.
Typically in a 4x4 drive system, the rotational force generated from the engine goes directly from the transmission to the transfer case. The transfer case is connected to two driveshafts; one driveshaft travels to the front differential and the second travels to the rear differential.
These 2 differential sets control a set of drive wheels whenever the 4×4 system is engaged. The cool part about this is the transfer case's drop to a lower gear range, which allows the SUV to navigate uneven trails.
When a 4x4 vehicle turns, the outside tires turn way faster than the inside tires. This axle differential is what compensates for the longer distance the outside wheel travels when compared to the inside tires.
There are two major types of 4x4 drivetrain: the all-wheel-drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD).
The Four Wheel Drive (4WD)
A cool feature of the four-wheel-drive system is that drivers can switch from a four-wheel
drive to a two-wheel-drive whenever they choose. The transfer case of a 4WD can also drop to a lower gear range, allowing the vehicle to drive through uneven, winding terrains, heavy snow, rainy, or desert terrain.
Older manual SUV models featured a part-time four-wheel drive or shift-on-the-fly drive system. These systems allow the driver to manually switch from two-wheel to four-wheel without having to stop, as long as the car is driving under 60 mph.
Newer automatic models allow the driver to shift to four-wheel drive when the need arises.
All Wheel Drive (AWD)
Like the 4WD, AWD powers all four wheels, giving the vehicle better stability and traction. Unlike a 4WD, it doesn’t feature a transfer case that drops the SUV into a lower gear range, meaning that it can barely navigate off-road conditions.
All-wheel drives can also not handle soft sand or climb trails adequately.
Pros Of A 4x4 Vehicle
Just like a 4x2, the 4x4 has its own distinct advantages. Some of these advantages include:
Control and Stability
Traction and stability are core advantages of 4×4 vehicles. In difficult terrains, you can drive all four wheels for increased traction. They’re also better options for any weather condition. They can handle off-road trips comfortably, as well as snowy or icy roads.
Since 4×4 vehicles are generally quite expensive, they tend to have a higher resale value than 4×2 vehicles.
Quite a number of 4x4 systems permit you to switch to two-wheel drive and four-wheel-drive, depending on your personal preference as well as the terrain.
Cons Of The 4x4 Vehicle
Some of the disadvantages of going with a 4x4 SUV include:
Four-wheel drive vehicles are naturally heavier than their 4×2 counterparts; a four-wheel-drive system weighs more. They also have a lower towing capacity.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are more expensive than two-wheel drive vehicles. For people on a smaller budget, you're better off with a 4×2. Due to lack of stability, the chances of an accident are increased with the 4×4; by default they incur a higher insurance cost. 4x4 vehicles also require more costly maintenance.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle uses more power and energy, thus consuming more fuel.
Because a 4x4 has additional drivetrain components that are missing in a 4x2, it’s harder to handle, maneuver, and maintain.
A 4×4 vehicle often has a smaller payload and towing capacity than its 4×2 counterpart. However, its towing ability is also unmatched by a 4x2 on a steep or slippery slope.
What Is The Difference Between 4x4 And 4x2 SUVs?
The major differences between both types of drivetrains is their performance and cost.
For areas with flat terrain or favorable weather conditions, you’re better off with a 4×2 SUV.
The 4x2 offers superior towing capacity and is quite lightweight. They’re less expensive to maintain.
For more options or off-road adventures, you're better off with a 4×4 truck. They have enough traction to navigate muddy roads, steep inclines, and sometimes even floods.
All cars produced since 2012 have an onward electronic stability control feature for better traction control. However, four-wheel-drive systems offer superior grip, especially on wet, muddy, or slippery roads.
If you’re a newbie looking to buy your first SUV, a good place to begin is by understanding what is the difference between 4x4 and 4x2 SUVs. That way, you can clearly understand which one better suits your personal vehicle needs.
Choosing between a 4x4 and 4x2 will depend on how and where you plan to use your truck. Both variants offer exceptional qualities with manageable downsides. Be sure to weigh them carefully before finalizing your choice so you don’t end up with a vehicle that doesn’t work for you.