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SUV's (sports utility vehicles) are becoming more popular, but do we really know what we are buying? There are in fact, 2WD and 4WD versions with each drive being quite distinguishable. A 2WD is known to be different to a 4WD, so which one should you buy? The majority of us don't consider the real differences, we look, we buy without really knowing the difference.

Getting to grips with the 2WD and 4WD

When buying a 2WD and 4WD SUVs, you are often assuming your purchase will be 4WD (4x4). However, upon investigating further, you may find your brand-new car is in actual fact a 2WD (4x2). There are more and more 2WD SUV's coming onto the market these days.

Some people mistaken a 2WD for a 1 WD, but if this were true, each wheel power would be unbalanced. Furthermore, in a torrential rainfall or snowfall, the car would drift to one side if the car was a 1WD. To get a better understanding of a 1WD, it can be summarized as a motorcycle, or something similar.

The 2Wd and 4WD SUVs actually have varying differentials to permit the wheels to turn at different speeds.

Differentials on cars are able to provide more power to one wheel if required. This means the car is capable of keeping its balance driving off road, on snow and in rain. For all the power to go to one wheel would require some very acute weather conditions. It's not unheard of, but a one wheel spin can be very dangerous.

The 2WD and 4WD are impossible to differentiate in appearance. Even your friends would never know that you bought a 2WD other than the missing 4WD badge. So, which version should you buy and why?

Understanding the 2WD option:

When opting for a 2WD check that the manufacturer offers a limited-slip rear differential. This delivers power to the wheel at the rear. Furthermore, a 2WD can be added at the front instead of the rear. This difference is a matter of personal preference, but a 2WD front drive offers great traction when it rains, or snows.

The 2WD options are lighter vehicles compared to 4WDs. Subsequently, it stands to reason why they have better fuel economy, emissions, cost effective car parts, cheaper maintenance such as services and lower insurance costs.

Understanding the 4WD option:

The 4WD require more hardware compared to 2WD, so therefore this extra weight makes them heavier. Their fuel economy, emissions, maintenance and insurance etc. are higher than the 2WD. The 4WD offer varying drive options, one choice would the simple high/low transfer case. This distributes equal power to all wheels and means the wheels turn at the same speed.

Another option is the part-time 4WD,  this means the wheels spin and slip at dissimilar speeds. This type can only be used off-road since the car will be unable to drive on dry roads. If you do not intend to drive off road, then there is no point in buying a part-time 4WD. Furthermore, trying to drive one of these on dry roads, especially when driving over 40 mph will damage the gearbox.

There is also an on-demand 4WD option, this is a very handy feature and is a popular option. This SUV drives as a 2WD, but when needed it will automatically divert its power to all wheels to become a 4WD. Usually, there is a button to switch on and off, but it can be permanently left on to go into an automatic mode when needed.

Full time mode option employs all wheels to work as a 4WD. This can be disengaged to become a 2WD at anytime. This is a good option for those who occasionally venture into rural areas.

If you have enjoyed reading about the differences between a 2WD and 4WD then please share your views with us below.