These United States cover a large geographic area which makes the fierce competition between auto makers pointless in some regions when it comes to AWD vs 4WD systems. In other areas though it is a very relevant issue. If you live in a place where the snowfall is measured in feet instead of inches -if it's measure at all- the type of traction system in your vehicle will mean a lot more to you than the average person in Southern Texas. If you have always driven two wheel drive cars you will be surprised to know the difference in traction made by having two extra drive wheels putting the vehicles power to the roadway.
Some people feel that all they need is some winter tires for their two wheel drive car. Tire makers have been working for years on improving their winter tire offerings but changing rubber compositions and tweaking tread patterns can only do so much. If all you have is a 2WD vehicle by all means, get yourself a set of winter tires. On the other hand if you have an AWD car you'll see some amazing results in the winter snow and slush by pairing some great winter snow tires with your vehicles all wheel drive system.
Usually when we talk about 4 wheel drive vehicles we mean automobiles that have the option for the driver to shift manually in or out of 4WD mode using a shift lever or dashboard button. When we say AWD we mean cars that power all four wheels at all times but have a system that divides the power transfer from the front of the vehicle to the back or even from one side of the car to the other in the case of some more advanced all wheel drive systems in use by German and Japanese automakers.
Whether your car's all wheel drive system works for your needs or not often depends on how well it can determine which wheel needs the most power as well as which is most able to get that power to the road surface. As we mentioned above the Japanese made SH-AWD system is particularly good at this but Saab has recently entered the advanced AWD arena and you can expect many more automakers to play catch up as consumers see the benefits of these next generation traction systems.
If you live in snow country and haven't purchased an all wheel drive vehicle you can simply check around with your friends and neighbors since many of them likely have an AWD model and can recommend a good vehicle for you to consider that will help keep you out of the ditch this winter. If you don't live in snow country you can check out auto reviews as well as the numerous traction control test video clips you can find online that will actually let you see how some of the different models react to both laboratory and real world environments.