Difference between AWD and 4×4

Differences Between AWD and 4X4

Given our recent cold and snowy weather conditions in Southern Alberta, we have had many customers asking:

“What is All Wheel Drive?”

“What is 4X4?”

“Aren’t AWD and 4X4 systems the same?”

 AWD System 

Different automakers have their own unique All Wheel Drive systems. Some are always active, some have sensors to detect when AWD is needed and some are ‘On Demand’, but the idea is similar across the board – All Wheel Drive shares power amongst all axles which helps increase traction in slippery conditions.

Across the GMC and Buick SUV lineup we give the option to have On Demand AWD; This means that you can switch between Front Wheel Drive – which is great for every day conditions and saves you some time at the pump – and AWD! The mode selector is typically found on the Centre Console closest to the arm rest.

Buick Envision_ On Demand Button

4×4 System 

Vehicles equipped with the 4X4 system (GMC Canyon, Sierra and Yukon) have four different components: Two Wheel Drive, Low Range Four Wheel Drive, High Range Four Wheel Drive and Automatic 4 Hi.

GMC 4x4 Contol
  • Two Wheel Drive, marked as “2” with an arrow up; in this case sends power to the rear wheels and is best used in ‘Optimal Driving Conditions’, or when there’s no loss (or no potential loss) of traction.
  • Low Range Four Wheel Drive is typically marked as “4” with an arrow down; doubles the torque sent to the wheels making it most efficient during Off-Roading (Sand, Mud, Snow). This allows for accurate control of vehicle speed over obstacles, and is not meant to be used over 70KM/HR.
  • High Range Four Wheel Drive is marked as “4” with an arrow up; designed for slippery surfaces (Ice, Loose Gravel, etc.). When driving on 4 HI power is sent to all axles, forcing them to spin at the same speed.

*High-Range Four-Wheel Drive and Low-Range Four Wheel Drive are not intended to be used on dry surfaces or roads with good traction. Doing so may place undue stress on axles, transfer cases, and other drivetrain components which could lead to damage. It’s important to remember to shift out of 4 Hl/4 Low as soon as road conditions improve.* –

  • Automatic 4 HI, marked as “Auto”, is designed for when road conditions frequently alternate between high and low traction areas. Though power is primarily sent to the rear axles, the Auto setting can detect if one of your wheels is slipping and will send additional torque to that wheel to provide stability.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or give me a call at 403-329-4444.

Jamie Matters

Sales and Lease Professional @ Davis GMC Buick in Lethbridge.


Phone: 403-329-4444