AWD vs FWD: Why AWD is better in Ice and Snow


When the snow is falling and the pavement's turning icy, you need a car that handles safely and reliably in even the coldest conditions. Fitting winter tires to your vehicle is an important first step, but for the most treacherous weather, all-wheel drive (AWD) is the option to choose. Here's why you should seriously consider making AWD a priority in your next car purchase.

Is Front-Wheel Drive Good for Ice and Snow?

Most modern cars are fitted with front-wheel drive (FWD) as standard, rather than the more traditional rear-wheel drive (RWD) found in older vehicles and sports models. In icy conditions, FWD is an improvement on RWD for the majority of cars that have the engine at the front. RWDcan make the front end of a car harder to control in slippery conditions, as the weight of the engine tends to pull the car from side to side. FWD reduces this problem significantly, and in mild to moderate winters, the combination of FWD and winter tires is often enough for safe driving.

Benefits of All-Wheel Drive

However, for more extreme conditions, all-wheel drive makes by far the safer option. With AWD, power is supplied to both front and rear axles at the same time, removing the sideways sliding of single-axle drives. What's more, today's advanced AWD systems can optimize traction to each individual wheel, ensuring the car handles exactly as you'd expect. Cars with full-time all-wheel drive can handle the switch from clear pavement to ice and snow with ease, needing noaction on the part of the driver.

Potential Downside of All-Wheel Drive

However, while all-wheel drive can be a safety essential in the depths of winter, it does have one potential downside. Driving all four wheels at once requires more effort from the engine, and also means there's extra weight in the engineering. This combination works to increase fuel consumption, and you can expect slightly higher gas costs as a result.


Do You Need All-Wheel Drive?

Taking all this into account, all-wheel drive is an important safety feature if your area usually hasharsh winters, and is especially useful if you frequently drive on uncleared roads. However, the slight decrease in fuel economy could cost you a few hundred dollars a year, so if icy conditions are relatively rare, choosing FWD could be the more efficient option.