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What’s the difference between all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive and how F-150 Raptor combines them?

Posted May 6, 2017

In the world of off-road vehicles you will hear two very similar terms – all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive. Cars have four wheels so it seems like both of the systems are the same. But that is not exactly true. However, a new Ford F-150 Raptor has a very special transfer case that merges all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive capabilities.

Ford F-150 Raptor looks like it can conquer everything and it has an off-road capability to prove that. Image credit: Ford

All-wheel-drive vehicle powers all four wheels at all times. This, of course, poses some challenges as front and rear axles are never spinning at the same speed. So a limited slip differential or an electronic clutch is needed. But there are many advantages – AWD car can quickly move over a tough terrain, as the system will always find the wheel with most traction. Most off-road cars, especially quicker ones, use AWD system.

Meanwhile a four-wheel-drive (4WD) does not always power all four wheels. Instead, there is a setting, allowing the driver to select all driven wheels. This system splits torque evenly between both axles, which allows the car to get out even from the muddiest and stickiest situations. However, on the road it is not safe or comfortable. It is mostly suited for cars that do not go quickly through off-road courses, but go through very tough ones. Recently 4WD road cars started growing in popularity, but current system alternate between driving both or one axle by themselves.

So how does new Ford F-150 Raptor combine these systems? It has this all-new transfer case, managing the distribution of power between front and rear wheels. Ford says it gives the pickup truck an on-demand all-wheel-drive capability for everyday driving and a mechanically locked, durable four-wheel-drive system for confidence in severe off-road driving environments. So it makes it safe on the road, like a usual AWD car, but also extremely capable, when terrain is very muddy and sticky. Or snowy. Or rocky. Raptor really does not care.

Rally cars, which use AWD systems, go on gravel and sand roads. 4WD cars with both axles engaged go through places where roads do not exist. That is the main difference of the two different worlds of off-roading that F-150 Raptor managed to combine. Of course, it has other impressive pieces, such as high and low ratio gearboxes, non-sequential 10-speed transmission and high-output EcoBoost engine. Ford F-150 Raptor is one of the most desirable pickup trucks and it is so for a reason.

It looks very aggressive, is very high-tech, yet robust – nowadays an unusual combination. It is extremely good off road and very quick on road. It can really do it all, if you can live with the fact that you are technically driving around in a commercial vehicle.


Source: Ford

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