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For any kind of on the road driving I prefer all wheel drive. For off-road you want a dedicated four-wheel drive system.

I say that because the all-wheel drive system is always on, but you get the best of both worlds for any kind of condition you're going to encounter on paved roads. Awesome fuel economy when all-wheel drive isn't needed and great traction when it is. All that without having to worry about damaging four-wheel drive components by using them on the road.

If you're going to be often driving on Forest service roads, logging roads or straight up off-road a dedicated four-wheel drive system on frame is best. They offer better grand clearance & stronger, more capable components.
 

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Kind of two different things. AWD with appropriate tires will provide very good performance on paved/dirt roads. Snow, ice, rain, mud, light gravel, etc. My tires of choice are Nokia's. 4wd is superb for "off road" applications, especially if one has "locking differentials" for driving over rock fields, logs etc. My tires of choice off road were Good Year Dura-Tracs.
Automotive parking light Wheel Tire Vehicle Grille
Tire Wheel Snow Car Vehicle
 

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As a hunter (deer/waterfowl in some foul weather pun intended) I'm in the 4X4 camp solidly, works on the road or off road quite well for myself.
 

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Old school here. I like turn in hubs and a manual 4 wd selector lever. If it doesn't have low range its not really useful off road IMHO. Air lockers can be very handy. Good V bar tire chains for both ends - they work in mud. An air pump so you can lower the tire pressure is useful.

Much easier to put on chains when you can drive up on them, lots harder if you are already stuck. A handyman jack is good, can be used as a winch if you have cable/chain to use with it. If I think I might need 4 wd I turn in the hubs, that way I can just grab the lever to engage 4 wd instead of stopping. Wheel speed and inertia can be very important in not getting stuck.
 

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Have one of each. The AWD cuts out at 45 MPH, I think. Personally I prefer AWD, never know what you're going to come across and forget to engage 4WD. Then again, I prefer the low range on the 4WD when needed.
 

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I like the old school 4wd with manual hubs. But, I LOVE, the F150-250 Lariat with both AWD and 4WD. AWD is safer on highways in snow, or slippery roads. 4WD with lockers allows you to lock the wheels together avoiding single wheel spin. AWD sends computer controlled power to the wheels independently as needed while not causing the "binding" of locked 4wd. Some/most are 2wd with selective braking to avoid one tire spinning.

The new elect AWD are true AWD, each wheel has it's own motor providing torque to each as needed.

In use, AWD for general driving in snow, loose dirt or slightly muddy roads. 4WD for serious snow, or heavy off road work. A major reason for 4uWD low is the gearing change allowing for "crawl" speeds. A good example is the "Steps," on the Black Bear Pass in CO. Not a technically tough trail, but extremely steep. Having a 4 to 1 transfer case allows you to power downhill very slowly instead of braking and possibly tipping over or sliding over the edge.

The Subi AWD with "X" Mode and AT tires seems to be excellent for most folks. For deep snow look around and see what's moving, Tacos and 4 Runners are good, but when the snow doesn't stop falling who comes to save the day? Lifted Jeep Rubicons (or built rigs) and F-250's, and old built Broncos. Clearance is king.

TIRES - have a lot of confusion. MT's (mud terrain) get hard in the cold and are not the best for snowy roads. AT (all terrain) are better and clear snow from the tread better, but dedicated snow tires use a softer rubber that grabs better. I run BFG KO2's on my jeeps and truck. I don't do a lot of snow driving anymore so the few times are year they are great, for me. If I lived in snow country I'd have a set of winter tires.

ICE - without studs or chains, get ready to slide. I heard you can't run chains on Subis??
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Is AWD really all wheels. I seem to remember just one front and one rear wheel. Guess I could look it up but someone here probably knows

Most modern vehicles use electronics to send engine power to the wheels with the most resistance. Back in the day with open diffs, power went to the wheels with the least resistance. That meant on a two-wheel drive, one of the rear tires on ice was a stuck vehicle. Unless you had lockers, one front and one back for a 4X4, same deal.
 

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We have both.

Queens chariot is an Acura MDX with awd
Mine is a GMC Sierra with selectable 2wd, awd, and 4wd. DD gets 2wd of course. If roads are wet, I'll put it in awd, though I do not need it. I look at it as it may prevent a slick curve or loss of traction taking off uphill, of which we have both in abundance. Snow, like we got last night, sometimes I will use awd, sometimes 4wd. Just depends on how truck acts. 4wd for off road.

For what its worth. I used to have a Chevy crew cab dually, Duramax diesel, 4wd. The truck itself weighed in at 8000lbs without a driver. You would think due to its weight and length, with 6 tires on the ground, it would do well in snow, and you'd be right. But in snow less than 6" deep or so, the Queens Acura MDX with their SH-Awd system would do better.

Ice? Ice doesn't care what ya drive, it'll put ya in the ditch.

Mud, rocks, ruts, 4wd where wheels are dedicated, usually do best. But with todays technologies picking and driving wheels by sensors, todays awd systems do do pretty well.

You also can have front and/rear mechanical and/or electric lockers that help in certain situations.

Short version; if your not truly off road or deep snow, awd is the way to go.
 

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I loved the old NP-203 transfer case. Definition of bulletproof.

I kinda have both in one vehicle. My ‘08 4Runner is full time 4wd. It has a differential in the two speed transfer case that I can lock when I want “regular” 4wd. Combined with Duratracs, it’s great in all kinds of conditions and terrain.
 

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My full time Toyota 4Runner gets 15 mpg max....downhill with a tailwind in neutral.
My Jeep TJ gets 15 on a good day with the tires aired up to 45 psi. Probably ten on mine roads. My current F150 in 2wd get's 26.5 staying 65-70, or maybe 19 at 75-80. 20 around town with a light foot. Towing my jeep to Sedona on a car trailer a few months ago I got 12 mpg. :(
 

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My wife's Terrain is a FWD, but has a switch for AWD, and then an "offroad" version of AWD, closer to a 4WD, but I don't think it locks up like the typical 4WD, it's still electronic and based on wheel spin.

The FWD setting allows for pretty good mileage.

The AWD setting is nice when the roads are getting messy. You can turn it on and drive all day without worrying about burning anything in the driveline up.

The "4WD" setting works even better for driving in real snow. I haven't used it for driving at highway speeds over distance, but it's gotten me up a few snowy roads and across some drifts without drama.
 

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I have a F250 4x4 diesel that has been unstoppable (mostly) but has beefy tires on it. Wifes car is a Subaru (2020) with all kinds of bells and whistles. I haven't had a problem going down any dirt roads and pretty thick snow. So, if you asked me this on Dec 23, 2022, I would have said- AWD is awesome but.... I got stuck in 6" of snow on Christmas eve. I hardly ever drive that car but i was working on my truck and needed to pick up a u-joint. Car slides a little at like 10mph and stops in 6" of snow and nothing, notta forward or back. I had it towed out. My truck in 4x4 and locked rear end (electronic) would plow right through 4x that. So- difficult to compare 4x4 and AWD. AWD- no all wheels don't have torque, if one is slipping then it moves the torque to the other wheels (or some variation thereof). If you don't have much to drive through (mud/ snow etc.) the AWD is great. Much lighter vehicle and thus much better gas mileage. Subaru can get 42mpg + (when I'm not driving it) mine? 14-16. You need to take an inventory of what you need and want, $$, conditions etc. and match the right vehicle to the application. It would be like trying to decide which is better, a V6 or a V8; a Ferrari Dino V6 will crush a stock big block v8 truck but won't drive over 1" of snow.
 
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