Toyota SUVs: All-Wheel Drive or 4-Wheel Drive?

October 9th, 2020 by

A light grey 2021 Toyota 4Runner is off-roading in the woods near Romeoville, IL.

One question many car buyers have is whether there is a difference between all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive vehicles. For the most part, the two terms seem to be used interchangeably. Unlike front-wheel drive, which powers the car’s two front wheels, or rear-wheel drive, which powers the rear ones, all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drivetrains provide power to all four of a vehicle’s wheels, improving its overall handling, particularly in inclement weather. And many Toyota SUVs can be found with either 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. But what is the difference between the two?

Vehicles with 4-wheel drive use a transfer case to send a fixed amount of power to each of the vehicle’s two axles. In addition, a 4-wheel drive system can often be turned out so that the car functions as a front-wheel vehicle in certain conditions, like a dry day on a highway, in order to improve engine efficiency. In contrast, an all-wheel drive system uses a center differential to provide a variable amount of torque to the two axles without any driver control. All-wheel drive vehicles tend to always operate as such.

So, with all of that in mind, you might be wondering: Which Toyota SUVs are 4-wheel or all-wheel drive? And here is the answer, from us here at Romeoville Toyota: All of the Toyota SUV models come in either 4-wheel or all-wheel drive, depending on the trim level, besides the CH-R. Some trim levels offer 4-wheel or all-wheel drive as an option, while others have all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive as standard features. But let’s take a closer look at what each Toyota SUV has to offer in regard to not only drivetrain but performance overall.

Toyota Venza

All-new for 2021 is the Toyota Venza. This sporty and elegant midsize SUV seats up to 5 passengers, has a hybrid engine, and comes in your choice of three different trim levels: the LE, XLE, and the top-of-the-line Limited. Best of all, every Venza features an electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system.

The hybrid engine on the Venza provides exceptional fuel economy of 40 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway. By pairing a hybrid engine with an all-wheel drive system, Toyota is able to provide you with the handling benefits of all-wheel drive without any of the fuel efficiency drawbacks. Further, the electrical motor on the hybrid engine provides the perfect complement to an electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system.

Toyota RAV4

A light green 2021 Toyota RAV4 is off-roading on a trail in the woods.

One of the most popular crossover models on the market today is the Toyota RAV4 with incomparable sporty styling and plenty of room for up to five passengers. In addition, the RAV4 with LED projector headlights with adaptive front headlight system package was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A number of the RAV4 models come front-wheel drive standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option. These include the LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and Limited trims.

The Limited with this option features a dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive with rear driveline disconnect for greater driver control. This is the same system that comes standard on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims. All RAV4 Hybrid models are all-wheel drive standard, with the XSE Hybrid and Limited Hybrid featuring an electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system.

Toyota 4Runner

One of the best midsize SUVs on the market today is the Toyota 4Runner. With seating for up to seven passengers on some trims, the 4Runner combines luxury and versatility in a rugged package. In 2020, Kelley Blue Book named it to its Top 10 in resale value for the eighth year in a row. What sets the 4Runner apart is that all models feature a 4-wheel drivetrain.

The TRD Pro, Trail Special Edition, Limited, and Nightshade Special Edition are full-time 4-wheel drive. This means that the SUV’s transfer case will always power both of the vehicle’s axles. The SR5, SR5 Premium, Venture Special Edition, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Off-Road Premium trims are part-time 4-wheel drive. This gives you the ability to disengage the 4-wheel drive system depending on road and driving conditions. Either way, the Toyota 4Runner is the top choice for taking your SUV on or off the road.

Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander is sleek and sexy and seats up to eight passengers. It also comes in over nine different models, including four with hybrid powertrains. The Highlander is also one of the safest SUVs of its size on the road today, having been chosen as a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2019. All Highlander models come front-wheel drive standard with an option for an all-wheel drivetrain.

The Limited and Platinum trims feature a dynamic torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, while the Hybrid LE, Hybrid XLE, Hybrid Limited, and Hybrid Platinum each offer an optional electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system. This gives you the option of buying a Highlander with all-wheel drive no matter which powertrain or trim level you decide to purchase.

Toyota Sequoia

A white 2020 Toyota Sequoia, one of the larger Toyota SUVs, is off-roading in the woods.

One of the biggest trees in the forest is a sequoia, and it makes the perfect name for one of the biggest and best three-row full-size SUVs on the market today. The Toyota Sequoia has plenty of room for up to eight passengers and great cargo space as well. The SR5, TRD Sport, and Limited trims of the Sequoia are rear-wheel drive standard with 4-wheel drive available as an option, except the TRD Pro, which is 4-wheel drive standard.

The 4-wheel drive system on the Sequoia is something special. It is a Multi-Mode 4-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip center differential with locking feature in 4X4 mode. The Torsen differential is manufactured by Zexel Torsen, Inc., one of the leaders in designing and manufacturing locking differentials for 4-wheel drive systems. This is especially helpful when you face snow or ice in your Sequoia, or if you just decide to hit the trail and take your Sequoia to the limit. This drivetrain alone makes the Sequoia one of the best SUVs on the market.

Toyota Land Cruiser

Few full-size three-row SUVs can compare to the Toyota Land Cruiser. This combination of luxury and performance sets the standard for its vehicle class. It also has one of the most advanced 4-wheel drive systems available on the road today.

Whether you are choosing the Land Cruiser or Heritage Edition, your SUV will come equipped with a full-time 4-wheel drive system with active traction control and Torsen limited-slip center differential with locking feature. This will give you the added traction and performance you need when you take your Land Cruiser out for a drive no matter what time of year or quality of road you plan to travel down.

Toyota Drivetrains

As you can see, Toyota SUVs offer a great range of 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options. Some of these vehicles also feature hybrid engines so you can get great fuel economy as well as the luxury and performance you’ve come to expect from Toyota. Depending on your personal driving needs and preferences, you will be well served regardless of whether the Toyota SUV of your choice comes with 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Posted in Toyota SUVs