4x2 vs 4x4: What are the pros and cons?

Apr 24, 2020 | Same topic: Automotive FYIs
Planning on buying an SUV or a pickup truck? Read this first.

SUVs and pickup trucks, if you’ve noticed, either come with two drivetrain options: a 4x2 or a 4x4. For some less discerning car buyers, that doesn’t really matter much because to them, the vehicle looks the same with the other trim levels.

Drivetrain choices, however, have a large impact on how a vehicle performs. It also dictates a vehicle’s price tag and overall weight, among others. In short, a 4x2 vehicle and a 4x4 vehicle will each have both bright and dark sides. But before find out about 4x2 vs 4x4 pros and cons, let us define what a drivetrain is.

What’s a drivetrain?

A drivetrain is a part, or rather, several parts of a car that’s responsible for providing the power to the wheels that drives a vehicle. As such, the drivetrain includes the driveshaft, universal joints, constant-velocity joints, differentials, and axle shafts.

A picture of the a 4x4 layout

Here's the typical layout of a vehicle with a 4x4 drivetrain.

That being said, 4x2 and 4x4 are types of drivetrains. Here are 4x2 vs 4x4 pros and cons.

>>> Related: The ins & outs of car transmission and drivetrain

4x2 Drivetrain Pros & Cons

Vehicles with a 4x2 drivetrain only have two propelled wheels. These include most types of passenger vehicles, select variants of pickup trucks and SUVs, and even some commercial vehicles.

And yes, most front wheel drive vehicles are considered 4x2. In this regard, a vehicle with only two driven wheels, regardless of its layout, is considered as a 4x2.

A picture of a 1st gen Toyota Fortuner parked near some businesses

The Toyota Fortuner is a popular SUV that's available in 4x2 and 4x4 with the former more cheaper

Now, 4x2 vehicles have less in the way of moving parts. This makes them easier and cheaper to manufacture, maintain, and design. As such, most entry-level and even mid-level variants of SUVs and pickup trucks in the Philippine market, as well as everywhere else, come with a 4x2 variant.

Save, of course, some special edition variants, or some select models with mid-range 4x4 variants like the Toyota Hilux 2.4 E 4x4 MT and the Ford Ranger 2.2 XLS Sport 4x4 MT.

These cheaper 4x4 variants sacrifice some part to make way for the costs of manufacturing it. It might not have a comprehensive safety kit, or it might have less in the way of on-board entertainment.

A picture of the Suzuki Jimny on the highway

One slight exemption to the above are vehicles like the Suzuki Jimny whose all variants come standard with 4x4

When it comes to 4x2 cons, a 4x2 vehicle, due to having less driven wheels, are not that great on slippery terrain. This is despite the fact of whether it’s an SUV or a pickup truck.

Sure, these vehicles might have a lot of ground clearance, but if they’re a 4x2 vehicle, they will have less traction. Note also that most 4x2 SUVs and trucks will have a rear-wheel-drive layout, a vehicle layout that may become trickier to control in slippery driving situations due to oversteer.

So in short, if you’re driving an SUV or a pickup truck as a city vehicle for transporting you and your family daily, then a 4x2 vehicle would make more sense. 4x2 vehicles are also ideal for long distance travel on highways due to their better fuel economy.

Pros of a 4x2 vehicle
Cons of a 4x2 vehicle
  • Cheaper to maintain and purchase
  • Better fuel economy
  • Easier to maintain
  • Less capable in off road conditions
  • Less traction in mud, sand, etc

>>> Related: SUV prices in the Philippines from 14 most popular brands

4x4 Drivetrain Pros & Cons

We have processed the first half of 4x2 vs 4x4 pros and cons, now it's time to unveil the myths behind 4x4 drivetrain. A vehicle with a 4x4 drivetrain means that all four of its wheels are given torque. In some modern SUVs and pickup trucks, these systems can be deactivated and activated with a simple push of a button, giving you the advantage of having added traction when needed.

Do note though that a 4x4 vehicle, regardless of whether you can turn the said drivetrain on or off, will substantially weigh more than a 4x2, therefore will use more fuel than the latter.

Vehicles with 4x4 drivetrain, including those with part-time systems, do have other disadvantages. First, these vehicles are harder to develop. As such, they will typically come with a more expensive price tag.

For that same reason, it’s typical for the top-of-the-line SUV and pickup truck models here in the Philippines to come with a 4x4.

A picture of the Toyota Fortuner on a dirt road

One example is the Toyota Fortuner's 2.8 V 4x4 variant which is currently priced at Php 2,301,000

>>> Related: The top five best pick up trucks in the Philippines in 2020

Do note that as we’ve mentioned before, there are 4x4 variants that are positioned in the middle of their variant lineup in terms of price.

Those however will have compromises to them that may come in the form of less safety equipment, less on-board features, basic looking interiors, etc. Also, most of these cheaper 4x4 variants come with a manual tranny. And yes, not everyone can drive a manual in this day and age.

Next, a pickup truck with a 4x4 drivetrain will usually come with a higher bed. They designed it this way to make space for the parts of the drivetrain underneath the vehicle.

Now this makes loading and unloading a truck more difficult. For this same reason though, stock 4x4 vehicles tend to do better with wading through water.

Couple that with a raised, aftermarket suspension system and you’ll be able to deal with huge rocks, gnarlier terrain and even deeper water.

Doing so, however, will tend to take a toll on your wallet. A competent set of off-road suspension kits will run you from Php 20,000 to hundreds of thousands. Even a good snorkel for a Toyota Hilux will hover around the Php 15,000 to the Php 20,000 price range.

>>> Related: All you need to know about the car's suspension system

A picture of a Hilux going off roading

The added ride height also enables 4x4 pickup trucks to do gnarly stuff like this

Note that we’re not discouraging you from taking on an off-roading hobby. It is fun and very rewarding after all. We’re just warning you that it won’t be cheap, and you better be prepared to make lifestyle changes like learning to perform your own repairs and an outdoorsy mindset.

A picture of a Rancho suspension kit

A suspension kit like this Rancho Rs5000X can cost as much as Php 18,733. Higher-end sets will cost even more

Another huge disadvantage when it comes to a 4x4 vehicle is that it is definitely harder to maintain. It has a lot more moving parts, and some modern vehicles with electronic 4x4 systems will need specialized tools that are only accessible in the “casa.” In this vein, fixing a 4x4 drivetrain will also tend to cost more.

The skill ceiling of fixing 4x4 drivetrains also tends to be higher. 4x2 drivetrains, after all, are simpler to disassemble and diagnose because they have fewer moving parts and have fewer parts in general, which means fewer things that will potentially go wrong.

Also, some 4x4 on contemporary vehicles have become very high tech and thus, are very hard (and costly) to fix.

Pros of a 4x4 vehicle
Cons of a 4x4 vehicle
  • More competent in handling off road situations. And yes, traversing bad terrain can be fun.
  • Great traction on wet and loose surfaces
  • More expensive to acquire
  • Can be expensive to maintain
  • Less fuel economy

Did this article help you identify the 4x2 vs 4x4 pros and cons? Do you now know what you’re going to purchase?

For more informative articles like this, keep reading here on Philkotse.com.

Author

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar learned how to drive a car years before he got his license. Today, he's still looking for that perfect '90s Japanese coupe to drive into the sunset while listening to Crazy Little Love by Nuage. Also has a thing for badass off-road vehicles and weird engine swaps.