Four wheel drive

Four Wheel Drive or SUV?

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Four Wheel Drive or Sport Utility Vehicle, what’s the difference and which one is for you?

We’ve just driven the recently updated – and considerably more handsome – Toyota Prado in mid-spec GXL and revisited the top of the range Toyota Kluger Grande with the optional all-wheel drive system.

On paper, the two Toyota brothers are fairly similar: they both seat seven people, they offer a host of active safety equipment including adaptive cruise, emergency braking and lane departure warning, both send power to all four wheels – Kluger is also available in front wheel drive, both are very comfortable and both are dominating their respective categories in the new car market because they’re winning favour families and fleet customers alike.

But what’s the difference between a four-wheel drive (4×4) and a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). SUV appears to be a blanket term at the moment, and often refers to any car that has a raised driving position, up to seven seats and two or all-wheel drive. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to appeal to an ever growing customer base.

When it comes to cars like the Prado and Kluger – these two are just used as examples for this piece – while similar, they are also very different. Why? Because the Prado is a four-wheel drive. It’s built on a truck-like ladder frame chassis, it has a low range gear box and it’s essentially designed to be as unstoppable as possible off-road and tow big loads such as a large family caravan. This, in essence, is a four-wheel drive. It’s designed to go pretty much anywhere.

Kluger Grande

While this versatility makes the Prado popular for so many – and deservedly so – you need to be mindful that ladder frame chassis and the off-road gubbins make it a little heavy cumbersome around town and, most crucially on the school run. It’s not designed to be bound to the black top.

In contrast, the Kluger is based on the same platform as the last Toyota Aurion. In other words, it’s car based and is designed to be primarily driven on road. The Kluger is an example of an SUV. SUVs are based on cars, and 4×4 are truck based with their ladder frame chassis.

Now, moving on to what’s best for you. The Kluger’s silky smooth petrol V6 offers ample acceleration (and even sounds great) and Toyota has fitted an eight-speed automatic to help keep the engine’s drinking habits in check. There’s a heap of luxury inside, including a roof mounted DVD player, and adaptive cruise takes the sting out of long freeway trips.

Handling is noticeably more car like too, and the ride is more-supple over paved surfaces. And if you opt for the all-wheel drive version you get a “Lock” function, a “Snow” mode and hill descent control to allow for those family holiday. If you’re in the market for a two-wheel drive seven seat SUV, may we direct you to the world of the humble people mover. It’s not that scary, we promise.

In other words, all-wheel drive SUVs offer greater practicality, and just enough off-road ability to get you, your family and all your gear to a camp site or ski resort.

In sum, if you plan to drive through lots of mud or over big rocks and tow heavy things, but a 4×4. If you largely drive around suburbia, need to carry up to seven people but would like all-wheel drive grip. Buy an SUV. Simple.



The founding father of The Motoring Guru, Matt has been a lifelong car enthusiast and a passionate writer. Back in 2013 when The Motoring Guru was first launched, Matt wanted to combine his two passions whilst offering readers sound motoring advice.