Is The Ford Explorer All-Wheel Drive or 4-Wheel Drive?

A collage of ford explorer at motor show, The Ford Explorer All-Wheel Drive or 4-Wheel Drive?The Ford Explorer is an incredible crossover vehicle. It can handle every-day life in the city as well as the harshest, off-road conditions. The Explorer comes in many different configurations and packages. Choosing an Explorer trim that is right for you is easier than ever. Their powertrain is one of the most diverse on the market, offering a plethora of different choices so you can drive wherever and however you choose. One of the biggest questions about Ford's Explorer is whether they have AWD or 4WD.  We've researched, so you don't have to.

Ford Explorers comes standard in 2-wheel-drive. However, you can configure a 2020 Ford Explorer to have their "intelligent 4-wheel-drive" system. While they do not offer an AWD model, their 4WD system is just as high-tech.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into the world of Ford Explorers and answer frequently asked questions about 4WD, AWD, and more.

What Is Ford Intelligent 4WD?

Intelligent 4WD is Ford's most advanced 4WD system. It is engineered to provide all the traction and control that 4WD vehicles are known for, plus more. Ford's system will monitor your driving conditions, speeds, and terrain more continuously to adjust for maximum efficiency.

This means that if your vehicle goes from driving on gravel to driving on a wet highway, Ford's intelligent 4WD will instantaneously adjust how much power is going to each wheel. It does this while you are driving your vehicle, so you do not have to think about it.

This monitoring system Ford has implemented is one of the safest ways to drive on and off-road. You won't have to worry about having your car in the wrong setting because everything is automatic.

How Does It Compare To Normal 4WD?

Ford Explorer, side view. Photography of a modern car on a parking

Intelligent 4-wheel-drive differs from regular 4-wheel-drive dramatically. With a traditional 4WD, a vehicle can typically manually switch between two and four-wheel-drive. When in 4WD, a vehicle will supply all four wheels with a steady amount of power. There are no sensors to know what type of terrain you are on, so no matter if you are on a mountainous area or a flat highway, you will be getting the same amount of power to each wheel.

Since 4WD is created to help you make it across rough terrain, driving on highways with 4WD engaged can be dangerous and less efficient.

For example, if you're on a paved road in 4WD and you take a turn at a higher speed, you have a high likelihood of spinning out of control sine your wheels turn independently. One or more of the wheels may be spinning at a higher speed than needed to make the turn. This is why almost all vehicles are part-time 4WD. Meaning they can be switched between 2WD and 4WD.

As previously explained, Ford's intelligent 4WD would be able to correct this scenario for you when driving. This provides a safer, smoother, more enjoyable ride all-around.

What Other Ford Cars Have Intelligent 4WD?

As of right now, all of the Fords that have intelligent 4WD are crossovers. Along with the Explorer, the Ford Escape is the only other option to add intelligent 4WD. While the Ford Escape is a much small vehicle than the Explorer, it's just as capable of going off-roading as well as fly down the highway with the included intelligent 4WD.

Is ControlTrac 4WD The Same As Intelligent 4WD?

Similar to the Explorer and Escape is the Ford Expedition. It has a form of 4WD called ControlTrac, which is slightly different than Intelligent 4WD. ControlTrac is very similar to intelligent 4WD in that it has sensors and computers monitoring your every move. It can sense when it needs to switch from 2WD to 4WD.

That is where it differs. Instead of giving specific amounts of power to each set of wheels, it switches between two modes automatically when it feels your tires slip or need more power. ControlTrac can give you 100% more power when you need it.

How Does Ford AWD Work?

All-wheel-drive works surprisingly like Intelligent 4WD. The named may sound confusing because "all" seems to allude to "four" since there are only four wheels are a car. All-wheel-drive has many sensors and systems in place to monitor your driving behavior and needs based on how the car is reacting to the road it is driving on. While it is primarily powered by its front wheels, the back wheels can kick in with up to 50% power to help the front wheels.

2020 Ford models refer to their AWD as "Intelligent drive" because they have almost the same system as it's counterpart: Intelligent 4WD. AWD is built for peak performance on highways and every-day driving.

AWD is meant to give your daily driver a little bit more power when it's needed.

What Ford Cars Are AWD?

There is a much larger number of vehicles that have AWD as opposed to 4WD because AWD seems to be the more practical of the two when it comes to most people's needs.

Ford Focus RS

The Ford Focus is one of the most popular Ford cars, and it also happens to come with AWD in the RS trim.

Ford Fusion Titanium

2019 Ford Fusion in Autoshow

This trim level of the Ford Fusion also comes with AWD. As another sedan, it standouts in the crowd as a sporty car made for the highway. But it has a few tricks up its sleeves in the AWD package, as it proves to belong more places than just the pavement.

Ford Taurus SHO

This sedan also comes sporting an AWD model. Being one of the faster Ford cars, it is surprising it has AWD, but it also proves how versatile Ford's AWD technology can be.

Ford Edge

The Ford Edge is a vehicle you would expect to have AWD. Its crossover design and AWD system make it perfect for taking on a road trip to the mountains.

Ford Flex

Ford Flex: What Are the Common Problems?

Flex's box-like design gives it the feel of a city SUV. Its AWD system gives it the extra push it needs to be able to make it through almost any weather and light terrain.


Ford's Intelligent 4WD technology (along with its AWD system) proves to be an incredible tool to have in a Ford Explorer. The name seems fitting as Intelligent 4WD allows for the vehicle to explore highways, mountain tops, and everything in between. While it is different than AWD, Ford designed both systems so that they can cater to almost every type of driver.

Have more questions about the Ford Explorer? Check out the links below.

How Much Can A Ford Explorer Tow?

How Many Seats Does The Ford Explorer Have?

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One comment

  1. Great comparison between the 2 drive systems. I’m really dreaming about getting a 2023 explorer and living in Michigan I’m in the mood for some traction.

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