There is more choice than ever when it comes to picking your next vehicle, and that includes selecting a drivetrain system that works best for you. Most simply, the vehicle drivetrain functions to send torque to the vehicle’s wheels and power it forward. Drivetrains fall into 3 primary categories; All-Wheel Drive (AWD), Four-Wheel Drive (4WD), and Two-Wheel Drive (2WD). Understanding the difference between these technologies is key when you head to the dealership.

AWD is a solid choice if you live in a climate with seasonal weather changes, including rain and snow. 4WD is your go to if you’re looking for a truck or SUV to take off-road, or you need extra traction to combat ice and snow in the winter months. Most 2WD models are equipped with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD). FWD is a great choice if your primary terrain is a paved highway or you live in a more temperate climate that experiences light rain or snow. While RWD is most often available in trucks and SUVs to enhance towing and performance-driven sports car with agile handling.


AWD has become a popular choice for many reasons, including its versatility and ability to anticipate and adapt to changing road conditions. AWD vehicles are equipped with a center differential, which is composed of gears that split power from the transmission to both front and rear axles. Wheel sensors function to detect traction loss, indicating which wheels require additional power. Nissan’s Intelligent AWD system [*] detects these changes and automatically responds by sending power to the appropriate wheels.

Nissan’s Intelligent AWD is also designed to help maximize efficiency, by sending power to the front wheels while at speed, and adapting to transfer power between the front and rear wheels when a change in road conditions is detected, making it more economical on the highway. This feature makes it a great choice if you live in an area with heavy rain or snow, or you plan to take your vehicle for light off-roading.

AWD isn’t just for rugged off-road vehicles either. The Nissan GT-R is equipped with an ATTESA E-TS AWD system, which helps to distribute torque to front and rear wheels, depending on tire slip or changes in road conditions. The ATTESA E-TS system functions a little differently, using two driveshafts to split power to both front and back wheels. The system is rear-wheel biased, but torque can be split between front and rear wheels in an instant.

AWD Nissan Murano shown in white
2019 Nissan Murano Shown
Nissan Intelligent AWD illustration


The second you pull away, Intelligent AWD turns on, delivering power to both front and rear wheels for improved grip.

Intelligent AWD automatically send power to the front wheels for efficient cruising


Once you’re up to speed, no sense powering all four wheels, so Intelligent AWD efficiently sends the power all up front.

Nissan Intelligent AWD cornering illustration


For enhance cornering control and traction on curvy roads, the Intelligent AWD compensates by transferring some of the power from the front to the rear wheels.


4WD or 4×4 is the precursor to modern AWD. It’s most often found in more rugged off-road vehicles to assist you when climbing over rough terrain with low traction. Similar to Nissan’s Intelligent AWD system, models equipped with Intelligent 4WD and 4X4, including the 2020 Armada and 2020 Pathfinder, have an Auto mode, which automatically monitors and adjusts the balance of power between the vehicle’s front and rear wheels. In addition to the Auto mode, Nissan’s Intelligent 4WD and 4X4 systems have selectable drive modes, enabling you to shift between 2WD and 4WD in anticipation of changing conditions or terrain.

Nissan’s truck line-up, including the 2019 Nissan Frontier, 2020 TITAN, and 2020 TITAN XD use a more traditional part-time 4X4 drivetrain system, which allows you to quickly shift between 3 drive modes; 4H for light off-road driving, 4LO for added traction in the most difficult off-road conditions, and 2WD for more efficient highway driving. Nissan’s 4X4 trucks are a great choice for work or play.

Nissan of Portland


2WD is the most widely available drivetrain type on the market. It functions by sending power to 2-wheels simultaneously and can be most commonly categorized as either front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD).

2WD Nissan Maxima shown in orange
2019 Nissan Maxima Shown.


Front-wheel drive (FWD) is the most common drivetrain found in passenger vehicles, as it’s economical to build and provides more efficient space compared to those with RWD. In particular, FWD systems are advantageous for climbing hills, due to the engine’s forward weight distribution. FWD is a solid option for drivers in areas with mild weather and will perform in light snow and rain.

RWD Nissan 370Z coupe shown in blue
2019 Nissan 370Z® COUPE Shown


Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is a common option in many performance vehicles, as well as pick-up trucks. In performance vehicles, RWD functions to improve handling due to more even weight distribution. As the vehicle power comes from the rear-wheels, the suspension can be adapted to enhance steering.

In trucks, RWD systems can improve towing, as they provide more traction when hauling a particularly heavy load.


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Our Role and Responsibility in Navigating Through COVID-19

With the growing global concern and enormous human impact of the spread of COVID-19 our hearts go out to all who have been affected. Nissan of Portland wants you to know there is nothing more important than the health and well-being of our patrons, employees, and communities.

Nissan of Portland has intensified our attention in limiting the spread of COVID-19. The safety and well-being of our customers and employees, along with the ability to maintain high-quality service, is our top priority. We are laser-focused on the cleanliness of our store.

As part of our preparedness plan, we are taking the following actions:

Nissan of Portland is committed to taking all necessary actions to help prevent the spread of the virus, support the health and the well-being of our employees, customers, and community while maintaining a top-notch customer experience. We are open for business but want to express our complete flexibility in our accommodations for assisting each customer according to their preference.

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