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Is Honda Pilot 4×4 Or AWD (Guide)

The 4WD and AWD systems are the wow factors that can make any vehicle sound cool and work ideally under rough conditions. Honda has used both of these drivetrains across its models. Now, you may wonder if the Honda Pilot is a 4×4 or AWD.

Read on to learn more about Honda Pilot, whether it’s AWD or 4WD, how these two are different, among other things.  

Is Honda Pilot 4×4 Or AWD?

There have been several generations of Honda Pilot, each one having different drivetrains. 

The first generation of Honda Pilot, introduced in 2003, featured Honda’s signature four-wheel-drive system called VTM-4.

The VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management 4WD) is Honda’s special system that distributes power among wheels so that the front wheels receive the most power in normal conditions. When the car’s accelerating or wheels are slipping, more power, up to 50%, will go to the rear wheels.

These models also feature a lock button that you can press to increase torque and power sent to the rear wheels manually. However, this lock button has an important limitation – you can’t use it at speeds higher than 18 mph (29 km/h), and it works only in the first and second gears and reverse.

The first-generation Honda Pilots launched in 2006 didn’t come with a 4WD system as standard. They came with two different engines: J35Z1, which is FWD (front-wheel drive), and J35A9 (4WD).

The second-generation Honda Pilot, launched in 2009, came with two different drivetrains: FWD and 4WD.

The third-generation Honda Pilots, introduced in 2016 feature FWD and AWD drivetrains. In most models, FWD comes standard, and AWD is optional.

In addition to the AWD system, all models, except for LX, come standard with a sophisticated traction management system that boosts the AWD and FWD systems in snow, mud, and other slippery surfaces.

The 2021 Honda pilot features the torque-vectoring AWD and i-VTM4 (Intelligent Variable Torque management) that can send up to 70% of the total power to one of the rear wheels.

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What’s the Difference Between 4×4 and AWD?

4×4 and AWD are very similar in that both send motor torque to all four wheels to increase tire traction. While some manufacturers use 4WD and AWD interchangeably, the former is more robust and better handles rough conditions.


Four-wheel drive is the traditional system of sending power to all four wheels. The 4WD system features a mechanical connection to send torque to all wheels through center differentials. However, in some models, you may find front and rear differentials, too.

Depending on the model, you can turn on the 4WD system through a button, knob, or a floor-mounted lever.

There are two types of 4×4: part-time and full-time. Full-time 4×4 sends power to all wheels as a standard setting always on. In some cars, the driver can select how much power each axle receives.

On the other hand, part-time 4WD involves rear wheels receiving most power under normal conditions. in rough terrains or slippery roads, the driver decides how to divide torque between the wheels with the push of a button.

Although 4WD is best in adverse and rough conditions, it gives you a stiffer ride because it normally comes with a heavy-duty suspension. However, it can lead to lower fuel consumption since it can allocate different speeds to wheels.


AWD systems are more modern than traditional 4WD systems, so they can operate under high-tech settings. For example, in modern SUVs, a computer decides how to allocate power to the wheels in different conditions.

It’s similar to a 4WD system in that both systems distribute power among all four wheels. However, AWD is more sophisticated because it decides how much power to send to each wheel depending on the conditions.

On the other hand, 4WD divides the power equally between all wheels.

Like 4WD, all-wheel-drive systems also come in part-time and full-time versions. In full-time mode, all wheels get power constantly on dry pavement and under normal conditions.

On slippery roads and under rainy and snowy conditions, the system decides which wheels receive the most torque to create more traction.

With part-time AWD, the system sends power only to one axle, front or rear, depending on the model. Under rough and slippery conditions, the system detects the wheel that’s slipping and provides more torque to it.

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What Is the Difference Between Honda Pilot AWD and 4WD?

The 4WD system in Honda Pilot is automatic thanks to Honda’s VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management 4WD) – it’s off under normal conditions. When the road becomes slippery, or your tires start losing traction, the system turns on automatically to provide more torque.

Honda’s AWD in the 2016 and later models of Honda Pilot is the SH-AWD system (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive).

This system uses torque for propulsion and cornering, greatly increasing the car’s maneuverability in rough conditions. It distributes torque between the front and rear axles based on the road conditions, normally at a 70:30 ratio.

Is Honda Pilot Always in AWD?

Honda Pilot isn’t always in AWD as it’s automatic and can detect when to engage the rear wheels. Honda’s Real-Time AWD with Intelligent Control System constantly monitors the road conditions to provide torque to different wheels.

It engages the AWD system within seconds, acting more quickly and efficiently than mechanical AWD when required.

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How to Know If Your Honda is AWD?  

Many Honda models have AWD, including Honda Pilot, HR-V, CR-V, and Ridgeline. Honda Pilot has Real-Time AWD as optional in EX, EX-L, LX, and Touring Trims, but it comes standard in Elite and Black Edition Trims. However, check your user manual to make sure your Honda is 4WD or AWD.

When the AWD system turns on, it does so in such a short time that you may not even notice. When you’re out of the rough conditions, it automatically goes back to the 2WD setting.

Which is Better: AWD or 4WD?

Both 4WD and AWD can be great depending on the conditions:  4WD is better for off-roading while AWD is more suitable for city commutes on icy roads. The center differential in AWD allows front and rear wheels to spin at different speeds. That’s why it’s better for slippery conditions.

4WD operates by locking the front and rear driveshafts to make them rotate at the same speed. This way, it ensures that front and back wheels get power to handle rough conditions.

More sophisticated 4WD systems allow the driver to choose between high and low ranges using a button on the dashboard or a floor-mounted lever. The low-range setting is for low speeds and helps maximize traction in off-road settings.

On the other hand, the high-range setting is better for high speeds and on-road environments, such as slippery snow and ice and even sand and gravel.  

While AWD is considered better for icy roads, many experts believe it can’t do magic, especially if not engaged at the right time. They believe winter tires are the best to handle snowy and icy roads, and nothing can beat 4WD in off-road conditions.

Is Off-road the Same as 4×4?

Off-road and 4×4 aren’t the same since they refer to different notions. An off-road is any vehicle that can handle rough roads outside the city. They feature high ground clearance and strong tires, among other things. 4WD is a torque distribution system that increases traction in rough conditions.

While a 4WD system is necessary for going off-road, it’s not enough. Plus, vehicles with 4WD systems can handle both on and off-road conditions.

Can AWD Go Off-road?

While AWD can provide power to all wheels, it’s not as robust as a 4WD to go off-road. Due to the 4Low capability, 4WD allows the driveshaft to rotate faster than the wheels, providing higher torque.

However, AWD can be suitable for mild off-roading. It’s good for unpaved roads such as gravel and sand because it can boost traction on any surface.

Plus, it’s better for slippery conditions by detecting the wheel that’s spinning and adjusting power to move the car.

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Is Honda Insight AWD?

Honda Insight is a hybrid sedan with a 2WD system. It has Front-wheel drive, which isn’t unusual for a sedan. However, it has a wide range of features that make the vehicle perfect for handling slippery roads and snowy weather conditions.

Honda Insights features Vehicle Stability Assist, which helps stabilize the car on slick roads. The Traction Control feature is another factor that monitors the wheels when they’re spinning in slippery conditions. It makes the engine reduce power to the affected wheel to reduce spinning.

Other features include the Electronic Brake Force Distribution System, Anti Lock Brake System, and Road Departure Mitigation System.

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Final Thoughts

Honda Pilot features 2WD, 4WD, and AWD depending on the model year and generation. In most models, the FWD is standard, and the AWD is optional with real-time AWD technology.

This technology automatically detects weather and road conditions and adjusts the power sent to wheels accordingly.

If you want to make sure whether your Honda Pilot has 4WD or AWD, check the user manual.