Toyota RAV4: All Wheel Drive or 4WD?

Before we tackle the urgent matter at hand—is the Toyota RAV4 All-Wheel Drive or 4WD? Let’s make sure we cover the basics first.

What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

My assumption before putting digital pen to digital paper was that the key difference here was that with All Wheel Drive (AWD), all four wheels are designed to propel the vehicle at all times.

And that Four Wheel Drive (4WD) has the option to engage all four wheels when you need them, and switch back to two-wheel drive for normal driving conditions.

Turns out I was partially right, or just a smidgen wrong, depends on how you look at it. Personally, I’ll go with the former because you know how writers are with their fragile egos.

The best way to define AWD is to state what it is and what it isn’t.

All-Wheel Drive is not front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, it’s both simultaneously.

Additionally, it’s good to know that both 4WD and AWD have the same end goal: to power all four wheels concurrently.

All-Wheel Drive Four-Wheel Drive
●     Typically decision-free (always on) ●     The driver has the option for 4WD
●     Mostly found in cars and crossovers ●     More prevalent in SUVs, Trucks, etc
●     It’s called different things by different car manufacturers; Real Time AWD (Honda), xDrive AWD (Subaru), etc ●     4X4 is exactly the same as 4WD, but other naming conventions exist; Intelligent 4WD System (Ford), etc


Now onto the task at hand, which is to discover if the Toyota RAV4 is technically a 4WD, AWD, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Toyota RAV4: AWD and/or 4WD?

As you may have guessed, dipping your toes into the “Is it 4WD or AWD?” waters produces a somewhat murky answer at best. I’ll explain further momentarily, but for now, just know that the best answer is also not a very satisfying one: It depends.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 comes in your choice of three different models all of which include a 2.5L 4-Cylinder engine: The RAV4 LE, RAV4 LE Hybrid, and the RAV4 XLE.

Drivetrain LE LE Hybrid XLE
Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)
Electronic On-Demand All-

Wheel Drive (AWD)


(All-Wheel Drive Integrated Management + Multi-Information Display Monitor)


Basically, if you want a traditionally named AWD drivetrain in your 2021 Toyota RAV4, you’re out of luck. However, you CAN get Electronic On-Demand AWD with the RAV4 LE Hybrid (well played Toyota marketing team, well played.)

In fact, if you’re outright opposed to a mini-SUV that is front-wheel drive only, your only real option is the RAV4 LE Hybrid. This marks an interesting pivot by Toyota as they are leading car buyers to purchase the hybrid option over their other two gas-powered-only versions.

So, what does this all mean? Does it mean that the Toyota RAV4 is an AWD or 4WD or what?

Toyota RAV4: Is it AWD or 4WD?

We can say that the Toyota RAV4 is definitely NOT a four-wheel-drive automobile. And if you want a non-hybrid, full-on gasoline-only tank to fuel your RAV4, you’re stuck with a front-wheel-drive four-cylinder.

On the flip side, if you aren’t opposed to a hybrid engine, and you must have the AWD feature, then your best bet is to go with the Toyota RAV4 LE Hybrid.

Conclusion: So the Toyota RAV4 is NOT a 4X4 and only has the AWD option if you purchase the hybrid version.

This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning a commission is given should you decide to make a purchase through these links, at no cost to you. All products shown are researched and tested to give an accurate review for you.

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