Can My AWD Go Off-Road? | Beach Driving & More

Off-roading trips are popular among Australians, and vehicles that deliver this experience attract many buyers. All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) vehicles have traction and control features that make them superior to two-wheel drives, but can an AWD go off-road without any issues?

Many AWD vehicles can go on light off-road adventures because their system allows them to channel power to all wheel axles to achieve maximum traction and control. A typical AWD vehicle can drive better than a 2WD on gravel, dirt roads, and compact beaches. However, AWDs cannot handle extreme off-road conditions.

Want to learn more about the capabilities of AWD vehicles? Read on to learn about AWD features you need to know and find out whether you should take an AWD on your next-offroading trip. 

Can My AWD Go Off-Road?

Many AWDs can go off-road, but they have limited off-roading abilities and are not best suited for all off-road conditions. Most AWD vehicles can drive on off-road surfaces, which are flat, reasonably firm, and with little obstacles, such as well-worn trails, gravel tracks, and firm beach sand. 

When an AWD system identifies a slippage on one axle, the system automatically powers up the other axle to gain traction and control. This is how an AWD can deal with light off-road conditions.

Consider factors like wheelbases, suspension, motor power, and ground clearance to determine whether your AWD can go off-road. Bigger wheelbases can deal with rough terrain. Small engines cannot produce enough roads to handle steep hills or mountainous terrain. Some AWD vehicles do not have enough ground clearance to run on uneven terrains littered with obstacles like tree stumps and rocks.

Take note that manufacturers do not engineer AWD systems the same way. There are many AWD system variations amongst different models and manufacturers. Many AWDs can perform light off-roading. However, you need to identify the limitations of your specific car model before taking it off the beaten path. 

Can an AWD Drive on the Sand?

Many AWD vehicles can drive on firm sandy terrains provided they fulfil certain design conditions such as ground clearance and motor power. AWDs with high ground clearance can drive on beaches with reasonably compact sand. 

Before driving your AWD on a sandy track, check that the sand is not too deep or soft. It is also safer to stay on existing tyre tracks. Your AWD engine may have problems powering through sandy terrain for an extended period. Avoid tackling steep sand dunes and look for signs of other vehicles getting bogged down. 

Can an AWD Drive in the Snow?

An AWD vehicle can drive in light snow conditions because it can deliver power to all four wheels at the same time, giving you more control when driving on unplowed roads and slick and slippery surfaces. However, it’s highly recommended to use snow tyres that can provide you with better traction on snowy surfaces.

An AWD will perform better than a two-wheel-drive vehicle on snowy and icy roads as it automatically engages torque on any of the wheels when needed. This system gives more power to wheels that are getting traction to manoeuvre smoothly in slippery conditions. However, an AWD system alone cannot provide optimum traction. You will still need winter tyres that can offer a strong grip on icy or snowy surfaces. 

Can an AWD Drive in Mud?

Most AWD vehicles can drive on slightly to moderately muddy roads because their system allows power diversion to the front or rear axles when necessary. Compared to a 2WD, an AWD has better control and acceleration on muddy and slippery roads.

An AWD’s ability to redirect power into relevant axles is useful when running on muddy and sloppy surfaces. However, this feature will not be as effective if the AWD runs on deep mud bogs or muddy swamps because the four wheels may not get any traction at all. 

The AWD system will most likely stop any wheel from spinning if it does not get a grip. This will cause the vehicle to get stuck in deep mud. However, AWD vehicles are unsuitable for serious muddy off-road conditions like deep mud bogs. It’s essential to understand the limitations of your vehicle before purchasing one. Speaking with the seller or dealership employee will allow you to gauge how much mud the AWD model you’re looking to buy can handle. 

What are the Best AWD Vehicles in Australia?

Automotive companies throughout Australia are dedicated to bringing you the best choices for AWD vehicles for everyday use. Some of the best AWD vehicles for Australian roads are: 

  • Mitsubishi ASX – The Mitsubishi ASXOpens in a new tab. is one of the best-selling compact SUVs in Australia because of its economical price and versatility. It has a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and a one-touch AWD system that offers efficiency and increased traction in slippery conditions. 
  • Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid – The Toyota RAV4 GXLOpens in a new tab. is a highly-rated AWD vehicle because of the high safety features, cabin space, and ride comfort it offers for its price. It offers lower emissions and fuel economy because of its hybrid system. It also has a hybrid AWD system that can give extra traction and control on loose gravel, dirt road, and other slight off-road conditions. 
  • Subaru Forester – The Subaru ForesterOpens in a new tab. has gained prominence due to its all-rounder features. This vehicle has many safety features and a robust 2.5 L petrol engine. The Subaru Forester is a leader in off-road capabilities because it has a full-time AWD system with X-mode, which allows it to do low-speed off-road driving. 
  • Mazda CX-5 – The Mazda CX-5Opens in a new tab. is a popular medium SUV due to its outstanding safety features and comfortable riding experience. The vehicle sits at the top of its class for off-roading capabilities with its intelligent AWD software and electronic rear differential that efficiently manage the power wheel distribution. 
  • VW Touareg – The VW TouaregOpens in a new tab. is one of Australia’s best high-end all-wheel drive cars. This vehicle offers a spacious cabin, state-of-the-art safety features, and a luxurious leather interior. The VW Touareg boasts the VW’s 4Motion AWD system that offers various driving modes, including auto and expert off-road features. VW is powerful due to its 20-inch wheels and a 3.0L turbocharged V6 engine.

Can I Damage my AWD if I Drive it Off-Road?

You can damage your AWD when you drive it in rough and uneven off-road conditions. Most AWD vehicles do not have the right physical features and engine power to deal with rugged terrains like steep sand dunes, deep mud bogs, and swamps. Many AWDs do not have the high ground clearance to traverse uneven terrain.

Driving your AWD through rugged off-road conditions will overwhelm your engine and cause damage to body parts like the wheelbases, suspension, and frame of the vehicle. Even though not all AWD vehicles can go off-road, many models can do light off-roading. 

What’s the Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

The main difference between an AWD and a 4WD is how their wheels receive power. 4WD vehicles can provide maximum and equal power to all their wheels at all times. AWD cars redirect power away from slipping wheels and put it on wheels that can grip the surface better. 

Many people may view AWD and 4WD vehicles as the same, but these two have significant differences. A 4WD vehicle generates enough power and traction to tackle rough and rugged terrain. On the other hand, an AWD vehicle specialises in tackling less-than-ideal road conditions like icy or slippery surfaces because it offers more control and grip. 

Although an AWD vehicle may be capable of off-road driving, its capabilities in this department are limited to off-road conditions that still have traction. 4WD cars are more robust and durable, while AWDs are more user-friendly because their wheel power-transfer capability is automated.

Is an AWD or 4WD Better for Driving Off-Road?

In the case of Awd vs 4WD for off-roading, 4WD vehicles are better engineered for most off-roading activities, including extreme ones. The high ground clearance, motor power, and large wheelbases of most 4WDs enable them to take on various rugged terrains. 

Driving an AWD is fine if your off-roading plans involve flat and reasonably compact terrain like gravel, well-worn trails, and beaches. However, 4WD vehicles have a durable shell, heavy-duty suspensions, and higher and lower gear sets that allow them to deal with specific off-road environments. 

Their higher gear set enables 4WDs to drive at moderate speed despite difficult flat terrain conditions like rain, ice, and snowfall. Most 4WDs also have the 4-low gear feature that allows these vehicles to clear deeper terrain like mud bogs and streams. 

AWD vehicles are perfect for those who plan to drive on regular roads about 80-90 per cent of the time. However, if you venture into light off-road adventures, you can stick with an AWD instead of changing cars. 

What Happens if I Take an AWD Off-Road?

If you take a typical AWD to drive on gravel, compact beaches, and dirt roads, there should be no problem. However, most AWDs do not have the design and capabilities to go through rugged off-road surfaces. 

When driving your AWD on off-road surfaces, pay particular attention to the car’s suspension, tyres, and ground clearance. An AWD must be high enough to clear the off-road surface. As mentioned, driving an AWD on rugged off-road terrain will most likely result in physical damage and the stress of being stuck in unfamiliar terrain where rescue services or recovery devices like winches are required. 

Is Having an AWD Worth it?

An AWD is worth having if you live in an area that experiences a lot of mud, rain, and snow because it offers more control and traction in these conditions. 

When comparing AWD and 2WD, 2WD cars are fully capable of city and highway driving. However, owning an AWD in Australia offers significant advantages. If you love the outdoors and plan to go camping or beach-hopping often, driving an AWD gives you the convenience to do just that without spending more on a 4WD vehicle.

Related Questions

Do AWD Tyres Wear Faster?

AWD tyres can potentially wear out faster because torque can be applied to all wheels driven. An AWD system also increases the weight of a vehicle significantly. However, the lifespan of the wheels of AWD mostly depends on the driver’s attitude and the conditions the vehicle has to endure consistently. 

Do You Need a Permit to Drive on the Beach?

Australia has some national parks and beaches that require a driving permit. You can usually apply for this permit online, via phone, or on-site. Before driving on any beach in the country, check with the relevant authorities whether a permit is required or driving is prohibited. 

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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