Most cars are 4x2, meaning the car has four wheels and the engine sends power to two of them. They are either front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD); RWD is more common, though FWD isn't altogether uncommon. If you never leave the road, a RWD is the car you're looking for. It is possible to modify a 4x2 truck or SUV to do almost everything a four-wheel drive can do. There are extreme conditions when a real four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary.
The key factors to off-roading are ground clearance and traction. Lift kits and suspension upgrades can raise a two-wheel drive car to the necessary height for off-roading in most situations. A number of 4x2 pickups have limited slip-differentialsdifferentials that only lock up if the car detects a tire slipfor off-roading purposes.
A four-wheel drive describes a car that has four wheels and the engine powers all fourat least that's what it used to mean. Cars with the old 4WD were heavy, more expensive and gave rough rides on regular roads. These days, cars labeled as 4WD generally provide two or four-wheel drive modes that can be switched to with an internal lever. The four-wheel drive mode comes with low and high settings. The low setting provides greater low-end torque for pulling or climbing in an off-road environment. The high setting uses a center locking differential to prevent unnecessary slippage between the right and left wheels during slippery surface driving. All-wheel drive (AWD) is a newer term that refers to vehicles with no low or high gearing options. This is a misleading term because AWD cars are primarily front-wheel drive cars that provide power to the back wheels when a car sensor detects a front end slip and decides it needs more traction.