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Is the Toyota Land Cruiser AWD or 4WD?

There are numerous powertrain and drive mode systems available, and we understand it can get very confusing. Toyota is one of many manufacturers that offer 4-wheel drive (4WD), all-wheel drive (AWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), 2-wheel drive (2WD), and basically any other drive system you can think of.

The Toyota Land Cruiser is a full-time 4-wheel drive (4WD) built to combat any terrain and environment. The Land Cruiser capabilities are enhanced with active traction control for full-time automatic traction and grip which is controlled by the vehicle, and all four wheels are engaged at all times.

Hopefully, we can answer any more questions you might have below. Like what’s the difference between AWD and 4WD? The names are a little contradictory because both instigate the use of all four tires so what’s the difference!? See, we understand your confusion. Carry on reading below to find out more information on the Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD system and how it differs from others.

Is The Toyota Land Cruiser AWD or 4WD?

The Toyota Land Cruiser has always been a 4-wheel drive (4WD), front-engine system since the beginning of its marketing journey in 1951, 70 years ago.

The Land Cruiser has an extensive history dating back to Korean wartime where demand for durable and reliable light utility vehicles was high. The first Land Cruiser was designed and manufactured to order only and was originally known as a Jeep with part-time 4WD facilities.

The 4WD abilities impressed military officiants and large orders were placed for military purposes mainly because of the impressive 4WD feat whereby the Land Cruiser (Jeep) was able to drive part-way up Mount Fuji when this had never been done before. This is something an AWD system would not be able to achieve.

Although they are similar systems, some major differences set these drive trains apart and we’ll get into further detail below to explain just how different they are.

What’s the Difference Between Part-Time and Full-Time 4WD?

Toyota Land Cruisers are a full-time, front-engine, 4WD system which means the internal combustion engine is placed at the front of the vehicle and the engine sends power to all four tires of the vehicle for better driving control on all roads and off-road surfaces.

While the Toyota Land Cruiser is a full-time 4WD, Toyota also supplies part-time 4WD in some of its other vehicles.

Here are some examples of other vehicles that Toyota manufactures with part-time 4WD systems:

  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Toyota 4×4 Tundra

So, what exactly is the difference between part-time and full-time 4WD systems?

Just like a part-time worker is someone who may work fewer hours than a full-time worker, a part-time 4WD system is a system that only works some of the time. Meaning you can choose when to turn on your 4WD system manually. Drivers with a part-time 4WD system might only need the 4WD feature some of the time and having a full-time 4WD system just isn’t feasible or necessary.

Having a part-time 4WD system in place means the driver has the flexibility to easily change between 4WD and its other drive system when necessary. This is a great option to have for those who want to have the one car for everyday use as well as for weekend and off-road use for some spontaneous adventuring.

A major difference between part-time and full-time 4WD is that full-time 4WD vehicles have more control than the driver does. The car can easily shift and switch accurately to the drive mode needed for the terrain being driven on and the driver doesn’t need to control the 4WD powertrain and drive modes. The driver gets to sit back and relax knowing the vehicle will take care of the hard work.

Full-time 4WD mode vehicles can be more expensive to run as they are heavier and use more petrol (or diesel) but they’re a great option for those who take their vehicle on off-road journeys and beaten paths regularly.

Some 4WD trains, like a part-time 4WD system, need to have the vehicle completely stopped to be able to switch to 4WD mode whereas full-time 4WD does not.

The later models of the Toyota 4Runner, Limited series, also offer a full-time 4WD system.

While some might argue that full-time 4WD is bad for the vehicle and places stress on the drivetrain system, the Toyota Land Cruiser is designed for full-time 4WD abilities and has a low rate of reported maintenance and mechanical problems when compared with numerous other vehicles on the road.


All-wheel drive (AWD) and 4-wheel drive (4WD) have very few differences between the two. Both are fine for off-road adventures with great traction control abilities along with road grip but the 4WD offers greater off-road advantages than the AWD option.

Where AWD is seen as a safety feature in vehicles, 4WD is seen as an off-road terrain enhancing feature in vehicles that want to travel further away from the known and driven paths to create their own path. It’s called four-wheel driving and people do this as a hobby and as a life choice.  

AWD systems still generally work as a two-wheel drive (2WD) system and automatically switch to AWD when and if necessary. For example, the wheels will detect a lack of traction on slippery or snowy roads and will automatically engage the second set of tires.


  • Superior traction compared with 2WD, FWD, and RWD vehicles
  • Fine for light – normal snow and slippery conditions
  • Fine for light-duty, off-road, clear pathed environments
  • Good ground clearance
  • Supplies power to all four wheels when required
  • Send most power to the front wheels
  • AWD vehicles are not as capable as 4WD vehicles in off-road driving situations

AWD systems are becoming more popular in the American market because they are more fuel-efficient than 4WD, are mostly cheaper vehicles, and can handle most driving conditions and environments.

According to statistics, buyers are willing to pay higher prices for AWD vehicles in today’s market. This is above all other drive trains including 4WD vehicles.


  • Superior traction compared with 2WD, FWD, RWD, and AWD vehicles
  • Excellent traction for all driving environments including heavy snow, loose sand, and deep mud
  • Enhanced abilities for all off-road, un-pathed environments
  • Superior ground clearance
  • Supplies power to all four tires full-time
  • Sends most power to the back wheels

Although 4WDs, the Toyota Land Cruiser, in particular, are built for endurance, longevity, and reliability, they are more expensive to run and may not get as many miles per gallon as other drive systems. Though Land Cruisers are famous for lasting hundreds and thousands of miles on the clock.

4WDs are not the cheapest to run and in the case of the Land Cruiser, 4WDs are not necessary vehicles for on-road and everyday family use. Hence why the American market is now leaning more towards AWD vehicles despite the superior features of a 4WD.


Although AWD and 4WD vehicles have some similarities in their manufacturing, the Toyota Land Cruiser gains the majority of its popularity and fame from being a robust, reliable, long-lasting, mountain climbing, mud swimming, extremely durable 4-wheel drive.

The Land Cruiser would not have the popular name it has for itself today if it were merely an AWD system as AWDs just can’t compete in off-road and extreme driving environments against a 4WD of any make or model.

Land Cruisers might be discontinued in America, but other countries like Australia deeply rely on vehicles like the 4WD SUV Land Cruiser and will continue its popular name through the ages.