Tesla All Wheel Drive (AWD) Vs Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

One of the decisions that many Tesla buyers need help with is whether to go with all-wheel drive (AWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD). Price is a factor for many people, but range and performance also matter. AWDs are more expensive, but they offer a better range and performance, while RWDs are cheaper, but you don’t get the performance of AWDs.  

The Tesla AWD has better performance, torque, and traction, making it ideal for rough terrain and snow. Unfortunately, it’s more expensive. On the other hand, the RWD is cheaper, quieter, and has a bigger trunk. However, it has a lower range and is slower.

The AWD Tesla is necessary for some people because they live in areas where the RWD is ineffective. Likewise, owning an AWD may be a waste of money if you don’t need the features. In this article, I’ll explore the pros and cons of AWD and RWD Teslas and how to choose the right one for you. 

tesla awd vs rwd good

Get a clear understanding of how Tesla electric cars function with my user-friendly guide, written in plain English for easy comprehension.

Comparison Between Tesla AWD and Tesla RWD

As electric cars become more popular, the choice of which electric vehicle to go for has become even more complex. The difference in price between the single motor (RWD) and dual motors (AWD) versions has made the decision more difficult. 

Are the differences in Tesla AWD systems worth the extra $10,000 or more (depending on the model) above the asking price for the RWD Tesla? 

The answer is yes and no. There is no standard answer because the road you use, weather conditions, charging needs, and so much more will determine if the RWD or AWD is more suitable for you. 

For manufacturers, AWD cars are more sophisticated. The dual motor system requires more parts and resources. This is why it’s more expensive to manufacture a Tesla AWD than an RWD. Additionally, buyers also pay extra for safety and performance features in the AWD. 

The table below provides an overview of the differences between the Tesla RWD and AWD.

Tesla RWDTesla AWD
Delivers power to the rear wheelsThe front and back axles get power simultaneously, so all the wheel systems are engaged at once
Poor traction control on snow, wet, and rough terrainsBetter handling on rough roads
Lower range and lower performanceFaster and covers a greater range
Lap time is 99 secondsLap time is 94 seconds
Costs less to buyMore expensive
Lighter weightHeavier
Takes longer to charge to 100%Faster charging times

AWD Teslas

The first thing to have in mind is Teslas with AWD features come at a premium price. For example, the 2022 Tesla Model 3 (RWD) costs $46,990, while the AWD version goes for $69,000. 

The price difference is so steep that some buyers question if the upgrade is necessary. While price is a critical consideration, of more importance are the features you get when you buy the AWD Tesla and whether you need them. 

AWD Teslas have dual motors: one at the rear axle and another at the front axle. These motors provide extra traction control to electric vehicles, making the AWD Tesla an ideal choice if you drive on snow or rough terrain. 

The AWD option also has better performance and is the reason it is available as an upgrade in Tesla models (Models 3 and Y) with the RWD as the standard feature. It is faster and accelerates better. 

The table below compares various aspects of the Model 3 and Model Y RWD and AWD range and speed.

Range0 – 60 mphTop Speed
Model 3 RWD267 miles (430 km)5.8 seconds140 mph (225 kph)
Model 3 AWD (Long range)334 miles (538 km)4.2 seconds145 mph (233 kph)
Model 3 AWD (Performance)315 miles (507 km)3.1 seconds162 mph (261 kph)
Model Y RWD283 miles (455 km)6.6 seconds135 mph (217 kph)
Model Y AWD (Long range)318 miles (512 km)4.8 seconds135 mph (217 kph)
Model Y AWD (Performance)303 miles (488 km) 3.5 seconds155 mph (249 kph)

As illustrated in the table above, the two Tesla models offering both RWD and AWD features have distinct differences. Most people are more concerned about how far they can drive on a single charge and the vehicle’s speed. 

AWD Teslas beat the rear-wheel drive in range and speed. However, the difference in top speed is not so substantial between the RWD and AWD. Tesla Model 3 and Model Y RWD have the slowest acceleration rates. 

Tesla Model S Plaid has the fastest acceleration, only taking 1.99 seconds from 0 to 60 mph (96.6 kph). 

The independent motors on the front wheels of the Tesla AWD make the EV heavier and offer better balance and stability. However, Tesla vehicles weigh over 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg), so whether you get an RWD or AWD, you are getting a stable vehicle. It’s just that the AWD has better weight distribution and stability. 

You may not need the extra weight for regular city drives. However, if your region experiences harsh winter conditions, you’ll need a car with better traction. You can get this from a Tesla AWD. 

Unfortunately, the extra weight means the AWD model sits a little lower than the RWD model. So, even though the AWD drives great on rough terrains and handles snow and slippery roads better, you may have a little bit of trouble with the clearance. 

The charging speeds in AWD vehicles are also faster than the RWD Tesla models. However, the additional weight leads to a faster loss in range, but it is negligible. 

RWD Teslas

Tesla Model 3 is arguably the most popular electric vehicle globally. It is also one of the two Tesla vehicles that come with RWD as standard (the other is the Model Y). All the Tesla models that came after these two have AWD as the standard drive train. 

Admittedly, the AWD versions have a lot going for them. If anything, Tesla has built on the superior features of AWD by offering upgrades, such as a longer range. However, this doesn’t mean RWD wheel drive systems are obsolete. 

Model X and Model Y are still popular for several reasons, and these are mostly linked to the RWD system. These reasons include the following:

  • They are cheaper.
  • They are reasonably fast. An RWD Model X takes 5.8 seconds to get to 60 mph (96.6 kph), while the long-range model (AWD version) takes 4.2 seconds.
  • They are great for city drives.
  • They are more nimble than AWD EVs. This is primarily because Tesla RWD cars are lighter, and they corner better. 

The top speed of the RWD Teslas is lower than that of the AWD Teslas. However, if you only drive in the city and are probably stuck in traffic half of the time, this may not be an issue for you. 

One of the arguments against Tesla RWD has been battery degradation. Earlier RWD models have NCA batteries, which shouldn’t be charged to 100%. Instead, Tesla recommends charging to 80% or 90% for daily use and 100% for long-distance road trips.

With the 100% charge on LFP batteries, RWDs offer a better range, making them more competitive against Tesla AWD. 

Fortunately, Tesla allows trade-ins. If you have a rear-wheel drive and wish to upgrade to a Tesla AWD, you can easily reach out to Tesla and find out how to proceed with the trade-in and the cost implications.  

A little known fact that may be worth noting now is that regardless of whether you choose AWD or RWD, a Tesla cannot be flat-towed due to the fact that its electric motor and wheels are always connected.

Is RWD or AWD Better for Electric Cars?

When you have a quick glance at some of the latest Tesla models, it’s easy to assume that the RWD is being phased out. This is because the RWD feature is only available in Model 3 and Model Y. All the other Tesla cars have AWD as the standard feature.

AWD is better than RWD for electric cars because it offers better acceleration, speed, traction control, and range. It also reduces skidding when driving on icy roads and on snow. However, AWD cars are more expensive than RWD electric cars, and you don’t always need the higher performance features.

If you can afford the AWD Tesla performance model, go for it. It gives you better driving flexibility, especially when going off-road. However, if you have a tight budget, an RWD electric car is still great, and when you need advanced traction on snow, you can use winter tires. 

The Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 235/40R (available on Amazon.com) has a winter tread design to boost traction when driving on snow. The double arrow design improves performance on snow. 

How the Tesla Rear Wheel Drive Handles Snow

I have discussed extensively the advantages of driving AWD Tesla cars on snow, and it’s easy to assume the RWD is completely useless during winter. This is not true. Yes, the AWD is preferable, but with the right season tires, the RWD Tesla will be safe on snow and icy roads. 

RWD Teslas have a lower center of gravity, so compared to four-wheel drives, they perform better on snow. However, they will still slide if you are not equipped for the season. Your RWD Tesla will get you through the winter season safely and comfortably with winter tires

So, when you have winter tires on a Tesla AWD, it will have even more traction. Tesla RWD will also get you from point A to B without any difficulty when you use winter tires. However, when you compare the two cars when preparing for winter, the AWD Tesla still offers superior performance on snow. 

Besides having winter tires, you should also customize your driving using chill mode. This way, you can adjust Tesla’s auto-braking, which can be a little unnerving when you release the accelerator or brake pedal. 

You can also adjust the acceleration option to better control the car. 

All these features are available in RWD models, so with the right season tires, you can comfortably drive an RWD Tesla on snow.

Here is a video showing a Tesla Model 3 RWD performance on snow:


A Tesla AWD has more to offer than a rear-wheel Tesla. Unfortunately, you’ll pay more for the advanced technology and features of the AWD. 

On the other hand, a rear-wheel-drive Tesla is an equally great car. They are popular because of the lower price tag, reasonable range, and relatively high speed.

Jonathan Rice

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