How to Tell the Difference Between a 2WD & AWD Honda Elementby Richard Rowe
The Honda Element undoubtedly looks a bit gawky -- something like a baby elephant on roller skates. But its odd-by-American-standards proportions and vast interior volume belie a chassis that feels surprisingly planted and nimble for an SUV.
The simplest way to identify an AWD Element is by the "Real-Time 4WD" badge on the rear liftgate. Also, through the 2008 model year, the all-wheel-drive version had the rear sunroof and the front-wheel-drive version did not. But the litmus test is to look underneath the chassis for a driveshaft and a rear differential. The Element is front-wheel-drive in base form, meaning that the base model lacks a transfer case, a driveshaft and a rear differential. If you're looking at it from the back, the base model's rear axle is completely flat on the bottom; the four-wheel-drive Element's differential, set right in the middle of the axle, is almost impossible to miss as it protrudes from the bottom of the axle tube. There's almost 7 inches of ground clearance under a four-wheel-drive Element, so you should have plenty of space to see what's going on under there.
Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.