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How to Tell the Difference Between a 2WD & AWD Honda Element

by 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.

AWD System

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.

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