The new AWD systems in the Jeeps use the ABS to maintain traction and control slip, etc. In a way its best of both worlds, but honestly it can't beat good old fashioned brute all 4 wheels locked at the same speed.I guess mainly what I am trying to understand, and forgive my ignorance, is how does an AWD system of the Durango or Explorer match up with a traditional 4WD set-up like my Command Trac in real-world performance. Since I have rarely used the 4-Lo setting, for my needs it's not a deal breaker. What I am wondering is how does a AWD system compare to 4-Hi as far as distribution of power to the four wheels. I know AWD systems are not all the same, but in general. I have done a lot of research on this, and it seems a little confusing at times because everyone has an opinion and they sometimes conflict...like most things in life I guess.
From your description, it doesn't sound like you need or used your part time 4WD for serious off roading, mudding and obstacles. So you will probably like the modern AWD systems and they will meet your needs.
By definition they are AWD, but they are always engaged full time 4WD, all open differentials, with a slight torque bias to the rear wheels, often a free wheeling unit to the front wheels so the front wheels don't back drive the xfr case. Making for smooth driving on pavement in dry or wet. The ESP/BAS system will use ABS and throttle control for traction and stability control (which you can turn off if desired). But it will also use ABS to energize brakes at wheels that spin and slip, i.e. the old one wheel stuck in mud that all the power goes too and leaves you stuck, it won't happen, the brake on that wheel will energize to limit its slipping and force power to the other wheels and get you moving/keep you moving. It turns all the open differentials into virtual limited slip differentials (granted a locking or true lsd does it better, but this system still does a pretty good job for most situations). The higher end versions of the AWD systems often have electronically controlled clutch systems to act like smart LSD's and to lock the differentials as well, to include at the XFR case. As well as give you 4WD low, that locks the XFR case as well.
Command Trac is just Part Time 4WD, the xfr case has a locked differential and your option to engage 4WD or RWD. And you can only engage 4WD in conditions where the wheels are slipping, otherwise you'll get driveline binding. Wet roads, engaging part time 4WD will cause wheel spinning in turns and you're more likely to loose control than gain any advantage from traction in straight line conditions. But, for serious off roading, it gets power to all 4 wheels very efficiently.
If you want to rock climb, spin wheels across a mud pit and do serious off roading trails and obstacles, the Command Trac will do better in those situations, as well as the suspension and ground clearance of the older Jeeps/Durango's. At the cost of NOT doing as well in most on road conditions, including poor weather and light snow on road.
If you want a good road manners, good in bad weather, and still respectable off road, the newer AWD systems will do that. NOT as effective for real challenging off road stuff like Command Trac, but then again, if you want to do that the suspension and ground clearance of the newer vehicles are also going to be a hamperment. Deep snow, the AWD system could probably do pretty well, the problem is going to be the ground clearance of the newer vehicles is going to hang you up sooner compared to some of the older vehicles. They are still going to be capable of off road stuff, its just a matter if they are as good as some of the older versions.