VIDEO: BMW xDrive vs Audi Quattro — Which is better?

Interesting, News, Videos | February 18th, 2017 by 27
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All-wheel drive in performance and luxury sedans has been around for some time but it was really made famous by the Audi UR Quattro of …

All-wheel drive in performance and luxury sedans has been around for some time but it was really made famous by the Audi UR Quattro of the 1980’s. The original Audi Quattro dominated the World Rally Championship during its time and put the four-ringed brand on the performance map. However, since then, BMW has been hard at work with its own all-wheel drive system, now known as xDrive, ever since the original E30 BMW 325ix. Both systems are incredibly popular nowadays and purchased on almost all vehicles from each brand in the US. But which system is better?

In this new video from Car Throttle, we get a good description and visual breakdown of how each system works. If you’re a mechanical nerd (like this guy), this is a very cool video for you. It’s interesting to see how each system works entirely differently and how two brands came up with such different solutions to powering all four wheels.

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Audi’s Quattro system uses a mechanical Torsen (Torque Sensing) center differential, which monitors wheel slip and can send power back and forth to whichever axle requires it. It works in a purely mechanical way, using the viscous-coupling Torsen diff, and is probably the more durable and reliable system of the two. If you ever want to take a deep dive into how Audi engineered the original Quattro system, using the tough restrictions of the old-school VW platform, it’s fascinating and quite brilliant.

BMW’s xDrive system using a multi-plate clutch that can send power to the front wheels if the rears start to slip. Modern xDrive systems use sensors that monitor wheel slip ever .01 seconds and, if necessary, can send some of the power to the front but only enough to regain traction. It’s still predominantly a rear-biased system, whereas the Audi Quattro uses┬ámore of a 50/50 torque split between the axles under normal circumstances.

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Each car’s all-wheel drive system has its advantages over the other. Because Audi’s Quattro is more mechanical, it’s more reliable and durable. Also, because its torque is more evenly split, only sending more power to an axle when necessary, it’s better for harsher conditions. However, because Audi’s Quattro system requires resistance from one axle to send power to another axle, it can never send 100 percent of the power to just one axle, which can be an issue under certain, albeit rare, circumstance. BMW’s xDrive is quicker to respond, thanks to its impressive electronic sensors, and can actually send 100 percent of power to the rear axle, which not only makes it better for certain circumstances but also more fun.

Each car’s systems have their pros and cons. However, under most normal circumstances, it’s actually probably BMW’s xDrive that works better. During normal driving, it’s going to send most of the power to the rear wheels, giving it that natural rear-drive feel. But it can also accurately send power to whichever axle needs it faster and more efficiently. Audi’s Quattro is the more durable system and the better system for serious snow or mud. Having used both extensively, I’d rather have BMW’s xDrive for everyday life, with some rain and light snow, but would rather have Audi’s Quattro in heavy snow climates or for some muddy rally driving. Check out the video and tell us what you think.

27 responses to “VIDEO: BMW xDrive vs Audi Quattro — Which is better?”

  1. Guillaume Perret says:

    I didn’t get why the Xdrive would be less capable on snow.
    I use it quite often and have no issue with it … (not saying Xdrive has to be better than Quattro)

    • XDrive isn’t bad in snow by any means. But Quattro’s mechanical locking center diff is better at putting power down more efficiently in really slippery conditions. However, if one axle completely loses traction, Quattro is screwed and xDrive has the upper hand.

  2. CDspeed says:

    I drove the M4 when it first hit the market, and for comparison while I was at the dealer I drove a loaded 435i xDrive. Near the dealer is a fantastic twisty county road with no traffic. I did notice with xDrive at speed in a corner, that I could feel the extra grip in the front wheels, and pull the car in even tighter. I liked the added confidence in the corners, I’ve driven a few Audi’s on that road but I really can’t say one is definitively better then the other.

    • On dry pavement, I prefer xDrive. It’s more rear-biased under normal driving and understeers far less. At least from my experience so far.

      • CDspeed says:

        It is nice to have power from the rear wheels, and then have the front wheels join in.

        • guest says:

          I’ve seen xDrive dig itself out with the front wheels, if there’s no traction at the rears’. Doesn’t it send the torque where needed?

          • CDspeed says:

            It’s supposed to.

          • guest says:

            That’s what I mean – xDrive can go fwd., but is an Audi ever rwd.?

          • Guillaume Perret says:

            xDrive can never be fully FWD because the rear axle is always mechanically engaged, although with the smallest amount of torque possible (10% I believe)
            My guess is that when the rear is spinning, the brakes are coming into action to stop that and allow the torque to go to the front. (like an eletronic LSD)

  3. Dan says:

    It’s a shame on the timing of this article as whilst it was relevant (mostly) on the Audi tech a while ago, they’ve now launched Quattro Ultra which completely disengages the rear driveshaft and can flip between Front Wheel Drive and Four Wheel Drive every 250ms, thus getting 2WD efficiency benefits but 4WD traction/stability when needed. I can’t speak on the xDrive system, but even before Quattro Ultra, there were already 3 types of quattro fitted to different models depending on which model, layout and spec of engine with mechanical and electronic versions.

    So the article is right when comparing Torsen-based Quattro, but it’s not the only version they did so perhaps is over-simplifying.

    Note am not saying the other quattro systems are better and/or better than xDrive, just that they exist so would have been better to compare all of them, a relatively simple thing given this article is theory/engineering based rather than user experience….

    • Yes, the new Quattro Ultra is capable of disengaging the rear axle but it’s very new and hasn’t had a lot of testing yet. Plus, the video that this article is referencing mentions that.

      Also, not all Audi cars with “Quattro” badges actually use Quattro, such as all transversely mounted engined Audis, which use Haldex setups just labeled Quattro. True Quattro is a Torsen-based longitudinal layout all-wheel drive system and it works as mentioned in the video.

    • guest says:

      But that 2wd efficiency is FWD. Why do you think BMW avoided going AWD on their M vehicles for so long? Even if as rumoured you can disengage it from the next M5, the default will be rwd.

  4. Naldo Machito says:

    What can I say? Audi kicks BMW’s stupid ass as always.

  5. Giom says:

    Awesome video! Very informative and factual. I’ve always wondered about this…

  6. Kaisuke971 says:

    This just shows how useless the switchable AWD would be for the M5, especially when you consider their new sportier systems (first used on the M760Li) are even more rear-biased.

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