The Difference Between Quattro and xDrive

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Mechanical Systems De-Mystified. Which Is Better, Quattro or xDrive?

For a long time, Audi’s excellent Quattro system made them the king of all-wheel-drive German sport sedans. However, BMW’s xDrive system has been getting better and better with each successive generation. And they’ve narrowed the gap between Audi and BMW for top all-wheel-drive honors.

According to the video above, xDrive-equipped BMWs outsold Audi Quattros last year. So to say that BMW has gained market share in the segment is an understatement. The video also does a great job of explaining the differences between Quattro and xDrive, which we’ll try to summarize here.


The Quattro system is seen in cars like the A4 and A6. It utilizes a 50/50 split of of power distribution between the front and rear wheels, under normal driving conditions. A Torsen torque-sensing center differential is used to split the power between front and rear axles mechanically, while traction control and stability control systems fine-tune the amount of power sent to each wheel. When wheelslip is detected, the center differential locks, sending power to the other axle until the condition is remedied.

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BMW’s xDrive system, on the other hand, is considerably more high-tech, utilizing an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch system to determine where the power goes at any given time. This system is capable of sending 100% of its power to either axle when necessary. Under normal conditions, xDrive offers a 40/60 bias, with more power going to the rear wheels. This allows the xDrive system to offer prodigious traction while also keeping the characteristic BMW rear-wheel-drive experience intact.

While the mechanical simplicity of Quattro works exceptionally well, BMW’s high-tech take on all-wheel drive has its advantages, especially in low traction or performance applications. In fact, on Audi’s highest-performing models, it seems that they are gradually moving towards a system more like BMW’s. It’s true: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that goes for BMW as much as it does for Audi.

Cam Vanderhorst is a contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and MB World. He is also a co-host of the Cammed & Tubbed podcast.

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