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.

xDrive

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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