What is BMW xDrive and sDrive?

There’s a bamboozling array of decisions to make when you buy a new BMW. One of which is the choice of which drive-system you should go for. There’s the two-wheel-drive setup – sDrive, or all-wheel-drive – xDrive.

Here’s a guide explaining the key differences to help you decide which one’s for you. Check out the ranges of BMWs greatest rivals – Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar.

What is BMW sDrive?

sDrive simply means the engine’s power is transmitted to only two wheels – in most cases, via the rear axle. While this is a traditional configuration for BMW, the addition of all-wheel-drive and hybrid systems means the brand uses sDrive to differentiate its two-wheel-drive offerings from other drivetrains.

Being the more conventional system, sDrive is available on most of the BMW range but some sportier models such as the Z4 are only available in sDrive. The BMW X3, X4 and X6 aren’t available with it – like many SUVs, you can only spec them with four-wheel-drive guises. The X1 and X5 however, can still be ordered with sDrive if you so choose.

What is BMW xDrive?

xDrive is the company’s fully-fledged all-wheel-drive system that’s an option on most of its cars. xDrive is a permanent all-wheel-drive system that, under normal driving conditions, sends 40 per cent of power to the front wheels and 60 per cent to the rears. This helps the car grip and, thanks to a clever computer, the amount of power delivered to each wheel varies depending on the driving conditions.

This means you get fantastic traction and grip at all times – whether that be on a twisty mountain road or squeezing into a small parking space. It’ll feel just as stable should you encounter a slippery slope or a snow-covered track. You’ll find xDrive is available on all BMW’s latest models with the exception of its 5 Series range, the cheaper 1 Series trims and some sports-orientated models.

Should I choose sDrive or xDrive?

Unless you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow or regularly take trips to the Alps, sDrive should fit the bill for most buyers. You get BMW’s legendary quality and driving experience, while returning better fuel consumption than xDrive is capable of.

Alternatively, if you like the knowledge you have a car that’s safe and will hold the road regardless of the weather, xDrive is the one to go for. You’ll have to pay for it, though – the cheapest 3 Series in sDrive guise will set you back around £25,000 while the cheapest xDrive comes in at more than £3,000 extra. You’ll find the same is the case across the board – expect to pay between three and five-thousand pounds more for an xDrive version.

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