Most car enthusiasts like myself love the thrill of driving a car that makes the most of its power. Overall, adding a performance drivetrain system is one of the best ways to achieve this. However, the question here is whether BMW’s all-wheel-drive system on the xDrive models is worth owning or not?
BMW’s all-wheel-drive system, known as xDrive, is a clever all-wheel drive system that is available on most model BMWs. BMW xDrive is an all-wheel-drive system that gives you an extra layer of stability and control in inclement weather and when driving on unpaved roads.
If you’re shopping around in the very competitive and expensive BMW lineup, you may be considering an xDrive vehicle. Is BMW’s all-wheel-drive system, dubbed the xDrive, worth owning? Let’s find out!
BMW’s xDrive System Explained
We are sometimes forced to drive in sub-par weather conditions as everyday drivers. Heavy torrential downpours, winter storms, potholes, slick roads, and uneven driving surfaces can all work against us and make our driving experience unsafe.
Fortunately for us, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available for us to conquer these challenging road conditions. BMW first offered its xDrive system in the BMW X3 in 2003. Since then it has expanded it as an offering throughout its models, even the famous M Series now offers the xDrive system as an option. The latest M5 models are now able to switch between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive with the simple press of a button.
Audi has Quattro, Mercedes has 4Matic 4-Wheel drive systems, and BMW has xDrive. Here, we will be looking at BMW’s xDrive system.
What is xDrive?
BMW’s xDrive system is classed as an ‘all-wheel-drive’ system. Under normal driving conditions, about forty percent of the power is directed to the front wheels, and sixty percent is directed to the rear wheels.
When the Dynamic Stability Control system sensors detect wheel slippage (one or more wheels that spins quicker in relation to the other wheels), the power is diverted to the front, rear, or individual wheels to maximize the car’s grip and keep the car stable. A hundred percent of available power can be directed to an individual axle within a split second.
When the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) detects enough slippage, an internal clutch is activated that sends sufficient torque to the axle, which can apply maximum power to the road. Furthermore, individual braking force is applied to a slipping wheel on the axle that receives the bulk of the power to maximize the available grip.
The result of this unique system is what makes xDrive BMWs stick to the road better.
The Dynamic Performance Control starts with less power at the front axle to conserve as much of BMW’s traditional rear-wheel based performance as possible on high-performance models. The available torque will be re-distributed only when wheel slip is detected to the front wheels and axle.
BMW’s xDrive system uses an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch system that is lighter and can re-distribute power much faster than other hydraulically operated systems.
Is BMW’s XDrive System Worth It?
After driving in snowy weather, or wet weather conditions, you may have contemplated swapping your everyday vehicle for a four-wheel-drive car simply for the better handling and improved safety of a four-wheel-drive car.
With four-wheel-drive vehicles, you have less to worry about when driving on unsafe road conditions such as icy, snowy, and wet roads. But is a four-wheel drive going to be worth spending the extra money? Is it going to make much of a difference forking out the extra cash for an all-wheel-drive vehicle?
The BMW xDrive certainly will not solve all your problems. In fact, I have lost control before with a 4-wheel drive vehicle when I hit a road coated in black ice. xDrive is not a 100% guarantee that your vehicle will never have an issue in dangerous conditions, but it is a significant improvement over a 2-wheel drive vehicle.
On the off-chance that you plan on taking your BMW off-roading (odd choice, but I myself have driven a Mercedes Sedan through a cornfield before), the X-series BMW sports utility vehicles like the X5 and X7 are capable of doing the job.
Another important consideration is whether you will have to sacrifice some handling when you opt for a xDrive. The all-wheel-drive system does remove some of the precise handling and responsiveness that you get with traditional rear-wheel cars, but this is hardly noticeable in your everyday driving.
BMW xDrives Are More Expensive
Something else to consider is that BMWs equipped with xDrive are more expensive on the front-end and certain work will also prove to be more costly to repair than two-wheel cars. On the front-end, the xDrive option will cost you several thousand dollars more than the two-wheel option. Not a huge difference for a $50,000+ car, but you should be aware of the distinction.
On the repair side of things, xDrive BMWs do not carry a reputation for being significantly more unreliable than two-wheel drives, but you should be aware that some models have had more problems than others.
One significant problem that has appeared for many xDrive owners is the premature failure of the transfer case. This is a cause for worry as transfer case replacement brings along a several thousand dollar repair bill. My advice is to double-check reviews and common problems on whatever particular model xDrive vehicle you decide to purchase.
One other issue you will have to accept when purchasing an xDrive all-wheel-drive vehicle is the slightly lower fuel efficiency. In general xDrive vehicles will have less fuel efficiency because they are heavier and require more energy to send power to all four wheels.
A slightly higher fuel cost is a fairly low cost to pay for the extra traction in bad weather conditions. On the otherhand, you may also feel that you do not need the extra cost and lower fuel efficiency (especially given inflation in 2022) of an xDrive model when you could just add a set of winter tires for improved grip and handling.
If you live in a country like the UK or a state like Florida, where it is constantly raining and the roads will be slippery, then a BMW xDrive will be recommended when contemplating your next BMW. However, if you don’t live in an area that frequently has troublesome driving conditions and you don’t plan to use your vehicle for off-roading, a standard two-wheel drive BMW will likely suit you fine.
Over the long term, you may find that the BMW xDrive system is worth having if you reside in an area where it often snows. If you don’t live in such a climate or don’t need/want the extra features of this all-wheel-drive system, buying a car with an all-wheel-drive can be a luxury that you can do without.
Ultimately, it is up to you, the potential xDrive owner, to decide if all-wheel drive is right for you. The decision will be based on your driving needs and wants from a luxury vehicle. The bottom line is that if you most frequently travel in areas with wet, icy, or snowy roads and are looking for a luxury SUV, the BMW xDrive will fill that need perfectly fine.