BMWs are widely popular vehicles which means there are many questions about them. One of these questions revolves around the differences in the drive system you can choose for in a BMW. Let’s start with a quick answer:
The difference between BMW xDrive and sDrive is that xDrive is an all-wheel-drive system and sDrive is a rear-wheel-drive system. xDrive systems provide more traction in rainy or snowy conditions, whereas sDrive systems cost $2,000 less and have a slightly better fuel economy.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question wholly. Below, we’ll first explain the technical differences between xDrive and sDrive and how this affects the car’s driveability. After that, we’ll look at the three main differences and what factors influence the drive system. We’ll also look at what BMWs have, what drive system, and what system you should choose. Read on!
What is xDrive and sDrive
xDrive and sDrive are different drive systems that are available on BMWs, regardless of which region you’re buying in. Each has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, not every car has xDrive or sDrive. Below, we’ll first explain the differences between xDrive and sDrive.
xDrive is BMWs all-wheel-drive system that was first introduced in 2003. BMWs already had an all-wheel-drive option before this time. However, the xDrive system is considered to be a more advanced option. By default, the system has a 40:60 split between the front and rear axle. The system can send 100% of the torque to either axle, but this can only be done to the front axle if traction in the rear is completely lost.
Compared to its predecessors, the xDrive system was a smoother operating system. This is because it uses the braking of the electronic stability system, which helps brake the wheel when they’re slipping while remaining traction. This is considered a better option than viscous couplings (a system that relies on the transferring of torque via a mechanical device and viscous fluid), which the earlier BMWs used.
In 2008, BMW introduced an upgraded version of the BMW xDrive called Dynamic Power Control. The system is considered smoother to operate than the original xDrive system. This seems to be especially true in situations where understeer/oversteer are common.
On the other hand, there’s sDrive, a completely different system than xDrive. The main difference between the two is that sDrive is a two-wheel-drive system. Specifically, it’s (mainly) a rear-wheel-drive system.
The system was first introduced because it provided variation in the drive systems that BMW had for offer. Most cars had all-wheel, four-wheel, or front-wheel drive. Even though these are all good options, they lacked the ‘fun’ of the driving experience that rear-wheel-drive cars typically provide.
The system uses torque vectoring (an electronic system that sends torque to different wheels) to adjust traction. The introduction of the sDrive system ended up being a great success. Nowadays, around 35% of all BMWs sold in North America are sold with sDrive.
Other Differences Between xDrive and sDrive
Now that you know the main differences between the two systems, it’s also important to highlight some other differences that don’t directly relate to how the system operates.
First of all, there will be a price difference between the two options. We went through multiple BMW models to check this specific difference. In general, xDrive costs $2,000 – $2,200 more than sDrive on all BMW models. Smaller models, such as the X1 and X2, will cost $2,000 more, whereas the larger SUVs, such as the X6, cost $2,200 more for xDrive.
Second, there is a slight difference in fuel economy between the sDrive and xDrive versions. However, we must also note that it’s not a very large difference. Generally, the fuel economy of the xDrive BMWs is one mile per gallon less than that of the sDrive versions.
Another slight difference between the two drive systems is the vehicle’s acceleration. BMWs equipped with an xDrive system have more traction, which means they have a faster 0 – 60 mph time than sDrive vehicles.
This difference isn’t that significant. For example, the largest difference we found was the BMW X1 which has a 0-60 time of 6.3 with xDrive and 6.6 with sDrive. On the other hand, the 0-60 times of the X6 and the 2-series are within 0.1 seconds of each other. So, it’s a difference but almost not worth noting.
Reliability is the final point we want to discuss. Not because there are significant differences between the two drive systems, but because there aren’t, and it’s good to know that.
We did some research online to find defects of either the xDrive or sDrive system that the owners mentioned. Also, we looked at recalls related to these systems. Luckily, we found that, even though BMWs are generally very unreliable and very expensive to maintain, both drive systems are very solid.
The only slight defect we found was that some mid-2010 models with xDrive had an issue with the transfer case, which would give out around the 50,000 miles mark. However, most of these were covered under warranty.
Another thing that doesn’t change between the two different drive systems is the car’s towing capacity. This is more related to the vehicle’s framework and the engine and transmission than it has to do with the drive system.
Which Cars Have xDrive and sDrive available?
Most BMWs have the option for either an xDrive or a sDrive system. BMW sedans such as the 2 – 7 series all have sDrive as a standard. However, they are also available with xDrive. The same can be said for the X1, X2, X3, and X6. On the other hand, the BMW X4, X5, X7, and the 8-series all have xDrive as a standard.
Can You Turn Off xDrive?
Another question prospective BMW buyers have is whether or not it’s possible to turn off xDrive and turn the vehicle in a rear-wheel-drive BMW. The answer to this is as follows:
BMW xDrive cannot be turned off to turn the vehicle into a two-wheel-drive car. xDrive only disengages power to the front wheels when traction at those wheels is lost completely. You cannot turn off xDrive yourself.
What Drive System Fits You Best?
The final question we need to answer is what drive system fits you best. The answer to that is quite simple. If you live in an area of North America where the weather is unpredictable and it involves quite a lot of snow or rain, then the xDrive system is always going to be your best option. It’s not worth it to risk your health and safety and a large chunk of financial resources to not opt for this option.
On the other hand, if you live in an area where the weather doesn’t become hostile from time to time, then a sDrive system is a great option as well. The system is cheaper, allowing you to either save or spend it on other more necessary features. Furthermore, sDrive systems are considered more fun to drive and more agile.
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Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!