BMW Celebrates 30 Years of All-Wheel Drive

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer xDrive badge 1 photo
Photo: Florin Profir
2015 is proving to be a year full of celebrations for BMW, and today we’re going to take a closer look at its xDrive all-wheel drive system. Believe it or not, it’s been 30 years since the first all-wheel drive car built by the German brand was launched, and a lot has changed in the meantime.
Don’t think the BMW E30 325i Allrad had the same system found in today’s cars, but it was, nonetheless, sending its power to all four corners of the car. Today, that is done in a variety of ways, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

According to the Germans, since day one their goal was to offer AWD for more than just added grip in a straight line. They wanted the drivers to have the same feeling behind the wheel as they did inside an RWD model. Dynamics was just as important as traction, something they seemingly forgot these days with the introduction of front-wheel-drive-based systems that only send some of the power to the rear axle, when needed.

The 325i Allrad was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985 and was especially useful in bad weather. On that initial model, the power was split in a ratio of 37 to 63 percent between the front and rear wheels.

Depending on the wheel speed differences, visco locks in the transfer case and the rear differential were capable of providing a really rigid connection between the front and rear axle for various purposes. Soon after the launch, the car’s name was changed to 325iX, and starting with 1988 it was offered just as a Touring model.

That was and remains the first BMW with power sent to all wheels of the car, something few people envisioned under the blue and white umbrella back in the day, and yet, here we are, looking at modern xDrive models as an essential part of sales figures.

To be more precise, around 30 percent of the cars sold worldwide by the Bavarian brand today are fitted with all-wheel-drive systems and the percentage is not made up by X models alone. You can now get anything from a 1 Series to the 7 Series equipped with the xDrive system and that won’t change anytime soon.

As a matter of fact, the choice is getting broader by the day and right now, globally, the Germans have 110 models (featuring either transmission type) with xDrive in 12 different model series, and that includes cars like the i8 and BMW 225xe, which are also hybrids on top of AWD.

On the new 7 Series, the xDrive system is also combined with integral steering, a premiere for the Munich-based company that proves its work on such systems is never ending, innovation being a must these days. We’re sure other models will get the same optional features in the future, one of the first probably being the upcoming M5.
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