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quattro vs. xdrive test

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Rollers test Audi Q5 vs. BMW X3

This test "compares" the Audi Q5 quattro with torsen center differential and the BMW X3 xDrive all wheel drive. For this test, the BMW representatives exposed the weakness of the TorSen differential (see quattro evolutions), which is inability to lock fully when no traction is sensed on one of the axles.

In this particular condition the BMW's all wheel drive is superior to Audi's TorSen-based quattro.

The BMW's xDrive is technically more similar to Haldex all wheel drive, which is used on V.A.G. vehicles with transverse engine mounting. BMW can be compared to VW Tiguan, and AwdWiki.com believes VW would behave in this test the same way as the BMW.

Audi Q5 quattro rollers test

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BMW X3 xDrive rollers test

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There are 12 comments
February 21, 2017 - 02:19

If AUdi is that good with AWD. Simple proof it by presenting their vehicle against the BMW. Audi has not done this, they only show their vehicle but never perform a comparison against BMW as BMW does.

January 10, 2016 - 08:51

The problem with TorSen is that when there is zero resistance it has nothing to send to the other side of the TorSen unit, (as we all know, anything times zero is still zero) but this is easily overcome by applying the brakes, which adds resistance. This can be a problem on the road, because the driver might not know to hit the brakes lightly, but that is where traction control comes into play. The ABS sensor in the wheel will notice that it is spinning faster that the others and send a signal to the traction control system, which will apply the brake to that one wheel, or in the case of the video, two wheels, allowing the TorSen unit to send torque to the other axle. So, in this test, either the quattro vehicle didn't have traction control, or the person running the test purposefully turned off the traction control to exploit this weakness, or the traction control unit wasn't smart enough to know what to do when two wheels are spinning. Whatever was the cause in this video, when both parts of a TorSen/traction control AWD system are working properly, it is hard to beat.

December 21, 2015 - 11:16

Any Subaru Forester is better

February 19, 2014 - 02:36

I dunno about this. Coming from a BMW X5M, going to an Audi A6 Quattro, the Audi handles the snow and ice WAY better. Had both on All Season tires. The BMW could get stuck fairly easily. The Audi I haven't been able to get stuck, no matter what. It just plows its way through anything. If the bumper wasn't so low, I'd put it up against an off road rig in just about any conditions.

Reply to Mike
May 12, 2015 - 10:52

While both have capable awd systems I think the reason for your experience is all to do with tyre width. BMW x5m could be on 315/35 R20 and the Audi A6 goes to 255/35 R19.

January 15, 2014 - 23:20

In my country we did this great test. Audi somehow performs better than BMW. Actually I am myself very curious to find out which is better.


November 10, 2013 - 07:06

Quoting the long-winded Audi fanboy: "Both wheels of an axle losing traction at once? What were you trying to do? Reverse off a ledge? Drive on to a frozen lake?"

Ummmm... if both wheels on an axle rarely lose traction, what is the point of awd? For 2wd vehicles the problems is specifically that both wheels lose traction, even in an LSD axle. So, for you to claim like that is an unlikely scenario just proves your ignorance. Regarding the frozen lake comment: an ice-covered road is essentially the same thing. Ice is ice. And level ice and a frozen lake may as well be the same to a car. Stop spouting ignorance and deal with the facts.

June 23, 2013 - 23:46

All-wheel Drive systems all have their advantages and disadvantages. This BMW bunch in the video (more than likely just a dealer doing their own X3 launch to prospective customers) know how to exploit a potential weakness in Torsen centre differential-based Quattro. A Torsen differential is an exquisite (for nerds like me at least) piece of mechanical engineering. It’s purely mechanical unit – not making use of viscous fluids or electronically actuated clutches – that comprises of helical gears located in a planetary gear arrangement. Purely through the laws of physics this Torque-Sensing (Torsen – get it?) differential apportions torque front to rear – when employed as a centre diff – in infinitely variable amounts depending on which side of the diff has the most frictional resistance. So, depending on which axle has the most grip Torsen will send as much of the torque as possible to that axle. It’s a superb device for road cars, infinitely apportioning torque back-and-forth to the grippier axle.
Here's a post on an Audi Forum;

"Disadvantages: a Torsen diff is a torque multiplying device. This means that if a complete loss of frictional resistance is experienced at one end, then no torque can be delivered to the other side.
Quite simply: Torque x 0 = 0. Another, lesser disadvantage is the mechanical limitation of a Torsen diff to apportion more than a certain percentage of torque. If I recall correctly, only about 80% of the drive can be apportioned to either side. Now here’s the cool thing: as soon as any resistance is available at an axle, just like a tyre gripping the road, Torsen works – beautifully. Modern traction control systems do exactly this; by braking the disc of a spinning wheel (or wheels) resistance is restored and the drive can be sent to the axle with the grip.

I am 95% certain that unscrupulous demonstration techniques are at work here: the Q5 has had its traction control system disabled (more than likely the fuse has been pulled) because the demonstration is purposely and childishly designed to exploit the mathematical limitation in Torsen and not the complete Quattro solution as a whole. In exactly the same way that a road provides resistance to the wheels, the traction control system will brake the spinning wheels restoring resistance for Torsen to work.

BMW’s xDrive uses clutches electronically to engage either side of the differential and as a result xDrive can apportion the full 100% of drive to the front or rear axle. Hence the format of the demonstration, which I might add is very unrepresentative of a real world condition that you may encounter. Both wheels of an axle losing traction at once? What were you trying to do? Reverse off a ledge? Drive on to a frozen lake? Ahh, of course, you were doing a BMW technology demonstration.

Every permanent all-wheel drive system needs some form of centre differential to allow the front and rear wheels to rotate at different speeds (because they do when cornering as the front axle tracks a different path to the rear) and some of these devices work better than others in certain conditions and vice versa. This is purely as a result of the compromises arising from the elected mechanical solutions than some my-brand-of-4x4 –is-better-than-yours nonsense.

A much more telling measure of an AWD system’s ability to cope with a greater variation of low-grip scenarios is to check out what kind of limited slip differentials are located at one or more axle. The reason I say this is that the marketers use the term “transferring torque to the wheels with the most grip”. Notice the use of “wheels” plural. If they said “...wheel with most grip” and all they have is an ordinary open diff front and rear then I’d say that their claim is contentious and not technically correct. Both Audi’s Quattro and BMW’s xDrive centre differentials only apportion torque to the axle with the most grip. It’s the ABS/Traction Control system (completely removed from a mechanical perspective) that brakes a spinning wheel in order to restore resistance and thus apportion drive to the wheel that does have grip.

A far more realistic scenario for an AWD system to lose drive altogether is the dreaded cross-axle loss of grip often found when traversing uneven off-road terrain. In this case a front wheel at one corner loses grip and the opposite rear wheel loses grip. Now, if you’ve just got an ordinary open differential and no traction control system to brake the spinning wheels, you’re going nowhere. Interestingly, BMW’s xDrive sans DPC rear-diff has two regular open differentials at either end and will rely on wheel speed sensors in the ABS system to signal that a wheel needs to be braked. So nothing all that special to write home about.

A really cool AWD system – like that on a WRX STI - will use three limited slip diffs, front, centre and rear to apportion as much drive to the grippiest wheel (not just axle) before having to rely on braking a wheel. Combine this with a sophisticated 3 level traction control system and now that’s what I call an AWD system.

BMW DPC or Quattro sport differentials are nice examples of great OEM supplier innovation finding its way into production vehicles but should not be construed as one brand of AWD system being better than another.

Reply to Tostik
August 21, 2015 - 21:26

Hey Mr. Tostik,

The ELD - electronically limited differential - which in your opinion should have worked on the Q5, only works on the wheels of the same axle! You big nerd! When loosing traction on the whole axle, the ELD won't help you. That's where the AWD system comes to the rescue. I am a big fan of torsen too, but in this situation it sucks. Any HALDEX system would beat it! And yes, I own both Audi A6 Allroad and BMW X5 with X-drive. Both vehicle are superb, but you got to know the limitations. Torsen is for life, the most reliable, X-drive - full of reliability problems because of it's more complex structure. Facts are facts, you got to admit that.

October 06, 2012 - 01:10

Here's a good video showing a 2009 (Haldex 4) Volvo XC90 doing some impressive mudding.


September 12, 2012 - 07:25


I think this an answer to this video.

Reply to Tostik
T Rasanen
January 13, 2014 - 02:38

This video shows they are as good. The video is an answer to BMW video.

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