Wednesday, February 18th 2015. | Auto & Motor, Car

All-wheel drive used to be a specialized attribute for a select group of vehicles that would see some of the worst conditions possible for four wheels. Now, however, it seems like one of the most crucial features for most consumer models. And that’s a good thing. More grip invariably leads to safer roads, and with demand for this technology increasing, it seems to be getting better and better.

Audi is often credited with creating one of the first high-volume production AWD systems when it launched the Quattro, a vehicle that first saw success in the harsh conditions of rally racing. Nowadays, one of Audi’s main rivals, BMW, has it’s own technology to boast about, called xDrive.

This video explains how “Dynamic Stability Control Sensors” are able to detect which wheels are losing grip, and respond by diverting torque through a multi-disc clutch to the appropriate axle for maximum traction. Nearly 100 percent of available power can be sent to either axle in this fashion.

BMW likes to think xDrive is the most technically advanced AWD system out there. But is it better than something like Audi’s quattro system?

The truth is, it depends. Instead of electronically actuated clutches like with xDrive, quattro is based on a torque-sensing (Torsen) center differential, which uses physical differences in frictional resistance to vary torque between the axles. It’s far less complicated, but every bit as effective, which is why it’s a system that’s still in use today.

Click past the jump to read about BMW’s AWD-equipped vehicles.

BMW Explains xDrive Technology: Video originally appeared on topspeed.com on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:00 EST.

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