BMW sDrive

What is BMW sDrive and how is it different from xDrive? Here’s everything you need to know…

Sam Naylor
Jan 5, 2022

To put it in simple terms, sDrive is a marketing term used by BMW to describe their two-wheel drive models. Cars with sDrive are either front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, while cars marked with the term ‘xDrive’ are BMW’s four-wheel-drive models.

There’s no immediate way to tell whether an sDrive BMW is driven by the front or rear wheels, but as a general rule of thumb - the smaller, less expensive models are usually front-wheel drive, while more expensive and sporty cars often use rear-wheel drive.

Front-wheel-drive cars are among the most popular on the road, as they are efficient, easy to drive and their positioning helps to free up additional space in the cabin. On the other hand, rear-wheel drive cars provide a sportier drive and an improved steering feel - something which BMW’s are renowned for.

For example, the BMW X1 is the smallest SUV in the range, and if you don’t choose an xDrive (four-wheel drive) model, the sDrive model is front-wheel drive. It’s the same in the X2, because this is a sportier version of the X1, with a different body shape.

However, in the Z4 range, which is BMW’s two-seater sports car, the sDrive versions are rear-wheel drive. The stylish 8 Series Coupe is available in sDrive and xDrive forms - and the sDrive version is also rear-wheel drive. This is because rear-wheel drive is more commonly found on sportier cars with more powerful engines.

Not all BMW cars with two-wheel-drive are labeled as sDrive, but all four-wheel-drive models from the German car-maker will have xDrive in the name. In the next sections, we’ll look at the pros and cons of sDrive as opposed to xDrive, but it applies to all two-wheel-drive BMWs - even the ones without sDrive in the name.

Pros of BMW sDrive

A BMW with sDrive will be far lighter than those with the more cumbersome xDrive system, and therefore improve overall fuel economy. This is the biggest selling point of BMW sDrive. For example, a BMW X1 sDrive20i returns around 42.8mpg fuel economy, while the xDrive model with the same engine returns 40.4mpg.

BMWs with sDrive are also cheaper than those with xDrive - the four-wheel-drive variant costs around £1,500 more when new. It’s not as easy to judge the price difference with used cars, but sDrive variants of the same model of car are often slightly more affordable. Two-wheel-drive cars are also cheaper to maintain because there are fewer parts and less complexity, so there’s less to go wrong.

If you enjoy driving a car with great handling, a rear-wheel-drive version will prove more dynamic and enjoyable. When the front wheels are not being driven by the engine you can expect more accurate steering and a predictable response on the throttle. No matter how hard you accelerate, the steered wheels - the front ones - will never spin or cause the wheel to tug in your hands as they lose grip.

Cons of BMW sDrive

sDrive models often lose out when it comes to acceleration, especially under slippery conditions because only two wheels get traction when putting down the power. The 0-62mph times of many xDrive cars are faster than sDrive equivalents as they power all four wheels, so there's less chance of any of the wheels spinning with an xDrive model, as the same amount of power is shared across twice as many tyres.

Also, rear-wheel-drive cars often struggle for traction in poor weather. Snow is a particular problem for rear-wheel-drive cars, although winter tyres can mitigate this to a large extent. A four-wheel-drive car, though, will offer greater grip and acceleration in poor driving conditions.

Best BMW sDrive cars

If you’ve decided you do want a two-wheel-drive BMW with sDrive, which are the best ones to choose? Here are three of our favourites, all available now on

BMW X1 sDrive18d

Used deals from £13,750
Monthly finance from £255*

We would recommend that you go for the sDrive version if you are interested in a BMW X1, because it’s more efficient, just as good to drive, and cheaper than an equivalent xDrive model. The X1 isn’t much of an off-roader, so you’re not really missing out on anything by choosing the front-wheel-drive models.


BMW Z4 sDrive30i

Used deals from £14,750
Monthly finance from £420*

Sports cars are all about having fun while you’re driving, and rear-wheel-drive sDrive models make a lot of sense in the Z4. This stylish and fast car is great to drive and sDrive models are the best value choice as well as being cheaper to run than the pricey xDrive versions.


BMW 840i sDrive

Used deals from £43,000
Monthly finance from £637*

If you’re looking for a long-distance cruiser that offers top-tier comfort, the BMW 8 Series Coupe is a fantastic choice - and the 840i model is stunningly fast, great to drive, and has a luxurious cabin packed with tech. There’s really no need to choose the more expensive and complex xDrive model, so go for the sDrive version instead.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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