BMW sDrive

Everything you need to know about BMW sDrive including how it’s different from xDrive and which sDrive cars are best

Sam Naylor
Aug 18, 2021

To put it simply, BMW sDrive is the name for the German car maker’s two-wheel-drive models. It’s essentially a marketing term that was used to distinguish cars with rear-wheel drive from the four-wheel-drive ‘xDrive’ models, but today, sDrive models can be front- or rear-wheel-drive.

Not all BMW models use the term, even if they are two-wheel-drive, but if you see sDrive in the car’s model name, you know that it is either front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive depending on the model.

It’s not always obvious whether a model is going to be front- or rear-wheel drive but there’s a rule of thumb - the smaller, less expensive models usually use front-wheel drive, while more expensive and sporty cars are likely to use rear-wheel drive.

Front-wheel drive is popular with car manufacturers as it enables them to free up additional space in the cabin. Meanwhile, rear-wheel drive cars have better traction when accelerating and provide more precise steering and a sportier feel - something which BMW has a reputation for - as the steering wheel never tugs in your hands when accelerating, which can be the case with powerful front-wheel drive cars.

Here are some examples. 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.

Yet in the Z4 range, which is BMW’s two-seater sports car, the sDrive versions are rear-wheel drive. Plus, the stylish 8 Series Coupe comes in sDrive and xDrive forms - and the sDrive version is rear-wheel drive. This is because rear-wheel drive is more commonly used on sportier cars and those with lots of power than front-wheel drive.

Not all BMW cars with two-wheel-drive use the sDrive name, but all of its four-wheel-drive models have xDrive in the name. In the next sections, we’ll look at the pros and cons of sDrive as opposed to xDrive, though it applies to two-wheel-drive BMWs without sDrive in the name as well.

Pros of BMW sDrive

The main reason you would choose sDrive instead of xDrive is that having two-wheel-drive reduces weight compared with a four-wheel drive equivalent, and therefore it makes cars more efficient. For example, a BMW X1 sDrive20i returns around 42.8mpg fuel economy, yet if you chose an xDrive model with the same engine it returns 40.4mpg.

BMW sDrive models cost less to buy in the first place, too - the difference is about £1,500 when new, though it’s not as easy to judge with used cars. It’s likely that two identical used cars, one sDrive and one xDrive, would see a price advantage for the two-wheel-drive model. 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 are a keen driver and love fun handling, rear-wheel-drive versions are often more enjoyable as well. 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

However, if you are looking for maximum acceleration - especially in slippery conditions - then the sDrive models can sometimes lose out. This is because only two wheels get traction off the line, which means the 0-62mph times of many xDrive cars are faster than sDrive equivalents; as they power all four wheels, 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.

You may also find that, especially in rear-wheel-drive models, traction isn’t as good 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 with winter tyres, though, should offer improved acceleration on slippery surfaces still.

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 £15,495
Monthly finance from £275*

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 £38,990
Monthly finance from £482*

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 £50,950
Monthly finance from £765*

If you’re looking for a car to take you from London to Monaco in total 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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