BMW 320i xDrive vs rivals

We try five different four-wheel-drive systems to find out which tackles UK winter driving best

Increasingly cold and frosty winters have made car buyers keen to invest in the security of all-wheel drive – and car makers have been happy to cater to this trend.

BMW has sold four-wheel-drive versions of its cars for many years, but from this year it will be offering the system in the UK, on the 1 Series and 3 Series.

Due to the demands of the US market, the first model to arrive is a 2.0-litre petrol, but the technology will soon be rolled out across the range.

This is a big step for a brand that’s revered for its thrilling rear-drive handling, so for the 4WD 3 Series’ first test, we decided to look at the different 4x4 systems on the market and examine in detail how they work on and off-road.

The cars we’ve assembled represent varied approaches to the same job. Audi has a rich four-wheel-drive heritage, and the A6 Allroad’s quattro set-up offers sporty dynamics and plenty of grip.

Another brand with 4WD in its blood is Subaru. Its XV crossover is the only car in its class to feature permanent 50:50 split 4WD.

Completing the line-up are two opposites: the Ford Ranger is a tough pick-up for the most extreme off-road conditions, while the Lexus RX 450h is an efficient and refined hybrid.

Verdict

There’s no overall winner of this test, as our cross-section of models is so different. However, these cars demonstrate that there’s an all-wheel-drive model to suit every need.

For reassuring on-road handling, the new BMW 320i xDrive is excellent, and it doesn’t compromise on BMW’s ultimate driving machine philosophy. If you’re more adventurous, the Audi A6 Allroad is a very comfortable cruiser that can also handle light off-road work. This mix of skills is taken a step further by the Subaru XV, but its deficiencies in other areas are a lot to live with.

The Ford Ranger will take any off-road punishment thrown at it, and at the other end of the spectrum, the Lexus RX 450h is a technology pioneer offering superb comfort and low running costs – at a high purchase price.

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