All-wheel drive is ubiquitous today.

But it's interesting to note that BMW's first all-wheel-drive models are probably older than most of the fifth-owner enthusiasts currently wrenching on old E30s.

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And while the technology would eventually make it way to the company's X3 and X5 luxury SUVs, it was initially released on the 1985 325 Allrad, where it was tuned to deliver a static 37 to 63 percent balance between the front and rear wheels.

The system's later availability in wagon—or touring as the Germans call it—form undoubtedly gave piece of mind to plenty of folks looking for a versatile, go-anywhere, people-mover with the driving characteristics they'd come to expect from the maker of "The Ultimate Driving Machine."  A smarter, electronically controlled system would debut on the 525iX in 1991, which would use an clutch at the rear axle to help direct power to wheels with the best available grip. 

Development of xDrive, as BMW's system is known today, continued in tandem with the evolution of the SUV line, and after BMW integrated its Dynamic Stability Control, the German giant heralded it as the world's first "intelligent" all-wheel-drive system.

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Today, xDrive is available across BMW's entire lineup, and is a key component on models as varied as the performance-focused i8 hybrid, to the new X5 xDrive40e, which marries the vehicle's electric motors, conventional engine and drivetrain to maintain peak efficiency and maximize range.

Other than round wheels, vehicles 30 years from now will likely have little in common with the cars of today. But smart systems controlling the placement of power to the wheels are here to stay, and if the level of progression we've seen over the last three decades is any indication, they'll be pretty trick indeed. 


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