For literally decades, Audi has had one secret ingredient with which to take on BMW. All-wheel drive. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system has always been what separates Audi Sport cars from BMW M cars. Many enthusiasts still prefer BMW’s rear-wheel drive style but even still, it was always Quattro that made Audi’s g0-fast models stand out. For instance, the Audi RS4 and its all-wheel drive system has always made it the better all-year, all-weather performance machine than the BMW M3. That might soon change, though.
We’ve recently learned that the next-generation BMW M3, set to debut in 2020, will come with the brand’s new M xDrive all-wheel drive system. For those of you that don’t know, the BMW M xDrive system is a version of BMW’s standard xDrive all-wheel drive system but one that’s been tuned by BMW’s famous M Division. The system debuted on the new BMW M5 and is capable of switching off its front axle and becoming completely rear-wheel drive until the driver chooses otherwise. We’ve driven the new M5 and it’s sensational.
When the next-gen M3 comes out, both cars will have twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engines, (3.0 liter I6 for BMW, 2.9 liter V6 for Audi), both will be all-wheel drive and both will probably have ZF-sourced eight-speed automatics (though we haven’t had official confirmation on the BMW’s gearbox, we’re assuming here). So, powertrain/drivetrain-wise, the cars will be incredibly similar.
So that really only leaves the wagon body style left to differentiate the Audi RS4 from its Bavarian rival. And even that advantage might be gone as well. There are also rumors that the BMW M3 could gain a wagon model variant. Nothing has been green-lit as of yet but there’s word that BMW’s top brass is mulling over the idea of a long-roof M3, something that’s never been produced before.
Though, the BMW M3 will stand out with its “2WD” mode, which makes the car rear-drive for as long as the driver chooses. Audi’s RS4 doesn’t and won’t have anything like that. Such is the nature of Quattro.
Such a move for BMW does admittedly kick Audi right in the teeth. Not only will the BMW M3 gain all-wheel drive and thus taking away the Audi RS4’s main advantage, it will have an AWD system that’s offers more to the driver than Quattro, with its rear-wheel drive mode. Audi Sport engineers better hit the drawing board quick to come up with something to keep the RS4 on its toes by the time the M3 rolls around. I think the RS4 will be due for a refresh by then anyway…