BMW Moves Closer to Front-Wheel Drive

BMW 2 Series

I have to wonder if BMW is still the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” The company dropped its legendary tagline in 2006, brought it back in 2012, and uses it sparingly today.

Maybe the company knows it’s becoming just “another driving machine.”

BMW has always been known as a performance-oriented luxury brand with the perfect balance between handling and power. The automaker has traditionally used a rear-wheel-drive setup on all of its vehicles, save for its full-time all-wheel-drive models.

Rear-wheel drive just makes sense given BMWs’ large engines, long hoods, and short rear decks. Power going to the rear wheels enhances every aspect of the driving experience.

But what happens when the engines get smaller and the cars shrink? Rear-wheel drive stops making sense. Welcome to the new generation of BMW.

The BMW 1 Series is no longer available in the U.S., but the next generation of the small European Bimmer will likely move to a front-wheel-drive platform. The same will probably happen to the 2 Series, which is currently Munich’s entry-level compact sports coupe in the U.S. market.

BMW owns MINI and will share platforms as a way to limit costs. Extending a MINI FWD platform to the 2 Series makes sense financially, but could anger some BMW purists. Here’s why it really doesn’t matter, though.

BMW purists appreciate the 2 Series, but for the price of the well-received M235i, they can get into a 3 Series or find a good used M3 or 5 Series. People looking for a relatively inexpensive way into the BMW brand can buy the re-worked FWD 2 Series. I would argue that those people aren’t likely to care which wheels receive power.

The truth is, it actually makes sense for BMW to extend the FWD platform to other cars. Engines are getting smaller, displacement is decreasing, and turbos are replacing extra cylinders. That means the engine compartments can shrink, the hoods will get shorter, and the wheelbases will shorten. Front-wheel drive is a good match for smaller cars like that.

I don’t think we’ll ever see a front-wheel-drive M3, but a FWD 2 Series makes a lot of sense.

A front-wheel drive BMW? What do you think?

-tgriffith

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