The times, they are a-Changing sang Bob Dylan, and they did. And for the most part, it’s for the better –or we’d still be living in caves. But when one of the staples of the motoring world embraces a new philosophy, be prepared for the purists to cry “FAIL”. The news of BMW adopting front-wheel-drive for its future compact models is the perfect example.
For decades Munich has bombarded us with its naturally aspirated in-line engines, be that with 4, 6, 8 or 10 cylinders along with 50/50 perfect weight distribution and the “ultimate driving machine” tag.
Now turbos are all the rage, even in the M-division and they are trickling down to the rest of the lineup in the name of fuel economy and CO2 emissions. But a FWD BMW? Where is this world coming to?
BMW Group board member Ian Robertson has a perfect counterargument: “In the last 10 years we have built nearly two million front-wheel-drive Minis and no one has ever told me the driving dynamics are questionable”, Robertson told Australia’s Drive magazine at this week’s 6 Series coupe launch in Germany.
And true enough, he does have a point there as the Mini is one of the most fun to drive hatchbacks on the market. Robertson is confident about the new direction his company is taking:
“I think we are very, very capable of developing a front-wheel-drive platform that has certain advantages in terms of design and the use of space, and at the same time will be a BMW as you always expected it to be,” said Robertson.
“Take the badge and the heritage out of it and put the capability into it. Capability is what is important. The whole essence of what you experience from a rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, customers expect it to be a BMW … and that is what is driving us,” he added.
The reasons behind the change of heart, at least for smaller models in the range, are the obvious advantages of FWD vs RWD in packaging, interior space and, of course, cost. Besides, even Mercedes-Benz and Audi, with their A-Class and A1 respectively, insist on the benefits of this layout.
Therefore, the recently launched second generation of the 1-Series may well be the last small BMW with RWD, as its successor will most likely adopt the firm’s new FWD platform architecture.