Back in March, BMW’s CEO, Her Norbert Reithofer confirmed that a BMW front-wheel drive vehicle is on their roadmap and will launch in the near future. Back then, Reithofer outlined BMW’s medium term product strategy and also “touched” the latest survey on BMW 1 Series and the false assumption of a FWD vehicle: “It is true about 80 percent of the 1-series owners we surveyed either thought their car was front wheel drive or that they didn’t know the layout. But these were the drivers of the three and five-door hatchback models.” (Read our editorial on “A Brief History of Front Wheel Drive”)
Today, UK magazine Autocar reports that the first front-wheel bimmer will launch in 2013, in a hatchback form, and it will be positioned as a new entry-level model. The new car will be based on the next-generation MINI platform and surprisingly, it could carry the 1 Series badge name, giving buyers a choice between front or rear-wheel drive vehicles within that family.
The similarities stop here though and while the badge name might be identical, the two models will be distinguished by unique designs and price points, with the rear-wheel drive units positioned higher on the scale.
Rendering illustrated above
In regards to a potential sales slice from the MINI sales, a BMW insider told Autocar that “Both brands possess a clear and individual image”, pointing to the VW and Audi’s Golf and A3 vehicles.
Without a doubt, currently, the two brands, BMW and MINI, appeal to different demographics. Just as VW and Audi appeal to different audiences, BMW will aim its front-drive and rear-drive 1-series at different buyers.
To increase sales and share market, BMW plans to win new customers and the front-wheel drive could drive these new sales. “We want a car that will appeal to non-BMW buyers with a focus on roominess and interior flexibility, yet like our existing entry-level model it will be fun to drive and cheap to run.”, a BMW insider told the UK magazine.
The first of the new front-drive BMWs to appear in UK showrooms will be a tall five-door, five-seat hatchback, a rival for the upcoming Audi A2 and next-gen Mercedes A-class. It will offer the sort of interior space and overall practicality not found in the rear-drive 1-series.
The keys to the front-drive car’s spaciousness are a transversely mounted engine and gearbox. These have allowed engineers to create an uncharacteristically short bonnet for a BMW. This flows into A-pillars positioned well forward of the front wheel arches. The altered front-end architecture helps to free up cabin space by moving the bulkhead closer to the front axle than in any existing BMW model. The driving position also moves forward within the wheelbase, and the seat is positioned higher to give a more commanding view of the road.
At a recent event, BMWBLOG also learned about similar future plans, but no official confirmation or statement has been given.
With three years before its launch, the first prototypes are scheduled to start road testing sometimes in 2011.
Thanks for the tip Giom!
[Source: Autocar ]