One of the most heated topics in the BMW world is the future family of front-wheel drive vehicles that is set to launch within the next three years. The subject has been highly debated all over the interwebs and several rumors appeared over the course of 2010.
Today, a new round of details, or if you want rumors, appear on the web, courtesy of the usual BMW insider Scott27. While some of the information related below coincide with some things we have learned through different channels, there are still plenty of details that we cannot confirm at the moment, nor our sources will talk about it. As always, take the information below with a grain of salt until something more official is being released.
Language has been slightly edited.
“When Norbert Reithofer, BMW’s chairman of the Board, announced that 80% of BMW owners thought that their BMW 1 Series was front wheel drive, many were astounded at that statement when it was mentioned regarding BMW’s shock-announcement of its intentions to build a front-wheel drive vehicle. As many others, the world believed that the concept of front-wheel drive in a BMW is not only sacrilegious and a blasphemy, but something that BMW had fought to distinguish their cars from their competitors.
The latest winter photographs and videos of people across the world trying to get mobile by either equipping their front wheels with snowchains or trying to clear a path for the front wheels, became somewhat hilarious and with expected consequences. Norbert Reithofer was therefore justified in his statement.
Looking at BMW Differently…
BMW are not just going front-wheel drive to further improve their emissions targets, but also to provide a profitable strategy by developing a new platform structure, modular in form to accommodate both MINI and BMW.
First of all, contrary to media reports and enthusiasts of the BMW brand, front-wheel drive is part of a strategy to help the next generation MINI and its future variants to become more profitable and more cost effective for BMW to produce.
Initial strategies in the beginning had led to talks with PSA, Fiat and of course Daimler, where the beginnings of a proposed MINI and Smart sharing programme disintegrated when BMW decided to go alone.
No Reasons to Panic
When I say a front-wheel drive BMW the panic sets in and goes against BMW’s core marketing message: Image, Dynamics and Rear Wheel Drive. Some journalists have pointed out that the new 1er is a front-wheel drive and so is the 3er…
The new BMW 1er which will be seen in a few months time remains rear-wheel drive. The new BMW 3er which will debut in November also remains rear-wheel drive.
However, what the front-wheel drive BMW consists of is a range of small concepts designed to appeal to a growing demographic in the demand for more compact premium concepts.
A New World of Difference: The Concepts.
BMW Compactive Sport Gran Tourer
BMW F.amily A.ctivity S.ports T.ourer
First we will see the new BMW Compact. BMW’s interpretation of a front-wheel drive city car or a MINI. You will have typical BMW design elements but reinterpreted to give a new impression of a totally different idea of a BMW. In order for the concept to appeal, it has to be eye-catching and stand out amongst i’s competitors.
A Sexy Kind of Blasphemy.
The overall shape of the car differs completely from the typical MINI or conventional 3dr hatch format, the closest intention on the market today is possibly the Honda CR-Z, but not directly. In order to really sell home the concept, BMW wants the car to really strike out not just from the MINI but also its competition.
The designers have gone for an edgier three-dimensional appearance. It forgets the use of lines to enhance wheelarches and now becomes more three-dimension as it is now stamped so you can see the widening of the rear quarter.
One idea intended here was to signify the new direction for BMW. The design is expanded and the cues mentioned previously are accompanied by an enclosed normal glasshouse that is pushed inwards allowing the metal around the rear to enclose the glasshouse allowing a line that curves around the rear window forming the typical BMW kink impression in metal instead of the glass that swipes strikingly through the doors to the front wing.
The A-pillars follow the direction shown with the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept and continue down into the front wing leaving a typical BMW wheel at each corner look; triangular shaped lights sit upon each corner of the rear. The roof is towards the rear a typical BMW sloping roof.
With the typical BMW double round headlights placed one slightly below the other one, the idea is the inclusion of indicator signals directly underneath the angel eyes. The front of the car gets a smaller twin kidney grille, again more three-dimensional as the front of the car allows the grille to be pushed further back.
The stand-out stylish design has been chosen to really signify the new direction, a regular typical hatch would not be a major selling point to deliver the concept.
The BMW Compactive Gran Sport Tourer fulfills the need for a segment BMW have not yet targeted, mainly the multi-purpose vehicle segment which is expected to see sales rises to 45% per year. BMW plans a two prong attack, but will not offer a typical MPV concept in which some look like vans with additional windows.
What BMW intends to offer is a raised five-door hatch-tourer concept with a raised driving position, stretched wheelbase with room for five made possible by positioning the engine transversely and removing the transmission tunnel. It will not be a five-door variant of the compact. It will inherit a very unique design.
The BMW F.amily A.ctivity S.port T.ourer is seen as a more sporty orientated synergy between a Touring MPV and an X model. Again it will be uniquely designed and sporty looking.
Like the Mega City Vehicle, the car will feature rear-hinged doors for access to the cabin. The concept has proved successful in presentations, so BMW have commenced work on a 3er F.A.S.T. But will be a rear-wheel drive.
Can the BMW Compact and MINI co-exist ?
The key to this is a brand new compact platform shared with the MINI that if the first outcome is successful then BMW might consider a further range of models to support it’s new segment.
This new Platform which has been engineered to support the MINI and BMW 1001 Compact will be used within each Brands variants. MINI of course will be the first to expand and after an establishment period has indicated that BMW’s concept was a success then BMW’s design teams have on the table a range of additional concepts for the expansion. Another key to the cost effectiveness of the car is that engines will also be shared as well manual,automatic and electric drivetrains. Engines will also be shared ranging from three and Four cylinders in both petrol and diesel format.
In distinguishing both cars visually another key factor for BMW is the driving characteristics and how the engineers will go to lengths to make sure that both MINI and the BMW Compact offer an individual driving experience that distinguishes both cars.
The MINI of course will retain it’s typical MINI Go-Kart trademark handling whilst BMW will be looking for a more dynamic approach , both levels of dynamics for both cars are attainable.
Why the need for a Premium Front wheel drive Concept from BMW?
The recent recession taught us that customers are willing to downsize to other segments if there vehicles offer the same luxuries and features as traditional luxury concepts. The prime example being MINI where in some markets for MINI sales were actually rising it was only to further examination that a higher majority of these cars were being built with nearly every option available maximizing profits for MINI and showing that customers were willing to move to more efficient vehicles but with the same level of comforts and luxuries.
The online enthusiast board reaction has been to overwhelm the negatives of the BMW philosophy but some overlook one very important ideal – BMW already do Front Wheel Drive and do it well , a car that has seen off new impressive competition such as the Fiat 500 and Audi A1 when it comes to make a Front Wheel drive car that handles, has a great image and offers the customer a perfect choice of flexibility. It is called the MINI.”[Source: Germancarforum ]