Editorial: BMW Z2 – A Front Wheel Drive? Warum?

Featured Posts, Rumors | March 17th, 2011 by 29
bmw z211 750x500

Why? There’s a rumor floating around that BMW is building the Z2. As a two seat front wheel drive roadster!? Why? Front wheel drive is …

Why? There’s a rumor floating around that BMW is building the Z2. As a two seat front wheel drive roadster!? Why?

Front wheel drive is wonderful for tight packaging requirements, but you still have the compromise of the steered wheels also having to power the vehicle. It makes sense when you need to pack a family into a B class sized car. But it has never made sense in a two seat roadster.

A roadster that intends to provide some semblance of driving enjoyment, to the cognoscenti, is a two seat rear wheel drive platform. It should be nimble, as easy to turn as a go kart. Able to hang the rear end out with abandon. All the while eliciting a smile from the driver.

bmw z211 655x542

There is one shining example of a small, right priced, right platform roadster and it’s the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Why has Mazda been able to sell so many (9000,000 plus) of these cars in thirty years? Because they got the formula right. (And for those of you who haven’t driven a Miata, you need to).

Or heck, if you want to go a bit upscale, do what Porsche does, a mid-engined sports car, the Boxster. An excellent car. Worth the price of admission too. Or you could find a decent last generation Toyota MR-2.

But a FWD roadster? Please. Does anybody remember the Mercury Capri from the last ’80s? No? Well that tells you something about a the relevance of FWD roadsters. If ever there was a hairdresser’s car, the FWD Capri was it. A poser-mobile, not a sports car. And throw the Punto based Fiat Barchetta in with that too. Neither car sold in the numbers deemed necessary for survival.

The idea that BMW could build a reasonably priced two seat true sports car that would cement younger buyers into the driving qualities of the brand’s products would be great. If BMW has decided that they don’t want to siphon potential sales of the Z4 by making the Z2 front wheel drive, then they are close to, if not having already, lost their way.

A front wheel drive Z2 will be a niche too far. And that’s the opinion of someone that has a Dave Kimble cutaway of Leon Duray’s front wheel drive Miller Indy car hanging prominently on the den wall.

29 responses to “Editorial: BMW Z2 – A Front Wheel Drive? Warum?”

  1. Hugo Becker says:

    Make that 900,000 – not 9 million (but hey – Mazda would like the latter number ;-).

    • bob says:


      Your “editorial” is dated the 17th. On the 16th, BMW AG conducted the 2nd day of their Annual Accounts press conferences – for financial analysts. This is done on the 2nd day (1st day – business media), so the participants have some time to review the Annual Report.

      Fortunately for us BMW Group has made the live video streams of speeches and Q&A sessions available on their website. Visit, http://www.thomson-webcast.net/de/dispatching/?event_id=21c0536e0ffed7414ada4bd9d316ba2f&portal_id=f43ae87c2b9299d9d751b0e6738b6677&language=en

      Of relevant interest is the very first question from Goldman Sachs. Pay particular attention to Reithofer’s answer. Eichiner’s, too, but especially Reithofer’s.

      Later, Reithofer was asked if BMW was involved in a “technology race”. Technology race to where/what?! Note Reithofer’s reply.

      Needless to say, since this occurred on the 16th and your “editorial” is dated the 17th, it would be reasonable to expect this straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth information taken into account.


      IMO, based upon the most up-to-date information on the company’s strategic direction, provided by the Chairman of the Management Board, a FWD Z2 makes alot of sense.

      Once again, that doesn’t mean that we should *like* it. But to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to FWD belies fundamental ignorance and myopia as to how BMW operates.

      From the comments below, we can conclude that the statement that there have not been any successful FWD roadsters/two-seaters is simply inaccurate.

      The MINI has proven that BMW knows how to engineer a FWD car for enthusiasts. It didn’t bother Lotus. Seriously, for a company that’s been taking away dipsticks & toolkits, and foisting RFTs upon the marketplace, would a FWD Z2 truly be that much of a shock??? ;-)

      –” If BMW has decided that they don’t want to siphon potential sales of the Z4 by making the Z2 front wheel drive, then they are close to, if not having already, lost their way.”

      BMW long-standing modus operandi has been to move their cars upmarket, to make room for another below. The 1er exists because the 3er has gotten bigger & bigger…because the 5er has gotten bigger & bigger…because the 7er has gotten bigger & bigger. Same for the X1, X3, & X5. Same for the Z’s.

      The E89 Z4 is so far upmarket from the E36/7 Z3 that drivetrain layout is a nonissue.

      –“A front wheel drive Z2 will be a niche too far. And that’s the opinion of someone that has a Dave Kimble cutaway of Leon Duray’s front wheel drive Miller Indy car hanging prominently on the den wall.”

      This might appeal to an older demographic, e.g., like the former Miata owners to traded up to a Z3 when they got their AARP cards. :-O

      However, the prospect of a FWD Z2 would appeal to a younger demographic. They very well may be ambivalent towards FWD vs RWD; or, may be interested in the social benefits of FWD (see “technology race” above); or, not old enough to harbor any RWD bias; and/or have the confidence that if any company can make a FWD two-seater that is a Joy to drive it’s BMW.

  2. bob says:

    FWD Z2 maks alot of sense within BMW AG’s current overall corporate strategy.

    That doesn’t mean that one should *like* it…just that it should behoove the genuine BMW fan to make a sincere effort to attempt to understand their position. Only bigots would do otherwise.

    This is very timely, as AG has been holding their Annual Accounts press conferences this week. On the BMW Group’s website, live video feeds of the Q&A sessions with the media & financial communities. Watch, listen & learn.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      So why wouldn’t a Z2 RWD make more sense? Clearly they need a smaller roadster, but what would be the advantage of a Z2 FWD, beside MAYBE cost savings?

      • Abcd says:

        Did you acknowledge the people that have helped with your BMW learning curve? http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/03/17/the-power-of-online-journalism-saab-buys-saab-focused-blog/#


        Re: Z2, I didn’t say which would make the *most* sense. I said that a FWD Z2 would make alot of sense…given AG’s current corporate strategic direction. Only people within BMW know the decision-making process and its conclusion, of course, but for us outsiders to gain a better understanding, I would suggest…

        – Watch the live video streams from this week’s Annual Accounts press conferences. Especially, the Q&A sessions. The answers from Reithofer represent the most authoritative & recent information from the company.

        – What’s the single biggest issue facing AG during its present event horizon? What is that corporate fleet measurement now? What is their goal for 2020?

        – Which drivetrain layout would better help BMW meet that goal? Why?

        – Previously, Dr. Draeger has provided a range of FWD units that BMW will be able to make on its own from the new modules. How many? How many RWD units will come from the new modules?

        – In the blog entry immediately before/below this one, http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/03/17/autoexpress-ian-robertson-talks-i3-z2-hydrogen-mini/# , Robertson provides at least two clues about the Z2 program. How would you interpret them?

        – Will UKL1 be used? Potential impacts?

        – Competitive isues. Not only does BMW have to be concerned with what VW (incl. Porsche), will do in the market enviroment that Robertson alluded to, but what config the customers BMW’s intending to sell will want. Apparently, BMW & PSA have agreed on a module. But how about players like Saab?

        These are just some of the possible issues….

        • Horatiu B. says:

          First of all, I cannot acknowledge someone without their approval, second, this was not a goodbye article.

          Still not convinced that the FWD is a better choice for the Z2. The marketing part will be even more difficutl, well, for 50k you can get the Z4 RWD, but for 40k you get the Z2 FWD. People will be confused!

    • Echo52 says:

      Oh, I’m a bigot if I think a FWB BMW roadster would be a big mistake. Especially if Porsche comes out with the 550. Also considering that BMW has NEVER made a fwb production car under the BMW badge and that have always portrayed themselves as a performance car company. You are an idiot!

  3. Adam says:

    I agree with bob’s comment, people who rant about somthing make up the smallest piece of the market, these same people also coincidentally havent bought a new BMW since the 80’s or 90’s either because: A. They cant afford or B. They think that the horse and buggy simplicity is better. I have owned FWD cars and frankly they suck now that I have RWD I really appreciate the steering and overall feel it provides.

    One last thought, BMW said only the cheap cars would be FWD for packaging and pricing, well if you dont like what the “cheap” BMW’s offer stay at work more, be productive and maybe you can afford the “upscale RWD” cars they also offer.

  4. Frank says:

    Oh dear, another sack of shite to add to the already crap range of BMWs. Still I sure some C***s will but it believing they are buying into an elite club but actually telling the world what cocks they are. Buy a BMW and admit what a failure you are.

  5. Hugo Becker says:

    Adam & bob, BMW uses the L7 platform matrix for the 3er and 1er (the new F20 and F30 models). I know bob has read the article we did on it because he commented on it. It allows for a flexible firewall location, which is a pretty savvy bit of technology because you can make a model from the same platform either FWD or RWD. That’s the platform that will be used for the Z2 (if they build a Z2 – we have no inside info).

    Knowing that you’re not locked into FWD, why would you opt for it in a roadster? Explain the demographics looking for a roadster that’s FWD? There is only one such demographic that I’m aware of, badge whores.

    Beyond that, there are no successful front wheel drive roadsters. None. Not even close. If BMW really is bringing a FWD roadster to market, they need to have their collective heads examined.

    That said, I think the rumors are wrong frankly – because I don’t believe BMW’s management is too ignorant or arrogant to think that they can make a successful FWD roadster when no one else before has.

    • Otto says:

      “Beyond that, there are no successful front wheel drive roadsters. None. Not even close”.

      1. Try to be less peremptory.
      2. Be more open minded. You seem quite knowledgeable about BMW but much less about the other makers.

      The Lotus Elan M100 was a very successful FWD roadster. According to a Lotus executive, it saved Lotus from bankruptcy in the 90s and financed the Elise R&D.

    • JakeM says:

      The Audi TT comes in FWD in base form in Europe and you can get it as a coupe or roadster.

      Also, the Peugeot RCZ is FWD and apparently very successful in Europe. It’s not available as a roadster though. And let’s not forget the VW Golf GTI, which is FWD, the infamous Peugeot 205 GTI (FWD) and other hot hatch French (and British) economy cars that were FWD. And these cars were widely praised, respected and considered fun in their day. They also handled well. A modern FWD car should be even better.

      I don’t mind the FWD route that BMW might be taking. As long as CORE PRODUCTS like the 3er, 5er, 6er and 7er remain RWD, this is not a problem.

  6. By no means will I go as far as to say that there is no place for a FWD roadster in this world.

    However, I will say that there’s no place in my heart for a FWD BMW, let alone a FWD BMW roadster.

    I love my MX5. It’s more fun than anything else I’ve ever driven, and that’s saying quite a bit. Even though it’s small, rough around the edges (19 years old, 170k miles), usually dirty, squeeks and rattles abound. I love it. On one hand, I wish more companies would pick up on the Miata philosophy and start churning out small, cheap, light-weight, almost under-powered roadsters. On the other hand, I don’t trust that many other car makers could pull it off. BMW is among the list that likely couldn’t. Not because they lack the ability to, but because they have too many factors that prevent them from releasing a sub-3k lb, cheap, bare-bones car.

    Thankfully, though, the MX5 does exist.

  7. jgs says:


    *Except for the fwd series 2

    I understand it is a good business move, but hey!! It took me so long to convince my honda fan friend that only econocars use fwd and that’s why bmw doesn’t do that!

    Damn! I’ll be grilled when he find out!

  8. paul says:

    finally someone trying to put some sense into bmw. and while ur at it lets fit an electric power steering there and make it even “better”. bmw has a problem. The board has an obsessive view on making bmw the greenest of premium car makers. how else do you explain replacing a perfect hidraulic power steering for one that is obviously worse? nuts. the engine issue, going from NA to turbo i can even understand but not that. they lost the plot. and they want to get away from beeing seen as the sporty option in the ptemium sector and focus on beeing tge green option. how else do u explain the commercials a few years ago how bmw was a rwd because of dynamics and stuff??? anyway, i myself went from bmw to rr for my Suv has the electric steering in the x3 just wasnt 4 me. and like i said in a previous post if you want a good bmw – by that i mean a good sporty bmw as there are very good “mercedes” bmws out there such as the x3- these days u will have to get an m3. and i would hurry cause once this one goes out thats it. tge next gen will b turbo – no more that perfect throtlle response and wonderfull v8 sound – just look at the 1m1 ( an M bastard tb honest). someone said in a previous post to leave the brand. Why?? there are so many wonderfull, true bmws outhere in the 2nd hand market. look at me. i got a CSL for 10k less than a 1m1 and it sounds 10 k better than tge 1m1, its faster and its a classic now. so no it does not surprise me if bmw makes this car fwd. tge bmw we love is dead. but they will continue to make these poor decisions because the brand sells for itself

  9. paul says:

    btw i was seriously considering this car. for a number of years i was lusting after a z4 but thevelectric steering was shit, allready had an M car (the z4M has hidraulic) and the porsche design wasnt for me. but like the new x3 – was going to replace my old model with the new one but tgen test drove it- bmw keeps disapointing me with every new model.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      I def love how the new X3 drives, but not a fan of the design, I expected something more fresh.

      • Spaulo says:

        the design wasnt even what bothered me the most – i was xpecting somwthing more from that department – can u imagine the 5 gt headlights on it? but what made me change my mind about buying one was the dull steering. the previous gen was harsh and poor but it was fun to drive. what u xpect a bmw to drive. but this new one yes its very composed but its just a bit boring. in europe we only get the diesel yet , maybe the petrol variants r more xciting but the 2d is just boring. no “joy” on that one for sure. like i said its a nice merc but a dull bmw if u know what i mean.

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