Will a front-wheel drive BMW ever be accepted by fans?

Interesting | October 18th, 2015 by 11
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When BMW announced the 2 Series Tourers, and the fact that they would be front-wheel drive based, enthusiasts of the Bavarian brand were upset. Very …

When BMW announced the 2 Series Tourers, and the fact that they would be front-wheel drive based, enthusiasts of the Bavarian brand were upset. Very upset. BMW has hung its hat on rear-wheel drive-based vehicles since its inception. So the switch to the front-wheel drive-based BMW ever was obviously met with quite a bit of negativity.

It’s understandable, to be honest, as BMW has always been a brand to follow tradition. So when that tradition changes, it can upset the apple cart. However, once fans give these new cars a try, they might change their minds.

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The 2 Series Tourers aren’t the most dynamic of automobiles, and they aren’t really meant to be, so they won’t be the cars to sway enthusiasts. But the new X1 might. The new F48 BMW X1 is also based on BMW’s new front-wheel drive platform (and to fans who call it a MINI platform, I was sternly corrected at the X1 launch that this is a BMW-developed platform shared with MINI, not the other way around) and it could just sway the mind of doubtful enthusiasts. Obviously, this FWD-based platform won’t be used for performance minded vehicles, like M cars. But it will be used on cars that will be bought by families, cars that can sacrifice a bit of “fun” for practicality. The interesting part, though, is that the new X1 is downright fun to drive.

If you’re a BMW enthusiast, but now has a new family with small children, a car like the X1 might be perfect for you. And after driving it, especially driving it hard, you’d realize that it loses very little, in terms of handling and fun, to its FWD-based platform. But that same maligned platform allows the new X1 to be more practical, more spacious, more comfortable and more affordable while stilling very enjoyable to drive.

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The same platform, which does underpin MINIs, could also be used in a possible 1 Series sedan or something equally as small. This would allow BMW to give enthusiasts a small, fun car for very low prices. Using this new platform could allow BMW to offer a true entry-level enthusiast’s car. But most enthusiasts wouldn’t want such a car due to its front-wheel drive nature. Will that stigma ever go away? Will BMW ever be able to produce a FWD-based performance car, or continue to make any FWD-based cars, without taking flak from enthusiasts? Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind — Leonardo Da Vinci. BMW must change in order to be successful, so it will be a shame if customers and fans don’t appreciate or accept the changed BMW makes to remain successful and competitive in an extremely competitive segment.

11 responses to “Will a front-wheel drive BMW ever be accepted by fans?”

  1. Jesse says:

    FWD allows BMW to sell more vehicles, but I fear BMW will eventually make the 1- and 2-series entry level BMWs FWD, which would be a bummer.

  2. Chris Llana says:

    You may recall that BMW not too long ago did a survey of BMW owners, and discovered that most erroneously thought their cars were FWD. So most BMW buyers will happily accept FWD. The “enthusiasts” are in the minority, and those with unwavering ideologies (the fanatic fringe?) will continue to complain about FWD, just because, but that is unlikely to affect BMW’s business and engineering decisions moving ahead. BMW will continue to build track-worthy RWD cars that enthusiasts can buy; why should BMW’s FWD cars upset them?

    • Philip Herr says:

      That study was poorly conducted, lacked proper controls, and only surveyed 1-Series owners. Many drivers (and every single BMW owner I’ve ever met) can tell the difference between FWD & RWD as soon as they move the car. One of my friends who is definitely NOT an enthusiast or even remotely knowledge about cars (didn’t even know what FWD or RWD was), could immediately tell that my BMW was different. At a minimum, people recognize the difference in dynamics even if they’re not familiar with the technical aspect.

      The survey also included household drivers, not just owners: like the jobless housewife whose children are all adults and moved out of the house and the husband got an additional BMW for her to run errands in. SURPRISE- it was the cheapest one they make… I’m sure these individuals were an accurate demographic.

  3. SuperLazy says:

    Sorry, but the X1 is a complete turd. I got one as a loaner for a few days last week while my 550 was in for maintenance. It’s slow, loud, uncomfortable, doesn’t handle well, and from the looks of it, probably can’t go off-road either. Doesn’t deserve the badge.

    • Chris Llana says:

      I suspect the X1 you got was a 2015, which are RWD. The new generation 2016 FWD x1s are just starting to hit dealerships, and still rare (not likely they would use one as a loaner).

    • Jimbo says:

      These kind of comments are a why this whole FWD vs RWD is meaningless to the majority of the BMW target market. This guy doesn’t even know that old X1 is in fact RWD based and that the article is about the new X1.

      • Philip Herr says:

        He made no mention of FWD and RWD. The study BMW did regarding owner’s knowledge of drivetrain was poorly conducted anyway. I don’t know a single person who owns a BMW who can’t immediately tell the difference between a FWD and a RWD vehicle. You feel in in the steering and you can feel it in the seats. Furthermore, their salesman practically pound in to your head the differences in the drivetrains. Anyone who bought one would know the difference.

        He might have had the 2016 as a loaner anyway. I’ve never had a loaner that wasn’t nearly brand new. Even if he was referring to the 2015, if the RWD X1 sucks, the FWD X1 isn’t going to be any better. The RWD model was an entry-level vehicle that lacks the dynamics which make a BMW a BMW. It’s not going to change with FWD; it will still be an entry-level vehicle that doesn’t deserve a BMW badge.

  4. dslindc says:

    No.

    Next question.

  5. Matt Stokes says:

    I’m alright with it in principle. Whilst I wouldn’t buy either the X1 or 2AT anyway, as I’m not in the market for them, I’m really keen to see the F52 1 series saloon. I’ll leave the elitism and badge snobbery to others.

    Might also seem insignificant, but I’d like to see BMW with a compact FWD saloon offering, so it can be used as a basis for NGTC or TCR touring cars. The BoP for RWD cars in FWD series is nothing but a pain in the ass.

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