Will a front-wheel drive BMW sports car really be such a bad thing?

1-series | January 28th, 2016 by 19
BMW Concept Compact Sedan images 5 750x500

We’ve just recently seen some spy photos of the upcoming BMW 1 Series sedan that will be built on BMW’s latest UKL front-wheel drive platform. …

We’ve just recently seen some spy photos of the upcoming BMW 1 Series sedan that will be built on BMW’s latest UKL front-wheel drive platform. Regardless if that car makes it out of China or not, small front-wheel drive BMWs are on their way and it’s only logical that some sort of sporty one will come, too. Currently, the BMW 1 Series hatch is one of Europe’s favorite BMWs, as it offers fun, practicality and great performance in one small, yet affordable, package. But it’s been said that the next iteration of it will drive its front wheels instead of its rear ones.

A front-wheel drive BMW hatchback? Did BMW turn into Volkswagen all of the sudden? Well, no. But BMW is competing in its current market, which has taken a drastic turn in recent years, and this new market calls for front-wheel drive sports cars. But will that really be all that bad?

Maybe because the Super Bowl is coming up, but I have the NFL on my brain. If you’re a fan of the sport, you’d know that a new style of quarterback play is becoming very popular in today’s NFL. It’s a style of very athletic, mobile quarterbacks that are equal threat with their feet as they are with there arm, like a Russell Wilson or Cam Newton. This bothers some of the old-school Football fans who prefer their quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw or, a more modern day example, Peyton Manning. But the past three Super Bowls, this one coming up included, have featured this new style of quarterback. So it’s working, regardless of how people may feel about it.

BMW Concept Compact Sedan images 22 750x548

The point is, times are changing and with that comes a change in approach. Just like how offenses in the NFL need to adapt for teams to succeed, BMW needs to adapt its strategy in the lower-end sports car market if it wants to succeed. The 2 Series coupe is a sensational car, it really is. But the cold truth of the matter is that it’s losing out in sales to front-wheel drive cars like the Mercedes CLA Class and Audi A3. BMW needs a horse in that race, one that is more affordable and more spacious than its current rear-wheel drive entry. A front-wheel drive 1 Series could be that perfect car.

Now, before you go and write off such a car as a terrible idea, one that will ruin the very fabric of BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos, hear me out. Front-wheel drive isn’t as fun as rear-wheel drive, we all know that. But to say that front-wheel drive can’t be fun at all is ridiculous and only said by people who haven’t driven the new MKVII Volkswagen GTI, Mini Cooper S or Ford Fiesta ST. I’ll make a bet with anyone that if they drive any of those cars on a track as fast as they can and don’t smile, I’ll give them all the money in my wallet. They’re that fun.

There’s no saying BMW couldn’t do something similar. In fact, I’d imagine that BMW would do a better job than all three of them. The brand’s new UKL architecture is probably one of the best, if not the best, front-drive platform in the business and BMW has some of the best four-cylinder engines on the market. A sporty, front-wheel drive 1 Series could be the perfect entry into the BMW brand for young fans. And BMW could make an even sportier model, say an M135i hatch/sedan, that could really get the soul stirring.

bmw concept compact china 6


Imagine, then, a BMW M135i with a B48 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual and kick-ass good looks, that could out-perform a VW GTI all for less than the price of a modestly-equipped 3 Series? If you ask me, that sounds pretty damn fantastic. If someone told you that you could have one of those, would you even care which axle was driven or would you just be excited about a great car?

Would rear-wheel drive be better? Of course it would, but that’s just not the world we live in anymore. We can pout and moan about how things aren’t the way they used to be anymore, or we can draft Cam Newton and have some fun in the Super Bowl.

19 responses to “Will a front-wheel drive BMW sports car really be such a bad thing?”

  1. Matt Stokes says:

    There’s a huge number of very capable and much loved FWD sporting cars out there, from roadsters to hatchbacks, and BMW have proven that they can make fun FWD cars… so I see no reason why BMW couldn’t impress the market with it’s less “utilitarian” FWD offerings (i.e. not an MPV or SAV).

    I think an M130i xDrive version of the F52 would be awesome with around 250hp.

  2. raleedy says:

    Maybe not a bad thing. Definitely not a distinctive thing.

  3. Kaisuke971 says:

    The problem is not about how fun FWD can be. We know it can be a blast: look at what Renault Sport did on the Mégane 3 RS. Chris Harris compared it to the 911 GT3: it was that good ! FWD can be an absolute blast, and a well-made FWD can even be better than a poorly tuned RWD car (yes it can).

    The thing is BMW # (yeah that’s supposed to be “doesn’t equal”… deal with it) FWD. Now that fact doesn’t matter with a small Crossover and an MPV because BMW # MPV and BMW # Crossover anyways. But a sedan… Sedans are pretty much the essence of BMW. They are the one that created these Super sedan things as we know them, plus they made small sedans and coupes that were pure enjoyment. They are a huge, huge part of BMW’s success !

    Mixing a huge BMW element, such as Coupe and Sedan with a really non BMW one is a bit un-appealing to be honest. Yes, i know people weren’t sure about the 1 at first, nor were them with the X5, but even if BMW lost a bit of their purity, RWD has always been there where we really want and need it !

    My point is that FWD has been introduced on cars that we didn’t like that much anyway. But add it on a small sedan ? Small and fun RWD sedans were what made lots of people into BMW ! Now adding FWD in the mix is messed up imo.

    • Matt Stokes says:

      BMW sell more AWD vehicles than they do RWD vehicles. FWD is the smallest proportion, and will remain so. A small FWD BMW sedan changes nothing, the 3-er is still RWD, as is the 5-er, as is the 7-er.

      Anybody that changes their buying decision based on a totally different model within the range is messed up IMO.

      • Kaisuke971 says:

        Yes it does. Don’t forget this will pretty much be their shortest wheelbase, and short wheelbase = fun at low speeds because of tight turning radius generally associated with lower weight. It’s a shame that such a winning combo doesn’t get the chance to shine with an RWD platform, that’s what i’m saying.

        No, some people need brand coherence or just can find a deal is not as good as they thought. For example, a family can have its eyes on the 225xe Active tourer and not buy it because the 520d is enough. No ?

  4. John says:

    Would a front-wheel drive Porsche really be such a bad thing?

    • Zim says:

      No but I sure as hell won’t pay Porsche prices for it. The same goes for BMW. If they offer nothing different then we will cross shop them against much lower priced cars that are just as good.

  5. Mazen Kassab says:

    Bad excuses , the real reason for all the FWD is this cost BMW less money to manufacture these cars.
    they will not sell these FWD for less (look to the new X1 almost same price) , BMW just want more profits.
    they know that they have some loyal customers and they are relying on them to sell these rubbish cars.

    • SF Dede says:

      I’m not sure it’s that easy. I am warming up to the idea that BMW is being very strategic by focusing on dramatically increasing avenues for profitability. They see their industry changing dramatically away from the internal combustion engine, the decline of certain revenue streams for dealers, and the change from traditional models of ownership. BMW sees the need to invest massively in R&D and take very non-traditional risks and stated as much.

      In many ways they are like Apple was before the iPhone. The saw the impending changes and amassed a war chest so they’d be ready to capitalize. Apple still does that. With that in mind, BMWs strategy and pricing makes sense. They are selling based upon the way customers value their product as opposed to a set margin on profitability. Porsche uses this pricing strategy to great effect, and it is in part why they are so profitable.

      The issue for people is that BMW is changing, and in the minds of many people, changing the wrong way. Change is hard for many to understand, except in hindsight. People gripe about the Porsche Cayenne, but it enabled them to survey, and then thrive.

      I look at the things complain about, FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD, short vs. long front overhang, light vs. heavy, and on and on. Never my own gripes over the lack the the 1er hatch in the US. Then I look at the i3 and the i8, and I’m beginning to see something quite interesting. I want to see more. I am surrounded by Tesla’s and have watched an I3 toast an M3 in a stoplight drag race. The electric car is here and it’s a sea change. BMW is trying to put their own stamp on it. Just like Harley is experimenting with the electric motorcycle, but in their own unique fashion, loud.

      Even though they don’t currently sell what I want in the US, I’m beginning to think I should grant them a little latitude. After all, we want BMW to survive and thrive in the transition, and be in the best position to put their own true BMW stamp on the change.

      So bring it, but always make sure it’s a BMW. We as fans and customers should always demand that. We just need to keep the greater context in mind.

  6. Terry Cowan says:

    If it makes a BMW small & affordable? Bring it on!

  7. realtrevor says:

    You’re trying hard to make a case for FWD BMWs and you’re unable to do that. “The 2 Series coupe is a sensational car, it really is. But the cold truth of the matter is that it’s losing out in sales to front-wheel drive cars like the Mercedes CLA Class and Audi A3.”
    The 2 series is not loosing sales because its RWD, in South Africa the BMW 1 Series for instance iis a cheaper buy than the A class and A3, while it carries the BMW badge and has the best driving characteristics in class. So making it FWD will just make me buy an A3 or Golf. There is no way a 116i or 120i FWD will be fun to drive as the current RWD 116i or 120i.

  8. John says:

    Porsche is the new BMW

  9. BMW JEDI says:


  10. darex says:

    The way the article reads, you’re suggesting that BMW’s FWD effort might be superior to the GTI, Cooper S and FiST. You must realize that BMW makes the Cooper S, this proposed FWD Sedan uses the same engine and platform as the Cooper S, right? I mean, you know this already, right?

    You’re suggesting BMW might out-compete itself? Ummm….okay

  11. John D says:

    If BMW want to make the move from RWD to FWD to increase profitability, well, just do it.
    BUT please ! Stop to try to convince us with those poor argumented articles, please.
    It’s an insult to our brain [ at least to some of us ;-) ]
    If BMW is able to make a FWD car as fun and as good handling as their RWD one, with more space inside, and cheaper to buy, why they will make it with th 1 serie, but not the 3,4,5,6,7 series ??

  12. 181 says:

    The reasons for FWD are cost and packaging. Electric drive has neither setback while remaining RWD.

    Lesson for BMW is let’s hurry up with that CLAR architecture with a proper RWD BEV option for every model. Problem solved.

  13. Donald Rajaseelan says:

    I am a Fan of BMW because they do not make FWD Wagons, they make real cars. I would like to give BMW a hatsoff for sticking to only RWDs & AWDs. A big mistake from Mercedes is their A class being a FWD, not every Merc fan would go for it because of its FWD config, I don’t want BMW to make the same mistake by launching a car(wagon) with FWD configuration. Your are right, A car is car only when it is a RWD or AWD otherwise it is just a Wagon which is being dragged everywhere by an engine in front which is also bolted to the front wheels.

  14. Shawn7 says:

    The rear wheel 1 wastes too much space up front, once it goes front wheel drive I will start taking it into consideration, the rotated motor should take up less place and allow for a larger cabin at same overall length. Just to say, there are potential clients like me that just want a high quality small car and care more about economy of space than sportier genes.

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