BMW's Not Entirely Breaking With Tradition

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bmws not entirely breaking with tradition

It’s quite possible a gasp of horror escaped from your lips after laying eyes on the upcoming BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe for the first time. Unmistakably front-drive in profile, the brand’s new entry point ⁠— which happens to be based on the X1 and X2 crossovers ⁠— saw fit to avoid front-drive-only models in North America.

The same goes for the X1 and X2, though overseas buyers can find themselves a Bimmer that only pulls, never pushes. Just don’t ever expect to find one bearing a coveted M badge, the automaker promises.

Speaking to Australia’s CarAdvice, BMW M boss Markus Flasch said high-performance badging will never appear on a front-drive car, just rear- or all-wheel drive models. Perhaps that’s already too broad a landscape, given some purists’ lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming M235i xDrive Gran Coupe and the X2 M35i. Still, it’s a nod towards tradition, and it’s in keeping with how rival Mercedes-Benz configures its AMG-badged products.

When asked if a front-drive M car is something the brand has up its sleeve, Flasch said, simply, “No, it’s not.”

“We have a very strong offering in the M2 so we figure there’s no need to have a high-performance car based on the 2 Series and then a performance car based on the 1 Series,” he added.

BMW just switched its 1 Series, which U.S. buyers can’t have, from rear-drive to a front-drive layout for the 2020 model year. Like the model’s 2 Series Gran Coupe platform mate, 1 Series models offered with xDrive are deemed worthy of an M. Expect to see an M135i hatch on the European market in short order.

As for the unrelated, rear-drive 2 Series coupe, that model’s M variant is a fun pocket rocket with lots of cred. It’s also almost single-handedly keeping the manual transmission alive in the brand’s U.S. lineup, and it doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon.

Calling it the brand’s “most charismatic and purest model,” Flasch said the automaker has a 2 Series follow-up in the works, and it will not arrive with anything but a rear-biased drivetrain.

“The M135i xDrive is very attractive in the performance segment but if you really want high performance, customers will always go for the M2,” he said.

[Images: Chris Tonn/TTAC, Kevin Mio/TTAC]

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  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Nov 01, 2019

    Front wheel drive cars can drive just fine when they're properly engineered. When BMW first brought over their Mini Cooper, my then-girlfriend was quick to order one. It was lots of fun to drive but fell apart in less than two years. I've also owned BMWs. I stopped buying BMWs when they stopped making good looking cars that drove better than higher quality alternatives. Would I buy a premium FWD car? Yes. Would I buy a FWD BMW? No, but mostly because their current offerings are comically hideous and there are companies that make cars that are just as nice to drive while being much better engineered and built.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Nov 02, 2019

    It is a simple matter of ... powah. If your rears drive and fronts steer, you split the jobs. This works until the rears have too much power, like vette C5, C6 or C7. This almost never happens in normal commuter cars, so.... We go FWD. Cheaper to make and assemble, but now one set of wheels does nothing and the fronts do all the work. I've had a bunch of SAAB, GTi, etc and you can do a lot with FWD, but you are limited eventually. You need to be AWD above a threshold (think Nissan GT-R) because then you can get all the power to the ground with stability. An M car has a performance threshold that is too high for FWD only. VW-Audi's S3/Rtype is AWD.

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.