BMW's Not Entirely Breaking With Tradition

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bmw s 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.

  • Tassos The EQS is the best looking BEV, better than even the only Tesla I would ever consider (the S) and more luxurious inside etc etcThe self driving features will come in handy when I'm 110 and my eyesight and reaction times start to suffer.But that's four decades away, and only Tim recommends 40 year old "used cars"
  • Tassos "Baby, Baby light my fire!""Oh God please give me a Kia Forte" --Janis Joplin
  • Tassos The fugly looks of any Subaru, and especially the non-sporty non-elegant, fugly, low-rent looks and interior of the WRX are alone a sufficient turnoff to never want to own one.One can be a 100% car enthusiast but ALSO demand a beautiful AND luxurious vehicle one can be truly proud of and which makes one very happy every time one drives it.The above is obviously totally foreign to Subaru Designers and managers.
  • Thehyundaigarage Am I the only one that sees a Peugeot 508?
  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.