by Jez Spinks

BMW says its upcoming front-wheel-drive vehicles will become an accepted part of the brand’s line-up, comparing the controversy to the launch of its SUVs in the late 1990s.

The German brand that is renowned for its rear-wheel-drive cars is currently showcasing its BMW Active Tourer Concept at the 2012 Paris motor show, a model that previews its new ‘UKL’ front-drive architecture that will be used across more than 20 models including the 2013 Mini.

A production version of the Active Tourer will adopt a 2 Series badge, according to BMW insiders, and be pitched against the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. It will be just one of about 20 models based on the UKL platform that will include the next-generation Mini.

BMW says the success of its SUV range provides the confidence behind its decision to offer front-drive models.

“We had a similar decision in the ’90s with the X model [the X5], where suddenly we went to a more upright car concept, a more off-road-oriented car, a different seating position, different weight distribution, AWD,” BMW’s vice president of product and service planning, Dr Frank Neiderlander, told CarAdvice at the recent 2012 Paris motor show. “So we had a totally different concept to the previous [rear drive passenger car] layout but still at the end we managed to bring this soul of a BMW to this kind of concept.

“That is why we are so confident we can do the same for such a concept [as the front-wheel-drive BMW].”

BMW has previously argued that luxury cars needed rear-wheel drive for the right driving characteristics, and a former BMW Australia boss even claimed Audi wasn’t a genuine rival because it offered front-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles only.

The car maker also recently reverted to its famous ‘Ultimate driving machine’ advertising slogan.

Dr Niederlander said the rear-drive layout was best for more powerful luxury cars but that this isn’t such an issue for the front-drive models that will include three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

He also stressed that BMW wouldn’t be building the models if they couldn’t meet the essence of the brand’s DNA.

“Historically, it was not so much a question of [having RWD for] luxury but the performance,” he said. “At a certain level you need to have the traction on the rear to get the performance down. That was a question of car size, and RWD was the concept for that.

“[The front-drive concept is] really coming from this relation between the space for the technology inside, the drivetrain, the suspension, the outside dimensions of the car.

“We are [developing] it for customers who want more interior space… a long wheelbase to have flexible usage on the interior, but still have all that in a very compact dimension.

“To combine that you have to see what would be the right layout to do that and we came to the decision of front-wheel-drive concept. What we try to look at same time, how do we manage that this is still a BMW, because without this you wouldn’t develop the car.”



  • $29896495

    They’ve been building the new Mini for years, I don’t see what the issue is. 

    • Lang Chye

      BMW is falling on its own sword

    • Dave W

      True, but you’re talking about the iconic Mini. Most people buy that car as a fashion statement anyway, so they don’t care if it’s front or rear wheel drive. Only suckers will buy a FWD BMW.

      This also reminds me of Apple releasing the iPad Mini despite claiming that 10″ is the ideal size and anything smaller is simply too small.

      • $29896495

        He did state that FWD wasn’t for large performance cars. I think they just want to spread their Mini market, hopefully with a better looking effort than what they are showing so far. Meet the little Mercs and all the rest.

        As for Apple, they are WAY over-rated. The iPhone can’t match the Android for versatility and Apple are always following. The Tablets are the same. Samsung have had it all over the Apple products, hence the law suits, and on the move a half A4 is better than a full page. One that you can use as a phone is even better.

  • Cl1ff0

    When paying that much I want rear wheel thanks.

    • $29896495

      Just one?

      • Amlohac

        It would seem so.

      • Phil

        Cause ‘rear-wheel drive’ means that a car is only driven by a single rear wheel…

  • Force-15

    Of course people will “embrace” FWD BMW’s, for the same reason why their SUVs became accepted: The badge. Unfortunately that’s the only thing (most?) people look for on a car.

  • Golfschwein

    I don’t doubt that they’ll be excellent cars, and will open a new market for BMW. Doomed to success, I’m  afraid.

  • Golfmother

    Reality bites , and then GM will be  fwd as will ford , costs  dictate , only selected up market vehicles will be rwd .

    • Dave W

      Toyota just released a RWD sports car for $30k and BMW whose cheapest car is priced at $37k can’t provide RWD because of cost? How much markup do they want from their cars?

      • Phil

        The interior of Toyota’s $30K RWD car is about as inviting as sitting inside a shopping trolley.

        • F1MotoGP

          The same could be said for some BMW models, when compared to some Audis.

    • pixxxels

      You got a sticky space-bar there mate?


    go the mighty 86! Teach bmw how to make an exciting car again :)

    • Sydlocal

       Toyota can only make one car that is exciting to drive, at least BMW have more than one…. 😉

  • Pro346

    Front wheel drive OK for boring hatchbacks but no good for anything trying to be sporty…..gti anyone.

    • Sydlocal

       ….or Megane/Clio RS models, the old Integra Type R. Just a couple of examples of FWD cars that would show quite a few RWD cars a clean set of heels around corners. However they are the exception rather than the rule. Then again, the majority of every-day, non-enthusiast drivers probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!

      • Karl Sass

        They are good cars but they would’ve been better if they were rear-drivers.

  • Dave S

    No one will ever argue that the X5 handles better than the 5 series wagon. The M5 will aways be better than the X5M. BMW engineering can’t hide what it is. An overweight SUV with always be that, like a FWD will never handle as well as a RWD.

    People will still buy the FWD BMW, but that is missing the point. What happened to ‘the ultimate driving machine’?

    • Karl Sass

      Exactly. Not even BMW can beat the laws of physics, despite what the fanboys think.

  • Roadtard

    The Ultimate Badge Machine

  • john

    BMW will not be able to keep up with demand IMO. These cars will sell in droves. If there is any controversy with their upcoming FWD BMW badged vehicles it is entirely self inflicted. Remember BMW’s chief engineer was quoted as saying “FWD is the work of the Devil”. It now seems that BMW has sold their soul”! 

    • Lowstar

      BMW has not sold it soul its making sure it does not have to sell its self. Mini needs economies of scale BMW already build fwd cars. BMW core models will always be rwd so there is no need to worry. BMW has always done what it has to do to grow by putting there motors in planes,bikes, then cars. the people that will be buying these fwd BMWs won’t care about traction out of corners, but with space and versatiliTy. These buyers would go to Mercedes or Audi which both offer fwd cars(Audi no rwd). BMW don’t want a excuse not to buy a BMW. BMW has come under attack by Mercedes and Audi now BMW is gearing up pull away again. Audi only got close to BMW due to the a1 which is a mini rival built on a vw polo platform. So what will the a1 sales be like when BMW builds it a1 rival. And if people think that the BMW mini will eat into the small fwd BMW you would be wrong. The mini is a love it or hate it car but there are enough people.that would not buy nothing else. The other half will then choose between the a1 or the BMW 0 series.

  • Wile E Coyote

    Aston Martin “sold out” with the Cygnet and Porsche did the Cayenne and Lambo and Bentley are lining up with SUVs,there are probably lots of other examples.
    Nothing is sacred.At the end of the day BMW will need to do a good job or their brand will take a major hit and that would be very costly.Somehow I don’t think they are that stupid though many would like to see them fall.

  • Sakdjfhlajdhfladfladf

    Fans may not like it, but those who just want a BMW, for the badge, won’t really understand the difference, won’t care. Plus, BMW could potentially lower the price of the cars with front wheel drive, meaning more sales. All this talk by BMW could possibly be true, or just another ploy to make more money. The latter sounds most likely. 

  • F1orce

    Most people who buy BMW’s buy them due to their badge

  • DanielD

    Succeeding generations of BMW owners won’t care as like the rest of the community out there, they are engaged by trinkets not by engineering. They will typically show no mechanical sympathy or understanding about the car, nor how any of its systems or mechanics works. They will display on a daily basis an appalling level of road craft skills that would fail an P plate test, while boasting they have never had an accident in twenty years. They don’t care about the car or their driving, but the car has to be saying the right things.
    If the car isn’t labelled as bogan, creates more personal debt then their neighbours can afford or would go into hock for and it has all the tech trinkets, its all that matters. BMW knows what makes a growing part of its customer base and is simply building cars down to their ability and attention span with lots of chrome and electric screens for them to touch and play with, while they cost cut the engineering that they wouldn’t understand to something approaching a Korean car.

    • Wile E Coyote

      Arrogance and envy all rolled into one.
      Work harder and you may be able to get out of that ute you know so mechanically , drive so expertly,has no buttons to play with, and you do not owe a cent on.
      But somehow I don’t think so

    • Scruples

      Envy and arrogance all rolled into one.
      One day you might get out of that ute that you know mechanically inside and out,has no buttons to play with,you drive so expertly and don’t owe a cent on.
      Or maybe not

      • Wile E Coyote

        Not funny Garry

    • fun

      Someone has obviously not driven a modern manual BMW down the Great Ocean Road. As long as they keep building drivers cars I’ll be back again and again.