BMW Concept Active Tourer, 2012 Paris Auto Show
BMWs have always been rear-wheel drive, a layout that offers balance and handling purity rarely found on front-drive vehicles.
Dreaded or not, BMW has confirmed that its first front-wheel-drive models (not counting those in the MINI range, that is) will be arriving in the U.S.
Front-wheel drive is preferable for interior packaging, negating the need for a space-occupying longitudinal engine layout, larger center transmission tunnel or raised trunk floor to account for rear-drive components.
While driving purists might balk at the idea of a front-drive BMW, it means better utility for the everyday consumer.
The first front-drive model will be a compact MPV, likely wearing the 1-Series Gran Turismo tag. The vehicle has been testing in prototype form for around a year, and was previewed in concept form by last year's Active Tourer Concept.
While the Concept was a plug-in hybrid, production models are likely to use the new 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine also previewed in that car.
We drove a 1-Series hatchback fitted with the engine back in March, and found it to offer reasonable power and a characterful noise--and its relatively light weight meant nimble handling too.
BMW says up to 200 horsepower is possible from the 3-cylinder unit, so the new 1-Series GT is unlikely to disappoint from that perspective.
And with a capacity smaller than that of any current BMW--and indeed smaller than the current MINI Cooper, it could also be one of the greenest BMWs yet.