Front-wheel drive configurations have always been demonized for their handling characteristics since plain physics says, front-wheel drive is inferior because the front axle has to both deliver power and change the direction of travel. Not to mention, front-wheel drive configurations call for most of the car’s weight to be over the front axle, which again in physics disrupts the vehicles balance and feel.
Altogether, FWD cars were found to be slower and not as “fun” as RWD cars. Of course, to each their own, but as automotive technology has advanced, FWD cars can be made just as fast as RWD cars, if not faster. Some examples include the likes of the Renault Clio, Volkswagen GTI, the MINI Cooper and even in motorsport. For those of you who don’t know, majority of the cars that participate in the British Touring Car Championship are front-wheel drive.
I however, am not here to discuss the pros and cons of front-wheel drive. I am here to discuss the changes set forth by BMW. The Bayerische Motoren Werks brand announced some time ago that they will be producing front-wheel drive models. This shouldn’t be news however since BMW has been producing a front-wheel drive model since 2002: the MINI Cooper. But for the Munich brand themselves to adopt the configuration themselves translates into a break of tradition. For purists and enthusiasts like myself, that’s a big no-no. However, that isn’t keeping BMW from producing them and because BMW prides themselves as being the producers of the “Ultimate Driving Machines,” they seem to have no fear.
“In the last 10 years we have built nearly two million front-wheel-drive MINIs and no one has ever told me the driving dynamics are questionable,” said Ian Robertson, a spokesperson for the BMW Group at the launching of the latest 6-Series coupe in Germany. “I think we are very, very capable of developing a front-wheel-drive platform that has certain advantages in terms of design and the use of space, and at the same time will be a BMW as you always expected it to be.”
To me though, it sounds like they are riding on the arrogance of their reputation to break tradition. Many companies have done this since the true passion that drove the automobile industry to be the best they can be has shifted focus: it’s all about the money these days. And nearly every instance of this that I can think of has resulted in the worse. But as long as the profits and sales are up to competing with rivals, the companies are going to continue with their efforts. It’s a damn shame.
– By: Chris Chin