Call it the price of officially joining the establishment.
OK, so here's the deal: BMW, the German automaker that gave the world the iconic M3, many other numbered Series models, and the entire M division for that matter, is going mainstream. For years, BMW prided itself in doing its own thing, something that was quite different than its American competitors. That was to build highly engineered rear-wheel-drive sedans and coupes with an emphasis on performance and handling.
Although pricier than your average Chevy, those in the know prided themselves on buying a 2002 or early 3 Series; they fully knew they had something special. Mercedes was all about luxury then, but BMW created a new niche that was unlike any other. The strategy worked brilliantly. But if you defy the establishment long enough, you may one day become a part of it. That's BMW today, in a nutshell. And the proof lies in its upcoming lineup of front-wheel-drive models. The 2-Series Active Tourer is just the start. Although BMW is quick to say it'll always build the 3, 5, and 7 Series as RWD models, those three will likely no longer be the so-called bread and butter.
Instead, they'll be replaced with smaller and more efficient FWD models because that's the way the global market is heading. Sure, Mercedes has the new CLA- and A-Class (same car really), but its overall focus remains RWD. So is BMW ruining itself with FWD? Perhaps. We'll just have to wait and see how buyers (new and old) respond. But one thing is clear: BMW is no longer creating its own niche; it's now helping to run the establishment.