Will BMW M Cars Ever Go Front-Wheel Drive?

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It’s certainly a possibility for future entry-level BMW M Performance models.

Love it or hate it, BMW’s is embracing front-wheel drive cars. The automaker’s new FAAR front-wheel drive architecture is spawning new models, but BMW’s M division isn’t keen on applying this layout to its performance models. After all, a full-fat BMW M car without power being sent to the rear wheels would be blasphemous in most enthusiast’s eyes. And yet BMW is considering applying its fabled M badge to select front-wheel-drive cars in the future. The Honda Civic Type R has proved it’s possible to build a performance car with front-wheel drive, but this setup wouldn’t deliver the driving experience enthusiasts expect from a BMW M car.

“That challenge is the biggest challenge, because we want to have a typical M feeling which goes more naturally with rear-wheel drive,” BMW’s M boss Frank Van Meel told CarAdvice at the launch of the M2 and M5 Competition in Spain. “If you want to do that with front-wheel drive, I think that’s the biggest challenge you can have.” However, Van Meel admitted that BMW’s M division can’t completely ignore the segment. In the last few years, BMW introduced the M Performance entry-model lineup slotting below the full-fat M range.

Before you start worrying the next-generation M3 and M4 will be offered in front-wheel drive, Van Meel said these entry-level M Performance models are more likely to get the front-wheel drive treatment. “The segment is big for us and of course it’s very attractive, it’s the entry-level segment to M,” he said. “The question is what kind of M and which cars of that segment would fit.”

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The next-generation 1-Series will be the company’s first vehicle to use the FAAR front-wheel-drive platform, followed by a new 2-Series Gran Turismo, 2-Series Active Tourer, 2-Series Gran Tourer, X1, and a small electric SUV dubbed the iX1. Van Meel didn’t say which of these models could be sold in M Performance guise, but at least purists can rest easy knowing BMW isn’t planning to introduce full-fat front-wheel drive M cars. Then again, the new M5 has shifted from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, so we wouldn't rule anything out just yet.

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