I have forever been a fan of BMW. Having had the opportunity to drive one from Paris to Rome several years (decades) ago made me fall in love with its rear wheel drive characteristics. I adored its handling and balance if not its fuel consumption. In its defence however, I have a rather heavy foot. The model is irrelevant but I will say it was a petrol powered 3 series on the higher end of the engine size scale. The interior was comfortable, pleasant and well appointed. Sometimes you need to drive different vehicles so you can appreciate the experience each of them offers. While I would have liked a slightly softer ride, I wouldn’t have wanted to compromise the feeling of letting the tail end dance about round some mountainside hairpin turns.
I’ve driven several BMW offerings over the years from the 318Ti to the M5 including the x-drive SUV line. I absolutely love the way rear wheel drive cars handle. Which is why I am somewhat concerned with BMW’s latest concept that is said to hit the Paris Auto show in the months to come. I own an X3 3.0i and sadistically enjoy the sometimes bone jarring stiffness from the suspension that may have caused me to lose a tooth filling and a few ideas.
I’m not concerned that BMW won’t know how to make a small front wheel drive or hybrid all-wheel drive car. It doesn’t bother me that the high roofed hatchback “Concept Active Tourer” is said to be fitted with a small 1.5 litre three cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rear wheels. What bothers me is the thought that the winds of change are blowing and the world is moving away from the cars I grew up admiring as a child and now loving as an adult.
I fully understand that BMW needs to compete with the Mercedes B series and the business case made for the growing segment. I understand the need to embrace hybrid technology and reducing our carbon foot print. I am afraid that soon, only a handful of “super cars” will be left that can offer rear wheel drive petrol powered cars. These poster cars will always have their place on the bedroom walls and school lockers of young boys and girls, but new generations are going to be robbed of the opportunity of driving really “fun to drive” cars. I mean, proper handling cars that reward the driver with a grin from ear to ear when rounding that corner on or off a motorway or in the lush green hills on a sunny Sunday morning.
I guess I’m just disappointed that BMW has started to go in this direction because I fear that the rest of their line-up will follow. The eventuality of the (somewhat) affordable automobile becoming a mere tool for transportation only and void of any real joy is becoming very real. That my friends, is a sad thought for those of us that are considered true “petrol heads” and enjoy driving a car for the joy of driving and not solely for the purpose of commuting.