Over the past few weeks we’ve reported (and reported) on BMW’s growing plans with small cars. While the UKL derived front wheel drive models have taken center stage for most of that discussion, over the next ten years, BMW also has big plans for it’s small rear wheel drive cars.
The success of the 1M and the current M135i have made it obvious to BMW that smaller M products are vital the future of the brand. While the 1M was limited, it sold briskly from the start. The M135i seems to be carrying on that success albeit without the limited edition constraints that 1M had. And it’s not just BMW that sees the potential market. Both Mercedes and Audi will be coming to market with offerings in the next 1-2 years.
Both plan to offer compact four door models with well over 300 hp; the Mercedes CLA45 AMG and the Audi S3. Sounds like a natural solution right? Make a small four door based on the current 1 Series, hand it off to M and call it a day. According to Autocar, the issue BMW is having is one of engineering capacity. It sounds a little shocking from the enthusiast point of view. This should be the M Brand’s bread and butter right? It’s also interesting in that BMW’s own internal studies show this type of car will be crucial in the Chinese and North American markets.
One solution would be to (gasp) outsource portions of the development of the new baby M car. While we hate the idea of an M product being created by outsiders, it may be the only way to get it done in a timely fashion.
Timely fashion being key. Again according to Autocar, BMW insiders are admitting the future of the M brand may not be the M3 and M5 as much as products like the M2 and even X4M. As the M3 and M5 have grown in size and price they have become further out of reach. BMW M knows that they need to offer more products at lower prices with the performance we’ve all come to expect.
We’ve heard (and the Autocar article furthers this) that BMW is currently looking at two proposals. One of them is to go after the market with the rear wheel drive platform of the 1 Series in four door form. The other (and perhaps troubling to more than a few readers) would be using the front wheel drive UKL platform as the basis for a all wheel drive baby M car.
Obviously the rear wheel drive solution has advantages in performance and feel (not to mention engine choices) while the front wheel drive proposal does better with packaging and cost. We also hear that BMW of North America will play a big part in the selection process. It’s simplifying things a bit, but in a nutshell if BMWNA signs on and will commit to carrying the baby M car, then M will go rear wheel drive. If they don’t there’s a good chance that BMW will have to lower the product’s cost and go FWD.
Drive orientation aside, perhaps the most interesting part of the Autocar article is the talk of engines. We’ve known for some time that BMW M was aiming for the next baby M to have a four cylinder producing over 300 hp. However what we didn’t know (and what Autocar is reporting) is that this new engine has been created for both longitudinal and transverse mounting. Not only could this engine power a rear wheel drive 1M successor but it could also work in future front wheel drive or all wheel drive MINIs and BMWs.