North American lovers of the BMW brand came near to getting a second bit of bad news in succession. After it was announced that the next-generation 3 Series will not be offered with a manual transmission on this side of the Atlantic, indications were that the next 2 Series, scheduled to debut early in the 2020s, would switch to a front-wheel-drive architecture.
Fortunately, someone intervened to avert this disaster. And that someone was Klaus Frohlich, head of product development at BMW. In an interview with the Motoring website, the executive revealed how close the 2 Series came to going over to the dark side.
"People asked 'does [rear-wheel drive] really matter because the segment is too small?' I think it's so important for the brand and it's so important for M, because the M2 is the entry model. So I fought hard and I won. You will have also a 2 Series successor that will have the power where you need it."
- Klaus Frohlich, head of product development at BMW
He added that had dubbed the car the “drift machine”, a unsubtle reminder to the designers and engineers assigned to the project just what role the model plays in the BMW lineup. For him, this is a car designed for drivers, and technology and luxury, important as they are, remain secondary.
The BMW 2 Series is currently in development. It’s expected that its architecture will be the modular platform currently shared by the 3 and 5 Series. And as the car will retain a rear-wheel-drive system, we can also expect that will keep an inline-6 engine.
Switching to the front-wheel drive chassis of the 1 Series would have required abandoning that engine, as that format could only accommodate an engine placed transversally, in other words no bigger than 4 cylinders.
With the 3 Series becoming increasingly gentrified, the 2 Series represents the core of what a BMW car is. Its character has been preserved, at least for the next generation. Beyond that, however, nothing is certain.