Friday, February 8, 2013

BMW's Numbers Game - 60 from 1

Over my years of car testing I’ve driven lots of BMWs and always enjoyed them. Back in the 70s, in Munich, I got a lecture from the then PR Chief about how BMWs were drivers’ cars and that the design and engineering principles were inviolate.


As far as I’m concerned BMW has religiously stuck to its brief, but at this year’s Geneva Salon BMW will break a covenant – front wheel drive models from the company that prides itself on producing only rear wheel drive cars!


While the new 1-Series (below) features a twin-turbocharged diesel engine that delivers 60 mpg (4.4 l/100km), I believe we will see the first production FWD cars, which evolved from the Active Tourer Concept design model shown at the Paris Salon last year.


BMW enthusiasts should not be the slightest bit concerned about this shift – if this company can produce a great car like the Mini, then a FWD BMW should be a doddle.


Looking back to BMWs I’ve driven recently, it is the diesels I have most admired.

Sure, I truly enjoyed a petrol-powered M3 coupe, which was launched to the media in Port Macquarie, and a fantastic drive up through the Great Dividing Range, along the Oxley Highway to Walcha – then back down the mountain to a fabulous dinner, replete with great driving stories recalled from the day’s drive.


However, I think the BMW X3 2.0D, the 520D and the 730D are the cars that I’ve really enjoyed – not only for their driving pleasure, but the delivery of a great experience from a diesel powerplant.

I drove the X3 SUV around the Mount Macedon region, just outside Melbourne – and I came away thinking: “Why would you want a bigger, more powerful SUV?” This practical off-roader has loads of room, compact dimensions, and terrific performance.


Then I drove the 520D along what is called the ‘Burke & Wills Track’ and marvelled at how a 2-litre diesel had been fitted to a (relatively) big car, and how the performance hardly seemed to suffer – certainly not by my subjective judgement! It’s a great highway cruiser.


A spin on the Queensland Gold Coast’s mountainous Hinterland roads in a 730d showed that even the biggest of BMW’s models had been enhanced by a torquey, quiet, and fuel-efficient oil-burner.

If the Active Tourer Concept (below) comes to market looking like it did in Paris, I think BMW will have another winner on its hands. Front-Wheel-Drive? No worries.

BMW has stuck to its principles and despite the fact that (in size) it’s a minnow, compared to Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen Group, I think that as long as we are able to enjoy driving great cars, we will love the fact that BMW continues to adhere to the principle of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’.

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