The February 2011 issue of CAR Magazine spills the beans on a new generation of small BMWs. They're radical on many levels: they're front-wheel drive for starters. But they also reflect the downsizing trend, stretching BMW's line-up into hitherto unknown small-car niches.
These artist's impressions commissioned exclusively for CAR Magazine reveal two of a planned 13 new baby BMWs and Minis. Five will wear the BMW roundel, the remaining eight are Mini spin-offs - and CAR's European correspondent Georg Kacher reveals the lot in our special cover story.
We're concentrating on two here: the Z2 is a baby roadster tucking in well below the Z4 to take aim at the Mazda MX-5. The 1 GT does what it says on the tin, creating a Gran Turismo version of the next-gen 1-series, following in the footsteps of the 5 GT.
BMW Z2: in detail
You'll have to read the February 2011 issue of CAR for the full story, but allow us to whet your appetite here. The Z2 is a two-seater and Munich product planners are considering coupe and soft-top roadster versions.
Both models are based on the UKL1 front-drive transverse architecture, standing for untere klasse in German. It's at the core of BMW's plans to become more efficient at making small cars - Munich hopes to push production up by as much as 1 million units a year by the end of the decade and will reap the benefit from a shared platform.
Power for the new UKL1 front-drive BMWs comes from three- and four-cylinder engines, spinning the front wheels, although four-wheel drive is enabled by UKL1 as it's required for the Countryman. Getrag will build the 4wd, as well as a twin-clutch transmission.
The Z2 is pencilled in for a launch in 2016, at around £20,000-£25,000. That's top-end MX-5 territory, nudging into Audi TT ground.
BMW 1-series GT in detail
The next 1-series hatchback family will be shown later in 2011, and that car and its coupe/convertible siblings are spun off the existing rear-drive platform. The real change happens from 2014, when the first front-drive 1-series models arrive.
Codenamed F45, the 1-series GT revealed here in CAR's exclusive images (the pics circulating on the web are scans from CAR Magazine) will therefore be sold alongside the rear-drive Ones, as Munich soft-launches the new architecture.
The 1 GT is a compact activity tourer in Munichspeak. Think A3 Sportback rival then. But other front-wheel drive small BMWs are under consideration, including a high-roof Merc B-class rivalling model dubbed FAST (Family Activity Sports Tourer) and a cut-down, 0-series style JOY hatchback twinned closely with the Mini.
Front-wheel drive BMWs: the risk
Munich is acutely aware of the risk of launching front-wheel drive cars, after decades of carefully nurtured rear-drive Ultimate Driving Machines. But company execs are confident that the Mini proves they know a thing or two about front-wheel drive too.
We're now about to find out if Joe Bloggs really gives a stuff about which axle is driven. We suspect they won't.