Front Wheel Drive BMWs?

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Rants
Tags: ,

In my latest issue of Automobile Magazine I read a rather disturbing article – it said that BMW intends to produce front-wheel drive vehicles because, according to them, that’s the only way they can reach fuel economy targets.

What?

Let me say it again, BMW, the company that has devoted itself to RWD dynamics which allow for a nearly 50/50 weight distribution, and thus wonderfully simple and predictable handling for the average driver.  Yes, that was a direct dig at people who have never experienced the awesomeness of a mid-engine car, and my way of saying that BMW drivers aren’t very good – but we all knew that already.  I digress.

Mother nature knows best – keep it RWD.

The point is, a FWD BMW is a travesty.  In my mind at least.  But, we have to face some facts.

First, we have to realize that BMW doesn’t give a shit about driving purity anymore.  They’ve made that abundantly clear by abandoning high-revving naturally aspirated engines in their M cars and moving towards turbocharged power for all of their cars.  Now, turbos are nice because you can turn up the boost, but they will never match the instant throttle response of a well developed naturally aspirated engine.  BMW has the stones to make a powerful engine without turbos – just look at the V12 they crammed into the 242.9 mph (!!!) McLaren F1.  They took the BMW V12 from the 8-series (originally rated at around 300 hp) and massaged it up to 627 hp at 7400 rpm.  So, they can make the power and not use turbos (and use a creamy smooth V12, my favorite engine configuration of all time).  But, again, I’m getting away from the point.  FWD.

Well, BMW has already said a giant fuck you to their devotion to RWD – they make pretty much every car they sell in AWD, in response to the market’s belief that AWD is a panacea for handling woes, bad weather traction, and bad driving in general (which we have a lot of in America).  As a result, there’s demand for these AWD cars and BMW is like any company in their world – they want to make money.  So they cater to their douchebag customers who seem to think that AWD will solve all the problems in the world and add weight, complexity, and fuck up the near-perfect handling balance in the process (while decreasing fuel economy).

If BMW really wants to improve their efficiency they should make 100% of their cars RWD manual transmissions.  That’d be good for a few mpg on every model.  But they’d lose sales, so they’re going to pressure, and cave.  The reality is that most consumers don’t even know the difference between FWD, RWD, and AWD anyways.

Fits up to 4 clowns inside.

And BMW has actually done a damned fine job of making FWD cars, namely, the MINI Coopers.  I myself have been the victim of their astonishing performance – last year’s Road Tire class in the local SCCA Autocross was won by long haired man and his Mini Cooper S Convertible.  Humiliating to say the least.

But my point is that FWD is for the Mini brand.  Why defile years of heritage and balance at BMW just to cater to fuel economy regs?  And furthermore, I think their claim that they can’t meet fuel economy regulations is complete bullshit.  Maybe if BMW didn’t paint their cars with osmium based paint and build the frames out of lead they wouldn’t weigh 20 billion lbs and they could eek a few extra MPG out of their cars just due to weight savings – just head on over to http://www.fueleconomy.gov and look at the Porsche Cayman S (20/29) or the Lotus Elise (21/27) – powerful, fast, fun to drive cars that get good fuel economy through light weight.

It’s not gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But instead, BMW claims it can’t be done.  I direct BMW to my old 1991 Mazda Miata.  Now here was a car that had the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick, yet managed to return well over 30 mpg all day long.  The formula?  Low weight and a small displacement engine.  Hell, if it had a 6th gear and modern aerodynamics I’m positive it would return over 40 mpg.  Just look at the current crop of mini cars like the Ford Fiesta or Hyundai Accent – they use exactly the formula I said – conventional engine, low weight, good aerodynamics.  Maybe if the car were RWD it might get 38 instead of 40 mpg due to the parasitic loss in transferring power to the rear wheels but come on, that’s good enough.

But BMW insists that they won’t compromise.  Their customers want powerful cars with lots of features that are safe – so small displacement engines won’t be able to move the mammoth weight of such vehicles.  I say bullshit again.  I say their current customers aren’t going to have any interest in some front wheel drive clown car that’s being built just to raise the corporate fuel economy averages.  Who in their right mind will buy the car?

A face only a mother could love.

Badge snobs?  Maybe just to get, like the current 1-series owners (that’s right you 1-series owners, your car is a cheap piece of shit with a caveman rear suspension, and the only reason you bought it was because you’re stretching just to get into that car and you couldn’t afford the extra few thousand dollars to step into a 3-series) the badge on the front of the car and the “status” that comes with such a car – but the reality is that its seen by anyone with a brain as the cheap, bottom end car and as a result, the 1-series sells terribly.  The upcoming crop of FWD cars will be seen in the same light.

So, badge snobs won’t really buy the car for fear of being frowned upon by those already in the arms of the brand.  And the people who really care about fuel economy in the first place won’t buy it because it will be a BMW – and therefore it will be expensive, and options will be brutally overpriced.  They’ll lean towards more sensibly priced vehicles.  Rich people who don’t give a shit about fuel economy, on the other hand, won’t feel any need to get these cars.

Wealthy Prius drivers love the smell of their own farts.

Ah, but rich people also like to pretend they give a shit about the environment.  They’ll pay exorbitant prices for stupid little eco cars just so they can assuage the guilt that their 6000 square foot McMansion emits as much carbon as a small town in Africa (never mind their own carbon emissions from eating too much organic spelt).  That, my pretties, is the only way BMW will be able to sell these little shitboxes.  Marketing them as green, selling them to people who shop at Whole Foods and claim to have gluten allergies (serve them gluten-filled pasta, they won’t notice because that’s complete bullshit as well).  I can see it now – the new BMW Speltmobile – made from organic, post consumer recycled wheatgrass, powered by hemp juice and fair trade coconut water.

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