Well, today should be interesting. Putting aside the flight to Munich, the drive to Innsbruck and the return flight (s) to Heathrow via Frankfurt, at some point I should also get to drive the new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The car no-one is sure BMW should have built.
The 2er AT represents a two major firsts for the brand. Not only is it the first BMW people carrier, it’s also the first front-wheel drive BMW – the latter predicated by the packaging demands of the former. Which makes a great deal of sense, but is certainly likely to put those fabled ‘purists’ on edge.
So what the hell is BMW doing building an MPV anyway? That’s a good question, given how well the sector isn’t doing against the extra-added lifestyle dimension of the crossover segment. Maybe the 2 Series Active Tourer will be the car to turn this trend around, but really BMW just wants to make sure that it can scoop up brand fans that – for whatever reason – actually do want added space and practicality without the bulk and compromised dynamics of something that’s trying (and yet not trying) to be an SUV. Not that you get much of either with the BMW X1 or X3.
Many will see this as the top of a slippery slope: now that there’s one front-wheel drive BMW, how long before others? While there is a large degree of truth to this, it’s not as if BMW will be building a front-wheel drive 3 Series any time soon. And for the smaller cars, the reality is that wrong-wheel drive probably doesn’t matter – in fact, it’s probably what most buyers have been programmed to accept. We’ve all seen those pictures of 1 Series in the snow with chains on the front tyres, rather than the back.
Similarly, though I’m intrigued to find out just how much of that famously fluid BMW driving experience has been lost in the transition – best guess at this stage: not much, since the firm has been practicing for this point for years, with MINI – I’m not naïve enough to believe that the AT will live or die by its corner-carving capability. I may have to move the seats around and play with the cubby holes a bit more than would be my natural inclination. Could be I’ll end up judging its performance on the amount of time I spend waiting for the interior electric motors to do their thing…
Like I said, it’s going to be interesting.