This car has been expected for a long time now. For BMW, this is a 'sin', indeed, one with an intensive preparation. It all started after the disastrous involvement with Rover, by at least securing the rights to the Mini. Now at least, they had a front-wheel drive car in the group.
They then waited a long time, two generations of Mini, now, together with the third generation, they come in more or less through the back door. One could call it a motley model-collection, which is floating around under the name '2'. It is made up of only two models, which are however, quite different from each other: one is derived from the '1' coupé, the other is the 'Active Tourer'.
It takes it's place in the BMW-family, 16 years after Mercedes did it, 40 years after VW and even longer after Audi. Nevertheless, or perhaps that's why, it doesn't appear to be very welcome. The followers of the '1' are beside themselves, because their own change is already in the starting blocks. The followers of the '3' appear to be taking this quite calmly because they know that sooner or later, they will have to accept the front-wheel drive as well.
The '5' and '7' range, seem to feel relatively secure, and in the all-wheel drive faction, the change-over won't even be noticed. No, the manufacturers are of the opinion that front-wheel drive won't fit into the luxury-class for a long time, even though Cadillac has already been using it for 48 years. Indeed, who would be bold enough to compare a Cadillac with a '5' or a '7'?
Of course, the BMW engineers have known for a long time, that front-wheel drive and the all-wheel drive derivation, should have been planned for at least half of their model-range. Because apart from saving a lot of space and being more lightweight, lurking in the background, are these strangling CO2 emission-regulations.
So, why didn't they introduce it earlier? The answer can be found by looking at a BMW from underneath. Basically, they all look the same, even the all-wheel- and SUV-variations. This of course, cuts development costs. I however, feel sorry for the BMW-sales people. They should have been warned earlier not to harp on the theses of the steering being independent from the drive-train.
BMW driving-dynamics here or there, Porsche also woke up in time in the case of the infamous Diesel-engine. At least they introduced the change a lot more wisely than did, e.g., Mercedes, who suffered a regular disaster at the beginning of the A-Class, and the start of the VW-Golf 1 wasn't particularly glorious as far as rusting was concerned either. One can be consoled by the fact, that VW's new models quite often appear late on the market and more or less take over from behind. 02/14