TWO words that car company executives should never, ever use are “never” and “ever”.
And yet those of us with fully functioning memories can clearly recall those very words being forcefully put many, many Mini launches ago, when someone dared to ask whether BMW would ever consider using the frontwheel- drive layout it was now so clearly capable of engineering in a car wearing the famous blue and white roundel.
The company would “never, ever” do such a thing, we were told, because only rear-wheel drive can provide “pure driving pleasure” and BMWs are, and always will be, the “ultimate driving machine”.
But diversification, niche mining, dumbing down, whatever you want to call it, has caused a lot of car companies to do a lot of things that previous executives may have found unpalatable (or possibly knew full well were going to happen but preferred not to talk about).
And thus BMW now finds itself making a tall, compact family wagon, which appeals to the kind of buyers who give not one toss whether the engine is driving the front wheels, the rear ones or a hamster wheel. They just want passenger space, visibility, a premium cabin and an expensive badge on their noses.
The Active Tourer has nailed all that, but it has also driven a stake through the heart of the company, from a purist point of view. It has defied its driving pleasure mission statement and made all the things BMW has said about other companies’ cars being inferior because of their front-driveness look extremely silly indeed.
The tall 2 Series might wear the BMW badge, but it will never drive like one, and thus it has shattered Munich’s drivetrain mould forever.
People will buy it, which makes BMW money it can then spend on the M235is and M3s of the future.
When your brand stands for rear-wheel-drive purity, it’s possibly not a good idea to ignore your own advice.