BMW shows concept for first front-wheel-drive model

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The production version of the Concept Active Tourer will be the first front-wheel-drive BMW. (Newspress)

BMW has never before produced a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car wearing a BMW badge. The company used the 2012 Paris Motor Show to display the Active Concept Tourer that looks set to compete with FWD rivals such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

The concept is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which combines a 1.5-L, three-cylinder, direct-injection, gasoline engine with a synchronous electric motor to deliver a combined output of 190 hp (142 kW). The engine features BMW’s Valvetronic variable valve control system and twin turbochargers, technology that will feature on all future BMW gasoline engines.

BMW claims fuel consumption of less than 2.5 L/100 km and carbon dioxide emissions of less than 60 g/km, measured on the EU combined cycle. Fully charged, the lithium-ion battery pack is said to give a range of around 30 km (19 mi). The synchronous motor provides 200 N·m (148 lb·ft) of torque from rest and drives and recuperates energy from the rear axle, similar to the Peugeot Hybrid4 system.

The concept is equipped with BMW’s ECO PRO mode, available with current production models. The system can reduce the power of the air conditioning system and other electrical components to improve efficiency. It is also linked to the satellite navigation system to provide the most fuel efficient route for the driver. Navigation data are used to advise the driver about the road ahead before it is in view.

Michael de Bono is the exterior designer of the Concept Active Tourer: “About a year ago we had the brief to find the solution for the trend of urbanization, with people moving back to the center of cities and living their lives in a city more and more and needing a car to satisfy that.

“We decided on a front-wheel-drive car that offers maximum interior space for the minimum exterior footprint—so the best of both worlds between a hatch and perhaps a 3 Series Touring. For us, we started with a blank sheet of paper to see how we could bring BMW into this kind of segment.” The concept measures 4353 mm (171.4 in) long.

“Traditionally you have quite a stretched long hood and then the whole greenhouse set back, focused on rear-wheel drive," said de Bono. "Here, it’s more about front-wheel drive or hybrids. So first of all it’s all about the proportion. This has to be right to communicate what the car can do. It’s a sporty car but one with a lot of space. That’s why we went for an almost mono-volume proportion, with very little overhang, front and rear. We set everything back around the wheels to really reduce the visual mass.

“It has to have this BMW agility, but it’s a different kind of agility to a traditional BMW, it’s almost like a sprinter in the starting blocks, in that you have this leaning forward stance," he continued. "We achieved that through the whole greenhouse, the D-pillar constellation. The Hofmeister kink and the rear glass work together and you have this feeling of everything leaning forward, with an almost coupe-like flowing line.”

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