BMW has no choice but to embrace front-wheel drive if the brand is to survive tougher emissions standards and an industry dominated by megacorporations. The long-term plan calls for six small front-wheel-drive cars -- two of them illustrated above -- to appear between 2014 and 2017.
1-series GT | 2014, FWD/AWD
Like a 5-series GT but smaller, lower to the ground, and better looking.
X1 | 2015, FWD/AWD
The next-gen small crossover.
1-series Touring | 2016, FWD/AWD
A higher roof, more cargo capacity, and a more flexible interior than the 1-series GT. Not likely for the U.S.
Timing Unknown, FWD
BMW's answer to the Audi A1 and the Mercedes-Benz A-class. Not likely for the U.S.
Z2 roadster/coupe | 2016, FWD
A sub-Z4 roadster that will compete with the cheaper Audi TT and should even draw Mazda Miata buyers.
1-series | 2017, FWD/AWD
Third-generation models of the two- and four-door hatchbacks that aren't sold in the U.S.
"Now six years into the life cycle of the current model, it's just about time for a new 3-series. A new one is coming, but it won't be ready in time for Germany's hometown auto show in Frankfurt this fall. Instead, it will appear in 2012. First out, in May 2012, are the sedan (illustrated above) and the wagon (unfortunately not for us this time). Then come the coupe and the convertible, the latter again with a retractable hard top. Finally, look for a four-door hatchback GT version (oh, no!) in late 2013. The GT has a one-piece hatch and a longer wheelbase than its siblings. We should see the turbo four-cylinder as the base engine in addition to a 270-hp straight six; the 300-hp, 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbo six; and a turbo-diesel (possibly a four-cylinder). As for the M3, it will drop its V-8 and return to a straight-six engine -- turbocharged, of course -- making about 450 hp from 3.0 liters, with the choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The M3 is due in early 2013.
WHAT The sixth generation of the iconic German sport sedan.
WHEN May 2012
DON'T MESS WITH SUCCESS BMW has every reason to play it conservatively with the next 3-series. We just hope it doesn't lose its edge in the name of refinement.
WHAT Having freshened the 7-, 5-, and 3-series, BMW arrives at the bottom of the deck.
ONE FINAL (RWD) RIDE The second-generation 1-series adopts BMW's tauter, more chiseled look and a turbocharged four-cylinder in entry-level trim. The major changes, though, will arrive in 2014, when BMW introduces its first front-wheel-drive small cars and puts the writing on the wall for the rear-wheel-drive 1-series. a front-wheel-drive onslaught is inevitable, but executives are currently mulling a plan to leave the third generation of the 1-series coupe and convertible on a rear-drive platform into the early 2020s.