BMW gearing up for massive range overhaul

BMW 3 series

BMW has long championed rear-wheel drive and manual gearboxes as being the best setup for a good driver's car. Now, however, it looks like the Bavarian brand is set to abandon these principles in favour of four-wheel-drive and plug-in hybrid technology.

Autocar reports that BMW's advanced engineering department is looking to radically overhaul the entire model range, from the popular 3 Series executive saloons, right through to its Rolls-Royce limousines, to meet strict new EU regulations on fuel consumption.

By 2021 carmakers will need to have average CO2 emissions across their ranges of 95g/km. This is then set to be replaced by an even stricter CO2 target, which will be enforced by 2025.

This will require BMW to fit its larger offerings with plug-in hybrid technology, as otherwise it will struggle to bring emissions down to the required level. Its smaller and more frugal 1 Series and Mini models will be able to meet targets without such drastic re-engineering, though.

Amongst the planned revisions is a complete rethink of the importance of combustion engines, which will now take a supporting roll as a high-efficiency generator for electric motors, which will be used to drive the wheels. This setup is expected to be applied to all models from the 3 Series upwards.

The conventional steel construction of current BMWs is also set to make way for a new cocktail of composite materials and aluminium, to maximise fuel economy through lighter weight. New models will also be designed with maximum aerodynamic efficiency in mind.

A development of the intelligent sat nav system currently seen in Rolls-Royce models, which can detect the approach of inclines and select the most efficient gear, is set to make an appearance, alongside active aerodynamics, which can close flaps in certain situations to improve air flow around the car.

The first model to emerge from this new engineering direction is a 3 Series hybrid, which is likely to arrive by 2022.