It’s not coming to the U.S., but the new front-wheel drive 1 Series hatchback shares the same underlying UKL platform as the X1 and recently announced 2 Series Gran Coupé, and is currently in the final stages of testing at BMW’s mysterious and expansive facility in Miramas, France. Series manufacturing will soon be commencing, but we’re not really interested in the specific models that will be replacing the outgoing rear-drive F20 generation which came about in 2011. Instead, it’s the underpinnings and engine that have our attention, because we expect to see some form of the same stuff in the 2 Series Gran Coupé, which is scheduled for its unveiling at the 2019 LA Auto Show.
As you probably know by now, the UKL platform that will see volume use with the third-generation 1 Series has already been on the market, in some form or another, since 2014. More specifically, UKL1, which is specific to MINI, underpins the F55 and F56 MINI Coopers, along with the F57 convertible. UKL2 is used by the MINI Clubman and Countryman, along with the 2 Series Active and Grand Tourers, the X1 and the X2, and the China-exclusive F52 1 Series Sedan. UKL stands for Untere Klasse, or Lower Class in English.
In the most recent press release for the new 1 Series, in which the car remains shrouded in pre-production camouflage, BMW specifically notes five years of FWD development (sound familiar?) leading up to the new 1 Series, which coincidentally matches up with the debut of the UKL2 platform described in more detail above. Going beyond the basic architecture and substructure though, BMW also notes the presence of ARB technology, or actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation, which is cribbed from the recently introduced i3s. ARB, BMW’s term for a limited-slip, torque vectoring front differential, is integrated with a direct link to the engine control system as opposed to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) mechanism, a simple change—conceptually speaking, at least—which yields a vast improvement in terms of latency across the board.
It’s all part of an effort to make front-wheel drive as palatable as possible, a tall task when a transverse engine is mounted beneath a hood fitted with a roundel. ARB will come standard across the 1 Series model line, along with BMW Performance Control, or yaw moment distribution, which sounds like it will allow the car to pivot or rotate under what’s referred to as dynamic brake intervention.
The third-gen 1 Series—and hopefully the 2 Series Gran Coupé—is going to need all of that tech, because the same 306 horsepower two-liter four of the X2 M35i will be the motivating force for the upcoming M135i xDrive. Splitting torque between the front and rear axles will help mitigate torque steer and more effectively put power to the ground, but there’s still the battle of making the steering receptive with so much juice running through the front end.
What specific tech and componentry will make it into the 2 Series Gran Coupé remains up in the air, and the questions won’t be answered for certain until the fall, but it’s not overly conservative to forecast that a good bit of what’s discussed above will be used. As everyone is already keenly aware, the stakes are high here, with BMW betting its reputation on the brand’s first front-drive car (not an SAV or SAC) in the U.S., an effort that will most certainly require highly discriminative deft to pull off properly.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]