The last of a dying breed, still here in 2020.
Right now car design is an exciting place to be. There are so many technological, socio-cultural, and even legislative, agents of change that are pushing and pulling at what ‘car’ is, and some truly innovative new types of car design starting to emerge. Yet in 2020 there remains in production a few examples of ‘dying breed’ cars, and the BMW M2 is the finest exemplar.
For the majority of the 20th century most cars were sedans with a petrol engine at the front powering the wheels at the back. The design proportions that evidenced this configuration became the default vector-icon for cars: three-box silhouette, short front overhang, long hood to cabin ratio, long rear overhang. Originally this design typology covered almost the entire spectrum of cars from small to big, from sporty two-door coupe sedans to voluminous limousine sedans. But by the end of the century the only rear-wheel-drive sedans left were larger four door ones, mostly from the premium brands. All smaller cars had adopted the more space efficient front-wheel-drive powertrain, and were mostly hatchbacks or crossovers in body-style too. Except at BMW.
The E82 BMW 1 series coupe of 2004, and then its direct replacement, the F22 2 series of 2013, were and are compact, rear-wheel drive, two-door coupe-sedans. The 2 series coupe is a design notable for its classic longitudinal front engine, rear wheel package, and its related proportions that combine with an unusually marked three-box sedan silhouette to make it a classic twentieth century car design type.
The E82 and F22 are close siblings to the BMW 1 series hatchbacks of the same vintage, but with the hatchback 1 series now front-wheel-drive, and with a four door sedan Gran Coupe 2 series launched in 2019 sharing the same front wheel drive platform, the days of the venerable two-door coupe 2 series and its classic sedan proportions are numbered: 2020 might be the last year a compact rear wheel drive sedan design is produced. And, to add spice to this last of a dying breed, the zenith of the 2 series coupe range is the pugnacious M2 that rekindles the spirit of its ancestor, the 2002 turbo, perhaps the defining compact sedan design of the 20th century. Tomorrow is an exciting place for car design, but the last-of-the-line BMW M2 shows how yesterday and today are exciting places for cars design too!