The move to front wheel drive for the BMW 1 Series was long telegraphed but still disappointing for many of the BMW faithful. To ease the pain they created the M135i with all-wheel drive – essentially a near clone of JCW Clubman, Countryman but with a revised chassis. Now BMW has gone the other direction with a 265 hp version of the B48, a revised suspension, brakes and ditched the all-wheel drive system creating a stellar hot hatch (according to early reviews). Does this point towards a revised F56 JCW? Let’s dissect.
Let’s start by talking about one particularly interesting aspect in all of this is. The engineers who developed the 128ti have all been involved in developing various high performance MINI products. In some respects you could call the 128ti the most MINI-like BMW ever. And it’s safe to say that (one way or another) this technology and thinking will make it to future MINI products given the team’s connection to high-performance FWD cars at the BMW Group. Really the question is, how soon and in what form will we see these advancements on a MINI?
Previously sources who are aware of future plans at MINI have indicated to us we would see a revised JCW in 2021. Could that be based on what we see above? A JCW with 265 hp, a revised suspension and larger brakes? In a sense it would be a detuned version of the JCW GP with a more livable suspension and rear seats.
The only caveat? BMW isn’t offering a manual transmission with the 265 hp version of the B48.
The new 1 Series hatch (not intended for the US) is currently undergoing calibration test drives on the hilly roads of the Eifel around the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring and also on the world’s most demanding racetrack.
The focus with the 128ti isn’t on raw performance but more on the experience of driving. One area we see this the elimination of torque steer. With the reduction of torque and the revised suspension, BMW engineers were able to create a more fluid and engaging car with the 128ti. The other big change is the switch from AWD to FWD which drops the curb weight by 176 lbs.
In all it’s a welcome return to simplicity for the BMW brand and one that we hope points to something new from the JCW brand.