Seems that BMW is re-thinking its slavish devotion to run-flat tyres, an interesting snippet that came my way on a recent BMW drive event .
Enjoying the compliant, but well-controlled ride of the new BMW X1 soft-roader on bumpy Scottish tarmac and some gravely off-road tracks, I checked out the spec sheet in the test car and discovered part of the reason for its plush ride – ‘normal’ tyres.
Checking with the product manager for the car it emerged that 17in normal, ie not run-flat tyres are standard fitment on many lower spec, entry-level models that come out of BMW’s various factories around the world.
Usually, though, buyers over here are denied those models because the entry-point to the UK range is chosen as a higher point in the hierarchy of models, where run-flats are standard fitment.
The new X1 is one exception and the mid-range sDrive20d (rear-drive) model that I’d tested is fitted with 17ins normal tyres. The assumption must be that the sDrive18d entry-level model - not available for test - will also get normal tyres as standard.
Illustrating the point is the range-topping xDrive23d (4WD) model that I drove the day before, which came on run-flats.
The reason that BMW fits normal tyres to entry-level models is that they’re cheaper so they better match the lower retail price of the entry-level model.
But the most fascinating fact is that BMW is going to widen the fitment of normal-tyred models, partly to put pressure on the makers of run-flat tyres to push down their prices.
How that will play out exactly in practice is unclear, but if new models like the 5-series follow the X1’s example, they will offer normal tyres on mid-range cars as well as entry-level models.
Only a guess, but maybe something good will come out of the credit crunch - better riding BMW models and cheaper run-flats. Stranger things have happened.