Usually when I sit down to write an opinion piece I write it six or seven times. Yes, I am a bit nuts (as regulars here can surely attest) but I try my best to be as honest as possible and to not napalm everything. This time this is a first draft stream of thought and it will be as raw as I can get without needing the bleep half of it out.
A person in the business, BMW ‘s of course, recently told me that I am often a bit negative and I should try to be a more positive when it comes to what BMW has to currently offer. Here comes my candor, I am not some guy stuck in the past that doesn ‘t embrace technology or progress. I am not bemoaning the demise of the Weber carb and the eight track or the fact the dealer or someone with a specialized computer needs to wrench on my car. What is annoying me at this moment is the softening of BMW at its core and the establishment of BMW Performance and M as the only way to get back what was just there a few years ago, namely handling, feel and sound.
I am an M guy through and through, I love the concept of BMW Performance as an alternative to the aftermarket and the reintroduction of IS models. That said, it seems to me that the marketing folks over in Munich have devised a master plan to wring every last cent out of us BWM nuts OR society as a whole has become softer and thus BMW had to follow the lead to line the coffers a bit more. I am not sure what to believe in my mind but my heart would break if it was the former. Don ‘t get me wrong here, BMW is an independent company and needs to make some coin so they don ‘t end up like SAAB but at what cost?
BMW is definitely offering up some fantastic product now, cutting edge navigation systems, the ability to use apps is coming along and the cars drive sensationally compared to the other luxury competitors and I can ‘t knock that. That last bit, “luxury competitors “, went there and had to. BMW has always been about shear driving pleasure and that is not what I feel when I get behind the wheel of today ‘s cars in the default “COMFORT ” mode. Today ‘s cars are the “F ” codes (check out our handy “cheat sheet “), in some models like the 7 the default to “comfort ” setup makes sense but in a car like the new 1er hatch and the soon to launch new 3 Series it just bothers me.
You ‘d think BMW has gone soft, the throttle response is Passat like, the suspension is just as comfy cozy and the steering is utilitarian Toyota UNTIL you depress that little rocker switch and select SPORT. Once pressed the car morphs into what it should have been from pressing the damn start button! Will BMW Performance come up with a software flash to make the car default to Sport, they better as pushing that button 20 times a day (yeah I get in and out of my car a lot) is getting annoying. Sometimes I forget to push it, and I get mad about half a mile down the road at the Lexus I feel like I am sitting in then push the rocker and let out a sigh of relief.The system is great in other regards but I doubt most people will even get that the car has different personalities or like me hate the need to always use that switch.
They have their market research and I am sure it says that the average buyer felt the cars were too hard to steer and they made too much engine noise, blah blah blah. Then the light goes on in those marketing folks heads ‘- Those that want what was the typical BMW product of yesteryear will then up buy to M, IS or modify their cars with BMW Performance parts, there isn ‘t many of those types of people but at least we are giving THEM the option or they can just deal with always putting the car in Sport mode.
I am one of THEM, and yes I have an M although currently that is not my daily driver as it is a continent away but at the same time I don ‘t always see myself paying the premium to get that M car. Priorities change but at my core I am a driving enthusiast. Having grown up building competition motors with my dad and building cars from the ground up the way we wanted them has jaded me a bit. I laugh at times when people think the shifter throw in the E9X M3 is short and adds performance, please. I ‘ve had lightly optioned base model sports packaged equipped cars with some light modification several times now but that seems like an after thought these days because those cars I currently couldn ‘t buy. A car that will see it ‘s share of HPDE days needs grippy seats and leather without side bolsters just isn ‘t going to cut it. So if I was in the market for a F30 3 Series sedan I would be out of luck because of the packaging dictated by BMWNA (luckily in Germany there are less restrictions on that).
I can ‘t blame BMW, I am the minority as are most of you. They need to do what the market dictates in order to make cars like the 1M or the new M5 which really matter to us. If that M5 was being sold right now it would ‘ve been my car of the year over the 1M. Blasphemy I know, but what they achieved with that car is nothing but astounding and fits the needs of that client to a “t “. Sure, Gabe and I would have had some dialog on that and the 1M would have come out on top as it truly is a rare bird amongst the current state of BMW offerings but the M5 would have made a compelling argument for itself. Is BMW still building the Ultimate Driving Machine? Yes, it is just not that way from the press of the start button.
Rant over. I am sure when model year 2013 comes to the new F30 3er (We anticipate that to occur in July with the M Sport launch) it will be offered up a bit differently as far as packaging goes so my complaints may be short lived in some regard.