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Debate: Has BMW lost its way?

Looking beyond the gargantuan grilles of the M3 and M4

5w ago

If you were to name the greatest BMW in the last five years, your answer may be the M2 CS, M5 or M8 Competition. The Bavarians certainly know how to craft an engaging, luxurious and competitive driver's car... or do they? Some of their latest creations have abandoned the traditional BMW recipe, lag behind their competitors and are served in an unattractive or controversial package. Sure, every manufacturer develops a few flops but the direction BMW is heading is arguably concerning. This article will raise a few critical points about the current lineup but will finish with a list of brilliant vehicles the marque has produced.

What happened to the design language?

Many enthusiasts whine over the BMW's modern design language so I will try to keep it brief. It is totally acceptable to have a few controversial designs to spark conversation and generate attention, like the 4 Series. The problem arises when half of your lineup looks like it deserves a badge from the corners of the globe where copyright does not exist. Let us list current BMWs with divided opinions on their design: 1, 2, 4, 7 Series and the X4, X6 and the X7. They are by no means 'hideous, kill it with fire', but are easily outclassed by their more attractive competitors.

Chris Bangle was no controversy-free artist but hey, at least everything was different. That goes to you too Mercedes and Audi; stop photocopying everything. BMW's design chief claims that the new, large grilles will help the vehicles get more noticed in the Chinese market; a country where the larger the grille, the more affluent the individual is perceived and thus the more respect they will gain.

Abandonment of the traditional recipe

Adding a few relatively inexpensive models to your lineup to generate more revenue is a wise decision. It may cost you some of your legacy and the company's founders may be spinning in their graves, but as long as it doesn't have a performance badge it is fine. It seems the executives at BMW didn't catch on when they launched the four-pot M135i and M235i xDrive Gran Coupe, but all can be forgiven if they're better than their predecessors, right? The straight-six, RWD M140i from a few years ago is not only more powerful and quicker than the M135i, but also has better weight distribution (50/50 vs 60/40), sounds meatier and is better proportioned in terms of design. If you are going to downsize your engines, at least make the new vehicle more exciting than the last.

Awesome cabin materials, ancient layout

It's no secret that BMWs have well-put-together interior with hard and soft plastics in all the right places. The ambient lighting is a nice touch but lags behind Mercedes' obnoxious but dazzling night club lighting and Audi's two-colour system. The technology aspect of modern BMWs is brilliant, but even thinking about turning heated seats and adaptive cruise control into subscription options in a $50K+ car is insulting to the buyers. It is a BMW, not an Apple Music subscription. Please, BMW, drop the idea.

The nail to the coffin is the interior layout, which has practically not changed in a decade minus a digital gauge cluster and infotainment software. If it works then why bother changing it, right? Besides, BMWs have always been about the ultimate driving experience rather than the cabin. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the competitors have caught up and offer an exquisite driving sensation as well as a Star Trek interior for identical money. This does not mean that BMW have mediocre interiors, but rather that they should be more bold and creative. Below is an interior comparison of a 5 Series, E-Class and A6 each ten years apart.

Some heroes rise from the darkness

Whilst some BMWs have gained ungodly amounts of weight (M3 and M4) and have grown teeth, others have stayed true to the fundamentals of BMW and are simply incredible. The M2 CS and Competition are fantastic little sports cars, the 5 Series is an elegant business package and the new 3 Series is simply best in class. Though some of their cars may look funny, such as the beaver-toothed 7 Series and the X7, there is no denying that most of them drive as a BMW should. Would you pick them over the competition though? That is for you to decide.

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Comments (76)

  • Yes. Ende.

      1 month ago
  • Honestly, the 7 and X7 were shockers when they first came out but grew on a lot of people. The same is happening for the 4 Series and M3/M4. I actually think that Merc and Audis lack of design revolution comparatively makes the Beemurs interesting and I would wager that in 3 years a 2020 M4 will be worth more than a 2020 C63 on the secondhand market.

      1 month ago
    • My thoughts exactly.

        1 month ago
    • I quite dig the M3 and M4, it's the standard 4 Series (bread and butter sales of the 4 Series) that could have been less controversial. A sleeker, 3 Series Coupé would have made just about everyone happy.

      A 2020 M4 will definitely be worth...

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        1 month ago
  • Spot on! But I disagree on the interior. Not that BMW is gorgeous, but MB and Audi interiors are beyond kitsch. BMW still retains aircon and radio controls physical and anyone with some experience in driving beyond Forza4 will appreciate that.

    But I do hate BMW digital Space Invaders dash.

      1 month ago
    • Nothing is worse than having digital buttons for basic controls, I totally agree! However, I'm going to play devil's advocate here for discussion's sake. Though the climate controls in the Audi are on a lower screen, that screen does not...

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        1 month ago
  • “Half the lineup.... from corners of the globe where copyright doesn’t exist”

    Best description of the problem.

    BMW doesn’t seem to care anymore that it’s cars look more like cheap knock offs then thoroughbreds.

    Good read Mustafa.

      1 month ago
    • Hahaha, glad you liked that description. It truly is a shame because some of their vehicles look cool. Thank you for reading, Jeff!

        1 month ago
  • People should vote with their feet.......all the way the a Mercedes or Audi showroom!

      1 month ago
    • With the way things are going, that would be a wise decision.

        1 month ago