By on February 5, 2008

bmw_ultimate_attraction.jpgYesterday, Consumer Reports (CR) rated Cadillac’s new CTS a better whip than both a BMW 328i and Mercedes C300. Never mind that CR preferred the Infiniti G35 and Acura TL. A Bimmer had been bested by a Caddy! This is news! Bimmers are the buff book benchmark! Yes, well, tying the commercial success of BMW’s 3s and 5s to their on-road abilities is a perfect example of false synchronicity. While many models are justly coveted for their dynamic delights, their on-road performance is tangential to their sales appeal. BMW’s mojo lies elsewhere, in a more precarious place.

It’s worth repeating: in most head-to-head competitions, BMWs no longer deliver a knock-out blow. Their straight-line speed is impressive, but there are faster. Their interiors are nice, but Audi’s are better. Their seats are wonderful, but the passenger accommodations offer precious little lebensraum for the buck. Speaking of which, BMWs are significantly more expensive and/or under-equipped vis a vis their price-equivalent competition.

This leaves one strong link to BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” brand boast: handling. Again, there are better handling cars– especially considering BMW’s recent penchant for passion-killing run-flat tires and active steering. More generally, does anyone seriously suggest BMWs are the best handling cars throughout their [enormous] model range? Plenty of Mazda, Infiniti, Mercedes and (now) Cadillac fans are willing to throw down to the Roundel’s rep for corner-carving kudos.

The truth about BMW is this: while the brand gets mad props from motor-journalists, the German automaker banks its bucks thanks to a very different demographic with a very different concept of “performance.”

While BMW still aims for the luxury car market stratosphere (the 7-Series and Rolls, neither of which amount to much) and slums it in the lower reaches (the premium-priced MINI line), the propeller badge might as well be a rifle sight. And yuppies are in the crosshairs. 

No car is more identified with a particular rung of the corporate ladder than BMW. Nothing says “mover and shaker” more than an alphabet soup 3 or 5 in a reserved parking place. We’re not talking about the top slot; the truly highly-placed drive something with more presence. BMW is the ne plus ultra for upper middle execs, corporate clones whose cars must stand out from the “ordinary” (cynics might say “practical”) machines driven by the company’s lesser lights.

Overpaying is part of the cachet, “I’m going places, and I don’t need to worry about what it cost.” Sure, Bimmer’s rep for speed and handling is a nice seasoning. But truth be told, the sort of person who regularly buys/leases a BMW probably doesn’t have the time to go joyriding. The exact position of this “Bimmer spot” within the corporate hierarchy varies from country to country, but the template remains the same: Urban Professional on the Move. 

On the Move. Ultimate Driving Machine. Done. It doesn’t really matter if a BMW lives up to its strapline– just as long as this business suit-wearing herd member buys the brief. The ultimate driving in question is symbolic; the BMW brand represents the single-minded “drive” known as personal ambition. Not to coin a phrase, if you own a BMW, you’re moving forward.Onwards. Upwards.

BMW’s recent, phenomenal success is tied almost exclusively to the explosive success of this well-fed corporate demographic. Some argue that the brand’s move down market has hurt their brand cachet. The opposite may be true. Ironic as it sounds, appealing to the upper middle class pack mentality may have propelled the propeller people’s products to even greater heights, saleswise. 

And now, the reckoning?

If there is a significant worldwide economic downturn, existing and potential BMW buyers may not make enough bonus– or simply feel “safe” enough– to take on a new car after three to five years. Should the corporate axeman’s blade swing through the lower executive level with particular violence, BMW sales will suffer widespread decapitation.

That’s the problem with near luxury products. They’re not expensive enough to rise aove the fray, and they’re not cheap enough to fly under the corporate accountant’s radar.

Meanwhile, exchange rates are making things even more precarious. To compensate for currency fluctuations, BMW must either raise model prices and enter into entirely different segments or hold the line and take the hit on profits. Whether here [U.S.] or abroad, the falling dollar threatens to move its models up one or more “classes.” Instead of merely being notably more expensive than their Japanese and American competitors– for which “badge cachet” compensates– BMWs are becoming especially expensive.

If you thought the end of the SUV boom was bad for Detroit, The Big 2.8s exposure looks modest compared with BMW’s potential exposure to a general economic downturn. As Porsche proved back at the tail end of the 80s, if the worst happens, all BMW can do is… wait.

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68 Comments on “Can BMW Remain the Ultimate Money Machine?...”


  • avatar
    Bruce Banner

    Again, TTAC refreshingly points out that the Emperor has no clothes. R&T and C&D quickly lost their credibility as they continuously put BMWs at the top of their comparos. no matter the competition, while a quick look at the discussions under the articles showed most comments to the effect of ‘I drove one and didn’t see what the big deal was.’

  • avatar
    gsp

    Great article. While I agree BMW have their issues, I wouldn’t bet against them as a company. They are well run, make great products that last the test of time. The fact that the Quant family has stood by massive R&D investment is proof that BMW intends to remain a leader. We should revisit this question in five years. BMW have brand value that others don’t. Lexus, Acura, Infinity are going to have a much harder time selling to the Chinese than BMW or Mercedes. But now that Mercedes have shrugged off Chrysler, they may have the best opportunity to grab (back) sales from BMW.

    Like all global luxury-brand companies, the real future money is is in Asia. Luxury brands stand to win big in those markets.

  • avatar

    IS It true that BMWs are increasingly tied to the dealer for repairs? (Another source of high cost.)

    I note on my daily commute that the people driving ultimate driving machines are not necessarily driving as if they love being behind the wheel, but I do notice frequently by their garb that they are in that yup demographic, flaunting it to the best of their ability. The car is clearly part of their fashion statement, and not their great joy in life.

    Whereas the guy or the dame in the Boxster or the WRX is always clearly in it for the fun.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    A lot of it has to do with the details.

    When I hit the unlock button on the keyless entry, the angel eyes gradually glow. There are LED puddle lamps under the door handles. The seatbelt buckles have padding on them so they don’t bang against the center tunnel plastic. The black leather is treated so it doesn’t get too hot in summer and burn your skin. Maintenance is covered.

    As much as I want to believe that the CTS is a great car, I remain a skeptic. Lets wait and see how long those transmissions last.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    BMW nicely plays out the card of rich options list, they advertize gizmo overstocked M-series, and then avoid the price issue more than media avoids Ron Paul. As Jordan defies gravity, Bimmers defy standard list. When you as a frontrunner smash the doors asking the best Nurburgring carver ever, they strike you back with a light -saber adding thousands of dollars for every single option whether barbel fish, navigation, or common-rail diesel. then you nod your head down and get out of the dealer`s with a BMW116 stripper version. Cloth seats, drum brakes and saved face with a propeller on the hood. Well, at least you got RWD, if that matters for 1.6er.You slowly pass your neighbour hoping he will concentrate on the badge. But he ain`t no blonde, he concentrates on the abscence of sunroof…. and the huge presence of plastic wheel covers on your pre-korean 14` inch Kumhos. And then suddenly he pushes the sunroof slidiing on his Mazda…bzzzz,bzzzzzzz. And it reminds you pain at the dentist. bzzz. bzz. Remember Bimmer fan, pain is your best friend, because it never leaves you.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    I actually didn’t want to buy a BMW based mostly on the standard perception of BMW drivers/owners. However, they do make a nice car, and when I was faced with an new ’03 Honda Accord coupe or an 01 BMW 330 coupe for the same price, I had to jump into the BMW – not only was it a nicer car (at the time – haven’t driven a honda recently), it also had a longer warranty and better service.

    @David – I’m interested in this cost as well. Knock on wood, but I haven’t seen the inside of a dealership in years, and haven’t had any repair work done in the last 3 years (on a vehicle that is now almost 7 years old). I do regular maintenance (oil/filters/plugs/brakes/etc) myself, so the total cost has remained cheap. I suspect that people who take their vehicle to the dealership when it’s out of warranty are paying some pretty hefty prices; locally the dealership “only” charges $100 / hour (and a simple diagnostic is usually at least an hour’s charge).

    That being said, I do like BMWs plainly written standard chargers – prices for brakes/tires/oil/etc are all plainly displayed in the dealership, and a full 4 corner braker/disc job is significantly cheaper at the local BMW stealership ($700 for a 330Ci) then the local VW dealership for a VW Golf/Rabbit/Jetta (~$1200)…..

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I was once one of the DINK crowd that the Quandt’s aim their product at, and , of course, despite working for Ford, I bought one for my girlfriend. Well,while the 325is was a nice driving car, my penuriousness made me wonder what the hell I was doing spending the cost of a Supercharged T-Bird and an Escort GT for one car that I felt was at best a mid-line performer with marginal interior appointments. Having owned a 2002 in the mid 70′s which I bought for a song, built to autocross, and still didn’t have $3000 invested in, maybe I was expecting too much. But, I am now married to said girlfriend, and what did she buy for herself this last year? You guessed it- a two year old 7. Go figure.

  • avatar

    There is no question that BMW and every other luxury automaker caters to the status-seeker. How many true performance cars are actually used for “performance”? Toyota has figured this out and the Lexus “performance” is tangential to what BMW is selling, and they’re doing an awesome job, whether or not the buff books like them.

    On the other hand, there are a small number of dinosaurs around like me who do enjoy driving and who buy a BMW because it will toodle around town, provide a modest bit of luxury and then spend a weekend at the track without serious complaint. I bought a 335i knowing it would not be as reliable as a Lexus, or as roomy as the CTS. The G35 was a very close contender, but did not quite have the harder edge of the 335i.

    BMW built a niche alongside Mercedes as the German manufacturer who put a higher priority on driving dynamics. They have been helped along by the fact that Mercedes’ quality waned as they took aim at the Roundel. Yes, its a precarious position and they’ve got to work hard to stay on the perch. Now that there are several manufacturers who are seriously working to stand on the same perch, the consumer ultimately wins.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Great editorial.

    I wonder what it is Infiniti has to do to gain sales. The G and M are better vehicles than the 3 and 5 by most measures and thousands cheaper. And yet, their sales lag. I guess the key question is how can Infiniti convince BMW buyers that Infiniti is more prestigious.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    David Holzman wrote:

    IS It true that BMWs are increasingly tied to the dealer for repairs? (Another source of high cost.)

    Increasingly, service is only possible at dealerships because the aftermarket can’t keep up with the technical wizardry being shoved into every nook and cranny of Bimmer-mobiles.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/editorials/the-truth-about-automotive-electronics-pt-3-the-ugly/

    There are independent BMW shops that are banding together to keep up as best they can

    http://www.bimrs.org/AboutUs.html

    but it’s an uphill battle for them.

    I LOVE the picture that came with this article…:-D…

  • avatar

    Eric,

    Thanks for your excellent editorial.

    I have no interest in a lot of electronic wizardry. I want a car that’s fun to drive, reliable, and not excessively costly. Period.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Great editorial indeed.

    For the record, a large chunk of BMW sales in North America are tied to leases. BMW offers some ridiculously good lease deals compared to the competition. BMW’s entire “free maintenance” program is designed specifically for all the BMW customers who lease. After the warranty and free maintenance runs out on a BMW, most people are afraid to own a BMW, and that includes corporate yuppies and even BMW fans. When BMW fans don’t want to own a BMW after the free maintenance and warranty runs out, that spells trouble, nevermind most other consumers who wouldn’t touch a used BMW.

    BMW US sales for January tanked 22%. That was the single largest sales drop in January for any automaker in the US. If a recession does actually hit the US, then all these corporate types will no longer be able to afford to lease that 3 Series or 5 Series.

    As this editorial correctly states, BMW is in a precarious position because they’ve been heavily relying on the specific niche of corporate buyers and customers who lease.

    BMW’s dependence on leases (and corporate show-offs) in the US simply cannot be sustained long-term. It cuts into their profits and there are some within BMW that are already worried and voicing their opinions in Germany. The exchange rates will only further cut into BMW’s profits.

    lewissalem:
    A lot of it has to do with the details.

    You forgot to mention details like the cleverly designed cupholders which bang right against your knees when they’re folded out. Or how about when you pop the hood of that 3 Series only to realize there is no oil dipstick. Instead you must rely on an electronic sensor that measures the oil level, a sensor which is known to BMW as having some problems. Electronics; something that that BMW has a reputation for having problems with.

    You’re right, it’s all in the details. Details like that simply make other customers and myself want to stay away from BMW.

  • avatar
    917K

    The folks at BMW should pay attention to what’s being said here, especially if anyone at BMW has any kind of corporate memory. BMW almost tanked in the 1960′s, and almost became part of the American Motors Corporation.

    A Pacer with a Roundel on it- that’s an interesting image. Except that it seems like it might be the image that’s in Chris Bangle’s head, too.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    Waita minute. Let it be known that Consumer Reports should never,ever be considered a “buff book”. Consumer Reports cares as much about driving and cars as they do about toaster ovens; they view them as appliances, and rate them as such. Now I trust CR about a few things regarding cars, mainly reliability and depreciation, but when it comes to subjectively rating the driving experience, they don’t know squat. Not to mention that the REAL buff books look down upon CR as much as any car enthusiast does.

    Real buff books:

    Motor Trend
    Car and Driver
    Road and Track
    Automobile Magazine

    I might also mention that a while back the CTS beat the 3-Series in a comparison test in one of the aforementioned real buff books, and the Infiniti G35 did it another time.

    Main thing is, CR is in a whole other league than buff books…they rate heart monitors for god sakes.

    the_agent_e: I think you basically said what needed to be said. Many of the 3-Series’ competitors are fine cars, and great drivers, but they are not NEARLY as responsive or engaging to drive as the 3, and that’s that. My father owns a 335i coupe 6MT, and I’ve had the chance to spend hours behind the wheel, and its a fantastic vehicle; it resonates with the imperfections of the road, and carries a mechanical purity and connection with the driver like nothing else in its class, which I can aptly say as I drove the 3′s competitors when shopping for this car with him. I’m actually dumb founded you could possibly insinuate that a car in this class has similar handling to the 3…there isn’t one that does. Even the “all mighty bargain” G35 feels absolutely numb in comparison–I drove them quite literally, back to back.

    For everyone making comments on the lack of standard options on BMW’s…yes, this is an irritating issue, but as someone else mentioned, it’s all in the details. The lights glowing at the press of the unlock button, the LED’s sending a pale glow around the doors in the cabin, the seat belt extenders in the Coupe that reach out and bring the seatbelt to your eagerly awaiting hand. It’s all there, and it’s all great.

    I drive a E39 BMW 540i 6MT. This car communicates to me what no other mid size luxury sedan can, and with the V8 and added bonus of the manual tranny, it is hands down best in class (or was at the time it was new).

    People don’t like BMW for being good at what they do, that’s what I think. It’s just like anything that is consistently supremely successful…no one likes the kid that gets an A on every thing, or the team that wins 10 championships in a row…but that doesn’t make them any worse at what they do. For the purist, BMW reigns supreme.

  • avatar
    the_agent_e

    I can’t deny that I’m a BMW apologist, nor can I deny that I probably fall squarely into the maligned demographic the author targets — I’m a 31 year old, loft-dwelling corporate attorney. Guilty as charged.

    But hear me out. I’m also a gearhead, and I sincerely and firmly believe in BMW as a brand because they offer the best combination of driver-centric performance, reliability, and comfort on the market.

    I’ve owned 4 3s in a row, and while I’m easily going to be pigeonholed as a yuppie, when I bought the first one (a 1984 325e) I was a broke college student aspiring to be a semi-pro mountain biker and/or park ranger. (I sold a pickup truck to buy it.) That 1984 325, and my roommate’s 1977 2002, introduced me to driving as a pastime, as an enjoyable pursuit, as something I could for pleasure and not out of a sense of rote obligation or a soul-crushing commute. For the first time in my life, I wanted to get behind the wheel and just drive, for no other reason than the sheer thrill of it.

    There was no air of pretension or status aspiration in that first car. The car I fell in love with had mismatched body panels, a non-functional stereo, hand-patched seats, and left me reeking of gas. Yet it was the purest, most responsive, most engaging car I’d ever driven. It changed my outlook about cars and driving entirely.

    2 years later I was privileged to ride in an e36 M3 piloted by a skilled GT racer, and my life changed again.

    Today I drive a 335i, and while I won’t deny that the look and status of the car mean something to me, I defy you to name one car on the market that offers the blend of sheer unadulterated speed, precise handling, and creature comfort that this car does. It has a sub-5 second 0-60, reaches 100 in another blink of an eye, and gives me enough road feedback that I swear I can corner with my eyes closed. Yet I can carry 3 adult passengers comfortably. I can connect my iPhone to the headunit via Bluetooth. I can open the sunroof and bask in the starlight. I can fold down the backseat and carry a bike and enough gear for an entire weekend at the races. I can put a senior managing partner in the backseat and have him compliment the legroom and the climate control while I use the low-end torque to plant his noggin deeply in the headrest.

    I’ve driven a lot of very good cars, including most of the competitors in the 3-series’ target market. And while many of them are very, very fine cars, none of them offer the balanced, performance-based package my 335 does.

    So, upwardly-mobile classist baggage aside, I think the author has missed the point. While BMW’s recent missteps — the bloated 5, the pointless SUVs, the increasingly-obese 3s — are concerning, at heart I believe the company still puts the driver first, and builds the car around him. As long as that’s the case, I think this sort of article is premature.

    (And, seriously — Consumer Reports? Come on.)

  • avatar
    allen5h

    Brendon from Canada wrote:

    That being said, I do like BMWs plainly written standard chargers – prices for brakes/tires/oil/etc are all plainly displayed in the dealership, and a full 4 corner braker/disc job is significantly cheaper at the local BMW stealership ($700 for a 330Ci) then the local VW dealership for a VW Golf/Rabbit/Jetta (~$1200)…..

    Yes, but the reality is that nobody ever pays these prices. What is often quoted for a brake job is seldom what is often charged. Question: Does the BMW dealer’s $700 include four new disc rotors and two new front brake calipers? I doubt it. A “full” service brake job at a BMW dealer would be more in the neighborhood of $2,500.

    “FULL” 4 wheel brake service work on a Civic (with rear drums) at a Honda dealer can easily cost you $1,000, or more.

    (Question: How much does it cost a Honda dealer to replace a cat converter on a seven year old Civic?

    Answer: It depends on who is paying. If a customer is paying then the dealer insists that they only replace cats with genuine Honda replacement parts, at a cost of about $1,200, including a scanner fee, diagnostic fee, breathing our oxygen while waiting in our waiting area fee, etc… If the dealer owns the car and is prepping it for resale then it gets a $130 after-market cat.)

    Brake jobs is where a car owner can SAVE BIG MONEY by DIY, IF YKWTHYAD. I performed a complete 4-wheel job on my 2001 Accord two years ago (premium ceramic disc pads, two new front rotors, cleaning and lubing caliper sliding pins) for less than $200 in parts. Checked disc rotor run-out before and after. (I did get the original OEM rotors cut but the people who cut the rotors needlessly removed excessive amounts of material from one side of the rotors, rendering them unsymmetrical and useless.) I figure I saved myself at least $300 by not taking it to an independent, and maybe as much as $1,200 by avoiding the Honda dealer. (I did have the Honda dealer perform a brake fluid replacement for $75. ABS system? Not gonna touch that.)

    But not everybody KWTHTAD. I do not purchase used cars any more, but if I did I would disassemble the brakes for an inspection of worn parts, missing parts, mangled parts and miss-assembled parts.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    lewissalem :
    February 5th, 2008 at 11:01 am

    A lot of it has to do with the details.

    When I hit the unlock button on the keyless entry, the angel eyes gradually glow. There are LED puddle lamps under the door handles. The seatbelt buckles have padding on them so they don’t bang against the center tunnel plastic. The black leather is treated so it doesn’t get too hot in summer and burn your skin. Maintenance is covered.

    As much as I want to believe that the CTS is a great car, I remain a skeptic. Lets wait and see how long those transmissions last.

    I’m no GM defender, and I can certainly appreciate a BMW for what it is, but let’s be honest with ourselves: GM supplied BMW with automatic transmissions for years. Ford and Chrysler (along with a few others – notably Mitsubishi) are notorious for their transmission troubles. GM is notorious for designing strong, long-lasting, generally good transmissions, even if many of the ones they put in their own cars are a gear or two short, though this is changing. I remember the all-new ’99 3-Series had a five-speed automatic sourced from GM before even a single Cadillac had a five-speed automatic.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    the agent e,
    You are EXACTLY the kind of person who should be buying a 3-series. I think what Andrew was saying was that most BMW buyers don’t share your values. They are more interested in the prestige of driving a BMW, rather than actually driving a BMW. And it is these people who will eventually leave BMW when they find a substitute that is more prestigious.

    To date, that’s been Lexus.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    We own a BMW, and have had others. I like them. That said, BMW IS milking their heritage and needs to get on the stick.

    They get the yuppie demographic mostly because for years they made cars that yuppies like. The cars had it all – conservative clean looks, well engineered mechanicals, luxurious interiors, etc. At the same they time were NOT ostentatious or stuffy.

    I think they will lose much of that demographic if they fail to change their path. They need to clean up their looks. Take or leave Bangle, but get over the asian headlights and all the modernity. BMW should be classic. They need to deal with reliability. They need to deal with resale value. (Forcing people back to the dealers will NOT help here. The dealers have BAD reps).

    In my opinion, if they fail to maintain an edge in the mechanical areas, they will lose. It’s all about the engine and handling. It’s about the feel and look. It is NOT about electronic gadgetry and flame sided sheet metal. Lose the battle on the basics, and the yup’s will stop showing up to buy one with all the expensive extras. The yup’s all follow the experts eventually. When the us gear heads abandon them, their sales charts will jump the sharks real quick.

    PS when I say gear heads, I leave out the ones that like to hate BMW for reasons other than the cars. If you love to beat up on them because of who buys them, or how expensive they are, then the folks who can afford them will likely not give a damn about your opinion (and rightly so). Grow up.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    There is no doubt BMW attracts a less than automotive purist crowd and many of their new vehicles are straying far away from ultimate driving machines, X6 cough.. But, BMW does still make some outstanding products. The 335i, for example, is simply amazing.

    Also, the aftermarket community surrounding BMW is unrivaled, IMHO. There are countless fan sites, which are significantly better organized (and more intelligently commented on) than those surrounding other OEMs. You can literally find detailed instructions or people willing to help on repairing anything and everything. When I bought my M3 I had never so much as changed a car’s oil, now I’ve replaced almost every mechanical component using only the internet as guide. The aftermarket performace upgrades are awesome as well. Numerous tuning houses and racing programs assure there are tried and tested products for upgrading to insane levels of power and performance. Not to mention the enthusiasm with which the 335i is being takled.

    While I’m undoubtedly an enthusiast of some BMW products I do really hope this editorial is correct and the company’s current strategy of attracting upwardly mobile image concious yuppies will fail, leaving BMW no choice but to return to their roots of making ultimate driving machines and to fire Chris Bangle.

  • avatar

    While I’m undoubtedly an enthusiast of some BMW products I do really hope this editorial is correct and the company’s current strategy of attracting upwardly mobile image concious yuppies will fail, leaving BMW no choice but to return to their roots of making ultimate driving machines and to fire Chris Bangle.

    Amen to that. And, BMW, please send Chris Bangle packing; everything I enjoy about my 335 is BMW DNA. Virtually everything I hate about it (the stupid chrome moustache over the grille, the flame surfacing, the Asian taillights) is unnecessary, idiotic and way-too-cute Chris Bangle “detailing”. The dash layout is a long step back from either the E36 or E46, although it is unknown this is a Bangle creation or it was done for economy. Please note also the slow sales of the Z4, a marvelous platform ruined by even more ugly detailing. My S2000 looks positively classic in comparison.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The same thing was true in 1980. The 318 and 528e were the darlings of the LA yuppie/corporate crowd, despite the fact that they were pathetically slow (100hp for the 318, 128hp for the 528). BMW was sending only high-economy models to the US, keeping the performance engines in Europe. Enthusiasts were bummed. (It’s why I bought a T-Bird Turbo Coupe).

    But sales kept growing anyway, right through the 1981 recession (as well as the 1992 and 2001 recessions). But maybe they’re finally going to max out in the US; there was little or no competition back then.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Lets get some “group think” out of the way first;

    Toyota/ Lexus are all boring
    BMW is the best
    CR knows nothing about cars

    Now that is has been said lets all acknowledge that these statements are a bunch of B.S.

    I find CR to be very important to read in terms of how they review cars. The buff books DO NOT review cars, they tell interesting stories about how they drive and how much the writer likes or dislikes some intangible qualities about the car.
    What CR does is fill in all those necessary blanks about what the REAL WORLD ownership experience will be like. People that are sold on a particular brand or model will not like CRs reviews because CR tells it like it is.
    While a car might be an excellent handler Cr will tell you that, what CR will also tell you is that the 18″ rims of the sport package are all but unusable in the real world and are prone to expensive damage. CR also informs its readers about such “minor” details as front spoilers that are incapable of clearing a driveway lip, A/C units that do a poor job of cooling the car, and option audio systems that sound no better than the stock units.
    Yes, CR job is to distill passion back into commonsense. Whats to hate?

    Im sure many BMW fans hate CR because CR does make it a point to inform the reader that BMWs are not the cat’s meow outside of their excellent driving dynamics. There are many shortcomings to the brand and CR does a good job of highlighting them.

    I think BMWs biggest problem is that they have gained an enormous amount of success in a market with very limited competition for the products they offer. For the last 25 years BMW had only MB as real competition in the small premium RWD car segment. It has only been a few short years that some new competitors have arrived on the seen. The g35 is still a relatively new player only on its second generation. It is a fine car and considering the vast price difference between a g35 and a 335i I would say Nissan has achived parity with BMW. One must ask the questions as to what a g35 would be like with an additional $10,000 in improvements? A g35 simply slaps a 328i around all day long, there is no over coming a 70hp power advantage.
    Porsche is in the same boat, they have been coasting along with little to no competition in their segment and their cars are becoming rather soft. Like BMW it has become all about the profits and no longer the product. Well Porsche is about to get bitch slapped by a lowly $70,000 Nissan(Caymans priced)that is outperforming EVERYTHING in their inventory. But no, if you ask the folks at Porsche their problems of the 1990s had nothing to do will all of those highly competitive Japanese sportscars of that era!

    What BMW really needs to worry about is the new up and coming crop of light-weight inexpensive RWD cars coming from the far-east, think new Tiburon and Toyota RWD coupe. These cars (if done right) will be the re-birth of the 2002 and can create a new fan base to sell bigger and better products to. To bad BMW’s feeder product is a FWD Mini.

    As mentioned before BMWs have become lease queens, unlike their former cars none of the new BMW appear suitable for long term ownership without warranty support. So we have lease queens for the yuppie and CPOs for the “I must have a BMW but can’t really afford one crowd”. This is a piss-poor business model in the face of numerous more affordable NEW cars on the market today. Think about it a CPO 330i is about the same price as a new G35, WTF. I dont care waht they do to refurbish it before “resale” it is still used and things like bushings and seals aint getting any newer meaning that little extra edge that the BMW has over the Infiniti is fastly fading. I cant see any advantage here.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    As a former 3 and 5 Series owner, I agree with the assessment. Can you imagine how much more successful they could be if the cars still looked good??

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    I believe our loft-dwelling attorney friend, “the_agent_e”, is right on the mark by describing the greatness of BMW based upon the whole package and not just on individual components. There have almost always been faster, better clothed, and better appointed vehicles available, but none that struck the dynamic driving balance as well as BMW has with their products.
    Yes, due to the contemporary product line, they’re at risk for losing the continuing fanatic following they have for their heritage cars, but one might argue that this is the cost of doing business competitively today. They had the luxury of ignoring the non-existent competitive Japanese and American automobile markets back in the 80′s and 90′s, but they can’t ignore them today. The cost of a bright future may be the re-design of an automobile company’s core values. Besides, there’s always Mobile Tradition.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Lets get some “group think” out of the way first;

    Toyota/ Lexus are all boring
    BMW is the best
    CR knows nothing about cars

    Now that is has been said lets all acknowledge that these statements are a bunch of B.S

    I don’t know about the knowledge of CR when it comes to cars, you could argue BMW is not THE best (then again, who’s better?) but Toyotae/Lexi definitely all ARE boring.

    It’s just a fact of life, which has nothing to do with groupthink. Toyota/Lexus are boring in the US, they are boring in Europe, I’m pretty sure even Japanese will find them boring (which cars do you see in that tuner scene–> Nissans and Hondas). And they have been for quite some time.

    I would say both Europe and the US have independantly discovered Toyota is the most boring (painfully boring) brand you can find, and Lexus are more expensive versions who do the boring thing even better.

    The fact that “everybody” thinks this way has nothing to to with the trappings of groupthink but is just genuine general consensus.

    Clearly you haven’t read that article on Jalopnik recently about that poor woman who fell asleep out of sheer boredom (ok, and some minor blood sugar issue) while driving her Toyota on the highway…

    On BMW: The E39 5 series was the benchmark (launched in 1995 for 1996, compare it to an E class of that time or a Lexus…it just blows them away). Now, the BMWs are still at least on par with the best offerings, but I agree that they’re not clearly leading anymore which is bad news for them.

    What’s worse is that the X6 is probably the first of many niche models that shouldn’t be (V1/X1/V3). It’s only going to dilute their image, like the R-class and some others did for Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Frankly, I think that editorial is spot on as far as the reason that BMW is selling in this country. While they make some great cars, the machines that really make a statement (335 coupe, m3) are significantly more expensive than a g35. While i’m an enthusiast too, I will readily admit that I rarely have a chance to drive on a road in day to day travel in which I could tell the difference in handling between a tsx, g35, or 3 series. So here is my question to those who promote BMW as an enthusiast car…if you are looking for the best perforamnce, why not pick up a tsx or g35 and a boosted miata or an s2000 for the same price? Sure you can upgrade the hell out of an m3, but the only place it will show is on the track. The truth is that BMW is a good car, but not so good anymore that is deserves such a price premium over the competition.

    On an interesting note, I remember watching a Top Gear episode from one of the newer seasons in which they proclaimed that the BMW 3 series outsold the Ford Mondeo to become the best-selling car in Britain. Perhaps, it is considered a necessity after all (in the same way you must have a flat-screen tv no matter your income).

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I considered BMW and Mercedes several times because I appreciate fine machinery. I had a Mercedes on order, canceled, and bought Japanese. Vehicles requiring frequent, expensive breakdown maintenance are not that fine.

  • avatar
    MOSullivan

    I won’t buy a car with an automatic transmission and that’s where BMW distinguishes itself. The engine management system and clutch work with you to match revs. The G35, CTS, TL and A4 are mediocre to appalling with standards and the IS doesn’t even pretend to play the game. In the ToyLex world, a standard signifies cheap, not driving pleasure, so it’s only offered in the base model. I don’t care if an automatic gearbox is faster on the track. I don’t drive there. I want a driver’s car that is a challenge and a pleasure to drive well even if I’m just going to work.

    I’ll give BMW top marks for its combination of handling and comfort. Others may be better in one way or another but nobody has found the same blend that the 3 and 5 series cars have.

    Apart from that, the Bangleoid styling is objectionable, the interoirs are uninviting cheap hard plastic, they lack a full set of gauges, they suffer from witless electronics, they are overpriced (especially in Canada), the base models are under equipped and they force run flat tires on you.

    BMW is like a lover who is trying to find out how much s***t you’ll stand for before you take a hike and never go back. A superb driver’s car is still in there, under the hysterical styling and money grasping pricing. But which part of that sentence matters most to you is an individual thing.

  • avatar
    gamper

    Great editorial. I think the author nailed it. BMW may do many things well, but the primary force driving sales is the ego of BMW’s customers. (Present company excluded of course)

  • avatar
    phil

    an editorial like this gives everyone a chance to vent their opinions about BMW; the same would occur for any other brand. it’s always interesting to hear how divergent the comments become, i.e. maintenance charges, leasing philosophy, snob appeal.

    i can’t put my thoughts any clearer than the_agent_e already did; the 3 series BMW, so well expressed in the 335i, is a fabulous car that is simply better than it’s competitors, and i’ve driven them all recently. you can carp about C&D all you wish, but they had reason to call the 335i the “best car in the world”. i guess i never paid much attention to all this image crap when i went looking for a hot ride. i found a CPO E46 M3 and after one freeway onramp i was hooked; i’d just driven and S4 and for me the difference was black to white and drove the hell out of that M3 without a single problem over 55k miles. and when the new M3 is available at a sane price i’ll compare it to the competitors and my guess it will be my kind of car. so i say right on BMW, build kick ass cars and forget all the armchair philosophy crap people use to diss the cars.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Are BMWs simpler than VWs? “a full 4 corner braker/disc job is significantly cheaper at the local BMW stealership ($700 for a 330Ci) then the local VW dealership for a VW Golf/Rabbit/Jetta (~$1200)…..”

    Anyone know how much for a Corolla, Focus or Civic?

  • avatar
    Johnson

    JJ:
    It’s just a fact of life, which has nothing to do with groupthink. Toyota/Lexus are boring in the US, they are boring in Europe, I’m pretty sure even Japanese will find them boring (which cars do you see in that tuner scene–> Nissans and Hondas). And they have been for quite some time.

    I would say both Europe and the US have independantly discovered Toyota is the most boring (painfully boring) brand you can find, and Lexus are more expensive versions who do the boring thing even better.

    Incorrect. It is not a fact that ALL Toyota models are boring, it is merely an opinion. The term “boring” is a broad one.

    Would you call the IS-F “boring”? Or how about the 320HP TRD Aurion offered in Australia?

    In Japan, there are a LOT of Toyotas to be found in the tuner scene. The Supra in Japan is just as legendary as it is here in North America. Many Toyota models in Japan have a loyal tuner following. This includes models like the Celsior, Chaser, Soarer, Aristo … just to name a few. Toyota has a very strong tuner following in Japan and there is a huge aftermarket for many Toyota products in Japan, pretty much the opposite of how it is here in the US.

    As for Europe, again most Europeans *don’t* think of Toyota as boring. Toyota offers a lot of diesel and 6 speed manual options on many models in Europe. There are sport-oriented Corolla, Yaris, Auris, and Aygo models. Sport-tuned suspension, a diesel engine, and a 6 speed manual are common options on Toyota models in Europe, but such combinations will likely never be seen in North America. Toyota offers sporty options in Europe because the market demands.

    Toyota is slowly starting to offer sporty and interesting vehicles now in the US as well.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    This editorial is excellent and on point. And it contains the answer to why BMW will continue to be successful for years to come. First, there will always be corporate ladder climbers and upwardly-mobile yuppies with money to spend and without much prudence to save. They will want a “status” car, but it has to “sporty” and “cool” rather than boring (Lexus) or geriatric (Benz). Unless BMW deviates from its current strategy, it is foolish to bet against its success.

    As for BMW not being the best – fastest, most luxurious, most reliable, best looking, greatest handling, most hard-core, cheapest – I couldn’t have agreed more. It’s not. But it’s the best combination of these qualities that you can find. Also, it’s the best at capturing that sports-car handling “feel” that will not be apparent on paper unless you take a test drive. (And it’s that “feel” that accounts for a $5k-10k mark up!)

    Let’s put it this way, if you don’t like the stereotypes attached to driving a bimmer, but you’re on the fence as to whether you would buy a bimmer or another car (Benz, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti), then you SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT take a test drive in the bimmer. If you do, that black-magic “feel” — some call it driver involvement, balance, coherence, harmonious blend of the machine, etc. — will cause you to come over to the dark side and part you with another $5-10k of your money. Beware!

  • avatar

    Let’s put it this way, if you don’t like the stereotypes attached to driving a bimmer, but you’re on the fence as to whether you would buy a bimmer or another car (Benz, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti), then you SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT take a test drive in the bimmer. If you do, that black-magic “feel” — some call it driver involvement, balance, coherence, harmonious blend of the machine, etc. — will cause you to come over to the dark side and part you with another $5-10k of your money. Beware!

    TeeKay – you are right on point. When the new G35 came out I had decided it was exactly what I needed. And when I drove it, I was very impressed with the combination of value, luxury and performance which Infiniti had designed into this car. Just so that I didn’t suffer buyer’s remorse, I cross-shopped the IS350 (rear seats unusable for adults/auto trans only) and the 335i (good packaging, ugly Bangled styling). The drive in the 335 overcame the bad styling, the cheaper interior (aside from the excellent sport seats), the lack of a usable nav system and a $8k price differential. I have no illusions that I will want to own it much past the warranty, but in the meanwhile it has spent three weekends at the track and I am thrilled with its day-in, day-out 20 mpg from a true performance car.

  • avatar

    @whatdoIknow

    Well said!

    And while I think the 3 series is marvelous, alot of cars are so good today that I’m not sure it’s worth the money and potential aggravation. I had a chance to get a used one fairly inexpensively, and I passed it up. I’d rather wait and get a Boxster, because I find the dynamics far more inspiring. The 3 is a bit heavy.

    I must say though, except for the asian/feline headlights, I really like the Bangle look. From the back, a bit to the side, those cars look terrific, in a somewhat subtle way.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I look at the lower epsilon BMW’s Audi and Mercedes and I see a car without soul. Don’t get me wrong BMW, Audi, Mercedes make cars with soul 335 is a great case and point. But honestly, I look at the young professional driving a new auto 325/328 and I can’t help but think that person is a sheep.

  • avatar
    gsp

    Regarding BMW reliability, I am not sure what people are complaining about. Both friends of mine, my dad and I have found our BMW cars to be fairly reliable. On the other hand, my mothers Camry is in the shop all the time transmission trouble, new A/C, etc. My 2000 323i has had $200 worth of bushings and an oxygen sensor (dirty gas here in Canada). The rest is normal stuff. BMW’s also came with timing chains not belts unlike competitors back then.

    Now I don’t drive the snot out of my 323i. Perhaps many Bimmer owners do…

    Every time I drive my BMW I thank myself for buying it. Although I am selling it soon (for an X5 -GASP!) I still love to drive it after EIGHT years.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Interesting piece and responses.

    I own a ’98 528 for 1 reason: There was no other RWD, manual transmission car that handled as well as the BMW does. Okay, maybe that’s 3 reasons.

    Is it more expensive than other cars? Sure. It’s also a lot more fun, safe and practical than anything else I drove when I picked it up used. Factor in repair costs and I’m thrilled to drive a car I still love and will continue to drive for a long time to come that doesn’t cost me much.

    The amount of anger generated by some (I’m looking at you Jurisb) is difficult to understand.

    FWIW, every Toyota I have ever driven was just dull to drive. They really are the definition of reliable transportation and nothing more. Very similar to many Chrysler products in terms of driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    AGR

    3 Series are fun cars, handle well, an incredible 6 cyl, slick manual transmission, its a car that appeals to the emotions.

    Front pads are probably 100 rear pads 75, front discs 125 each, rear discs 75 each, and at most 3 hours of labour, and with a bit of discounting the 700 brake job is a reality. Its a way for BMW to put on a good facade to customers with a menu price for a brake job on a regular 3 series.

    Do folks buy a 3 Series because its the ultimate driving machine, or because its a good lease deal with maintenance included?

    If cold economic winds continue, the 3 series could catch a cold, it seems to have the sniffles at the end of January.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Incorrect. It is not a fact that ALL Toyota models are boring, it is merely an opinion. The term “boring” is a broad one.

    Sure, it’s an opinion, ultimately. But it’s an opinion that’s so broadly shared by so many people that at some point you’re going to have to acknowledge that either all those are wrong or you yourself are seeing something that isn’t there.

    Everybody is entitled to there own opinion, but not everybody is entitled to their own truth.

    As for the Japanese tuner scene…sure, there are many aftermarket parts for Toyotas in Japan (they need them) but there are for Hyundais too. That doesn’t mean they are not boring cars. I’ll have to stick with my opinion that they are less popular among enthousiasts than the other brands (because, they’re boring).

    And although I liked the Supra (the last one), it was clearly an out of character move by Toyota to make it. A move that was quickly neutralized when they decided to discontinue all the models that had at least some enthousiast appeal (supra, celica, MR)

    Now as for Europe, I am European (Dutch) and I’ve never ever heard someone say when talking about cars, yeah, I’d really like to drive a Toyota.

    Talking about mobile tradition, Toyota as a brand has none. You have the 2000GT which is a smaller copy of the E type and never had a replacement and you have the LandCruiser and that’s it.

    Even the Lexus IS-F is boring for what it should be. I would even take that rediculous C63 AMG over it, so M3/RS4…no contest.

    Toyota is an insult to my “car enthousiast hood”.

    Now after this thinking about Toyotas I have to go to the supercarguide at http://www.gto.nl for some antidote.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    @ phil :
    For the record, the S4 does not compete with the M3, it targets the 335i, the RS4 is up against the M3.

    Also, the A6 out sold both the 5 series and the E-class…

    @ RGS920 : I’d argue that the A4 1.8t (2.0t) > 2.8(3.2) as far as price/performance goes. Neither stands up to the 2.7t(4.2) of the S4, though.

    And yes, I am a bit of an Audi fan-boy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think going against BMW’s performance-driving hegemony is a lot ballsier than anything TTAC’s writers could say about the Big 2.8 mangement.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Absolutely wonderful editorial. It’s the kind that keeps me coming back to TTAC! The comments are as good of a read as the article itself, with politely expressed opinions going back and forth.

    The few people I know who’ve had the pleasure of owning, or leasing a BMW, new and old, enjoyed every moment they spent behind the wheel and love their cars, even if it gives them a few problems now and then. Even my friend’s sister, who had a dilapidated ’91 325i (which sucummbed from a snapped timing belt) loved her car. She thought something was wrong with her new Yaris because it felt “unstable” compared to the BMW.

    I’m currently in the market for a new car. As a prospective 135i owner, it’s not reassuring to be riding in a 328i when it goes into limp mode or notice the 750i next to me with all of its warning lights lit, or having someone describe the harrowing experience of driving from LA to Phoenix with dead trailing arm bushings in an M3…

  • avatar
    kkop

    BMW makes cars?

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    I’ve felt for sometime that BMW’s reputation is increasingly tied to a few key models: the 335i, the M3, perhaps the M5 and maybe a new addition with the 135i.

    A case can be made that the 335i is still the best in its class and the car rags tend to test this car, not the rest of the 3 Series line that does not measure up to the competition. Their strategy seems to be based on trying to use a few class leaders to maintain their reputation and make money on the lesser vehicles.

    Problem is that the distance between their class leaders and the rest of the pack is vanishing. People are making a big deal of the 135i (for reasons I don’t understand, given it is not that much lighter than the 335), but isn’t the new EVO and WRX STI with new levels of civility much more exciting, especially for the money??? If you are trying to sell vehicles based on a few class leaders, they have to clearly lead the class and right now, they aren’t.

  • avatar
    nino

    I also feel the article is spot on.

    I also think that the BMW reputation is based on only a few, top-of-the-line models.

    While a 335i is admitedly a very good car, the lesser 3 series without the sport package, better tires, and auto trans, are no where near as good. And I think what causes people like myself to pause is why would I spend an 8 to 10 thousand dollar premium to get the good stuff on a BMW when I can go out and buy an Infiniti G37 for that money?

    Those that say there is a big difference in the way a BMW (with the good stuff) handles compared to a G37, must be EXTREMELY sensitive to the car. I’ve driven both, back-to-back, and I can’t find that big of a difference and I have more than a little experience with high performance cars and autocrossing.

  • avatar
    dulcamara

    So I got myself a 335i in April. I tested the 335 and a Porsche Cayman S. I’m a 50+ guy with bad knees, so automatic transmissions are what I do.

    The Cayman would be mine at equal prices, even though the transmission was nowhere near as good as the GM auto in the 335. However, even after a 10K+ discount, the Cayman was over 8K over the 335 (with every option except the brain-dead I-drive). I also had trouble seeing out of the Cayman.

    So I got the 335 and it works for me. The G37 was only an announcement, or I’d have given it a shot.

    My trade-in was a 98 CLK. The car before that was a 95 M3 with a 5-spd manual. The M3 did very bad things to my knees. The car before the M3 was a 87 944s.

    Aside from the 944, the 335 is the most fun car I’ve ever had.

    I am too old to be a yuppie.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    JJ:
    Even the Lexus IS-F is boring for what it should be. I would even take that rediculous C63 AMG over it, so M3/RS4…no contest.

    That right there just shows your opinion of Toyota. You calling the IS-F boring shows that no matter what Toyota makes, you will likely consider it boring. You will probably call the Lexus supercar boring when it comes out.

    I live in Canada, but I have European roots. I have many friends and family in Europe in several countries and many of them tell me Toyotas are popular and in some places the young people like Toyotas.

    I also have Japanese friends that know exactly what the tuner scene is like in Japan, so please don’t be silly and speak of Hyundai having an sizable aftermarket in Japan. Hyundai is a joke in the tuner scene in Japan, just like it is here in North America.

    I don’t speak Dutch, but the Dutch man test driving the IS-F in this video sure seems to like it:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=GQMcifOsRSg

    Also, to those talking about “the little details” in BMW models, I have only one thing to say. Go sit in an Audi or a Lexus and then sit in a comparable BMW and tell me your opinion of BMW details. BMW models just pale in comparison to Lexus or Audi when it comes to little details or attention to detail.

    You can talk all the want about BMW’s handling and driving experience. There is nothing wrong with that. But it’s silly to be talking about the reliability, attention to detail, or luxury of BMWs when the competition has BMW clearly beat in all those areas.

  • avatar

    A few bimmer issues:

    You always have to step up to the bigger engines. The low end model is always slow. No nicer way to put it. You don’t need M, but the X5 with the six is just too much metal for too little motor, no matter how nice the motor is. The remedy is to spend close to 20k more for the v-8, and now you can buy TWO Acura MDX’s that are 95% as good.

    Same for the 5 series. You need the turbo six and sport package to make it “go”. The base version is for the guy who “wants a BMW”, not the enthusiast who understand “why BMW”.

    I drive a 330i Sport Manual and got a 325 loaner, 4wd automatic. Bog Slow again, but the majority of 3′s ARE the small motor with an automatic. The good engineering, bank vault quiet and lack of vibration, etc. are all there but BMW squeezes you for that last little bit of fun quotient…

    Of Course, BMW prices are as well designed as the car. The slow version with no options will always cost the same as the moderately kitted opposition. Once you insert the motor of the opposition, you are 7 k over it, and by the time satnav and the $500 ipod jack have been added, you are 10-15k over the “opposition”. Things like seat heaters and lumbar supports are hidden in much bigger option packages. While others do this as well, BMW has raised it to a science. To get a seat heater in the X5, you can’t get the base interior. You have to get the premium package, leather, etc. Meanwhile, they sell every one they can make.

    As far as the 3 series goes, you do get a car designed for a longer service life than a lesser car. If you keep your cars or drive them into the ground, this is a clear advantage. If you lease and trade, then you are buying something you won’t use.

    My complaint with the Bangled cars has to do with the interior, which was clearly cheapened from E46 to E90. I like the exterior, but a very sturdy and functional interior was changed for the worse. The Unique selling Point of BMW is that they spend the money to do it right, not cheap out where they think you won’t see. No one use interior clips, no mystery vibrations, soundproofing everywhere.

    Last, Consumer Reports is NOT an enthusiast book. I know a few folks who work there. My suggestion that radar detectors should be tested there was met with a laugh and description of the “powers that be”. Other than service history of a Camcord, they are useless.

    BTW, I have 150 k on my 03, and have replaced tires, shocks, brakes, and the control arm bushings, which are a wear item. The interior is quiet, the seats are not yet sacked, and the worst is a bit of cosmetic wear on the shift. I have changed the fluids (BMW’s alleged lifetime maintenance is not to be believed for those who own, not lease). My mechanic says he has seen 400k on the E46 “on the original engine and manual transmission”. (BMW Automatics crap out at 100 k mark like clockwork, which is why most hardcore prop-heads only buy manuals, and why we didn’t accept an M5 auto-step-whocares-tronic)

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    The late 90′s BMW’s have very strong resale values across the board. It’s a testament to all the things that BMW did right at that time.

    Today though I’m a bit more skeptical. The electronics issues that Eric pointed out have indeed cast a substantial negative effect on the company’s image. To put it in a blunt way, BMW will experience issues in much the same way that Mercedes has once it hits the five year old mark and beyond.

    They are INCREDIBLY difficult to work on. I’ve known two fellows who own highly popular shops just give up on the brand entirely. That’s saying something given that the profit for their products is usually far above the average. The risk of finding a parasite amongst this brand is simply too strong at the sales.

  • avatar
    wolffman

    Since most of the comments on here are anecdotal and opinion, let me share some thoughts on somebody that actually just drove the BMW 328i, CTS, new C, etc.

    I am currently in the market for a new car, and spent a weekend in December driving the 328i, C-Class, A4 and CTS.

    The CTS is a great car, and the ambient lighting on the floors, doors and dash is a nice touch. The car is smooth, but becomes unstable as the speeds reach 90 MPH.

    The C was cheaply made, and reminded me of a Chrysler interior. The A4 was nice, but was a fancy VW. The Infiniti was a non-starter based on the terrible interior.

    I was going to go with the C-Class, but the 328i was by far a nicer car. The dealer experience was better, the interior materials were nicer, and the free maintenance will result in ~ $1,400 in lower operating costs.

    Good article, but BMW is still the Ultimate Driving Machine. BTW I also have a 2004 Saab 9-3 Linear.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    It’s funny – right when I was getting ready to post the comment, wolffman is going to make my post a total 180 from his!
    I think the reason this article touched a nerve with so many and why the thread is a very interesting read is that a lot of people here are/were fans of BMW and they probably have been burned or know others that have by the new direction BMW is going.
    That was a great comment earlier where someone posted that BMW is turning or has turned into the lover that tries to see how much **** one can take before leaving the note on the nightstand. I’ve personally been burned by BMW and once the excessive cost of a fixing a fading steering system, oil leaks, and an engine control system put me at the Acura dealer ASAP. I love how it drove when the steering was on the mark, but when the bills added up, the car was gone.
    I also get the feeling that many on the site are wary of what the immediate future holds for BMW. The X6 is an answer to a question no one asked, the 1-series is going to be overpriced to death and to be honest, the “trunk-o-plasty” looks very odd from some angles, the M3 continues upward in the major weight gain department, and the 5 and 6-series still makes eyes water when staring at it.
    I thought and hoped the 1-series was going to be the stripped down car that brought BMW back to basics. Instead we save 200 or so pounds, very little cash and a rear that doesn’t match the front by a long shot.
    Do you know that the 1-series reminds me of? It reminds me of when airlines like Southwest, Frontier, and America West (pre-merger) was stealing the thunder and paying customers from the major airlines. So what to the majors do? They come out with “great ideas” like Ted and Song – the low cost airline in an airline. However regardless how strong they thought their business model was, it is still saddled with the same overhead as their parent so everything was still a money losing venture. The 1-series is still saddled with the same unknown electronic quality, weight gains, and false feeling driver aids as the rest of the line. More power to them if they pull it off, but I see people still choosing the 3-series since the price between the two isn’t that great, especially in the leasing business.
    It will be interesting to see what happens with BMW in the coming couple of years. I cross my fingers that the new 7-series will start a trend that will start stripping the electronic junk and “flame” styling that is loved by few. We’ll see…

  • avatar
    rtz

    “Bimmers are the buff book benchmark”

    I suspect there is lots of behind the scenes corruption and money under the table in regards to automotive and magazine relationships.

    American print magazines are appalling compared to an English magazine. American magazines never have anything bad or negative to say about anything. Go to a place with a semi large collection of magazines for sale(Barnes & Nobles?). Look in the motorcycle section. Get a couple issues of those sport bike magazines that are printed in the UK. Cusswords, nudity, and they even complain and criticize about products! They tell it like it is. American magazines are so non partial. They don’t tell the truth. It’s just 200 pages of ads. It’s like an infomercial you read. Non stop materialism.

    Too see how really different things are, pick up a copy of the above mentioned UK printed sport bike magazines.

    There was a time not far back when bmws were starting to get a rep for having a lot of electrical problems. Anymore, the only ones I know of still driving bmws are those driving them for image and those driving them not knowing of how they’ve changed and aren’t the best. Certain movies of recent years may have glorified these cars a bit too.

    Is the resale still appalling on these cars? It used to take an enormous hit right off the bat.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    A word on Toyota…many have said that all Toyotas are boring. That is only true if you add the word CURRENT to the sentence. From the 1980′s into the mid-1990′s Toyota made some awesome machines. I dare you to drive a Supra, mr2, AE86 Corolla GTS, rwd or all-trac Celica and tell me they never made a car that was not boring. Now, to get them to bring back some of that fun.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I bought a G35x (shared with the wife) in 2004. I wanted something that was fun to drive and reliable as we planned on keeping it for at least 7 years. I shopped the 3-series but frankly, I didn’t want the stigma that’s attached. I’m neither upward nor mobile. Like others have said, I’m too old to be a yuppie (40). The G drives great (probably not up to 3-series standards) and it’s been dead reliable.

    When we became a 2 car family again, I bought (leased) a new Volvo. I would love a sharp handling, sports car but my commute is 60 MPH for about 5 miles then 35-45 for the remaining 10. All I want is something comfortable, V8 power when needed and room to haul furniture and any other crap my wife buys.

    The X6 does intrigue me, though. Too bad it’s a)built in South Carolina and b) will likely be toast by the time my XC90 lease is up. I wouldn’t mind a 5-er wagon but I really don’t need AWD. Ah, decisions. I will spend the next 2 years shoppping, and waiting…

    Oh and one of my buddies has a 3-4 year old 3-series. He got laid off last week.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I’m sorry, the BMW 328 is a car for sheep. Is it a good car, yeah.
    But is it an amazing car? In all honesty, when this car came out did you really stand up and say, “yes! Finally BMW did it and released the 328. I have to go down and test drive it right now!”

    When BMW released the previous gen M3 that was something! The same with the 335. When BMW released the 330 with a 255HP I6 I thought that is a hell of an engine!
    But the 328… why would I spend 32 grand on this?

    I am a firm believer that when you buy a car you shouldn’t simply settle for a good car. I believe there are great cars out there for any price range. Settling for good or the status quote is for sheep. I want amazing. BMW makes amazing cars but for 32,000 the 328 falls far short.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Landcrusher X2 , my recently retired 528e was the longest lived, most reliable, car I have ever owned. I bought it with 150kmiles on it and retired it just shy of 350k. The drive line was original . At 330k , I finally lifted the valve cover and checked the valve lash. The widest was only .002 over spec. Over 11 yrs and 0 breakdowns. It is now parts to keep my new 88 528e going. The super etas are dogs between stop lights , granted, but due to the lighter engine are more fun in the twisties. Best of all, I can maintain them in my driveway. BMW is coasting on the reputation of the cars they built 30 yrs ago.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Andy D – there had to be something with those 5-series around that time that made them just amazing cars in terms of how long they lasted. Growing up, my friends/neighbors purchased from a friend a Euro-spec M5. I want to say the car was a 1986-7 but I’m not sure. Maybe importing laws were different during that time, but I remember the controls were written in German along with all documentation. They even had to drill new holes into the license plate so they would fit the Euro-plate screw holes.
    Two states and over 200,000 miles later, I was there when the car finally died after a great life. The transmission finally gave up the ghost. However the interior was still in spot-on shape, the engine was still very strong, and if the problem of getting those parts didn’t exist, I’m sure the car would still be on the road today.
    This is the BMW I remember and the BMW I hope comes back. The impressions I’m getting from the people on the site is that people start sweating about service problems around 50,000 miles! Some cars are still getting warmed up at 50,000 miles.

  • avatar
    brapoza

    Whatdoiknow1
    Excellent post. I remember in 2003 I compared the new G35 ($32K) to the BMW 3 series and ended up leasing the G. Then in 2005 doing it all over again and once again leasing the G35 ($40K). Both times I figured i was getting more car for the money than the BMW, not that BMW isn’t a wonderful car. Now in 2008 I think I’ve finally come to my senses and I bought The Generic version of the BMW 3 series…a Subaru Legacy GT Limited 5SM. Out the door for $26K including tax, title and registration.

    brapoza

  • avatar
    Nitro13

    Some of the comments in this thread are beyond ridiculous. 328 as a car for sheep? Kindly inform us what car you think is “amazing” that sells for less than the 328. Sheeple buy boring overpriced vanilla Camcords for 27k.

    I have had my 325 for over three years and it has not been in the shop for anything other than routine maintenance. Plenty of people buy a BMW in an attempt to project a certain image, but this is hardly unique to BMW. Take a look at the market for woman’s purses.

  • avatar

    I was once one of the DINK crowd that the Quandt’s aim their product at, and , of course, despite working for Ford, I bought one for my girlfriend. Well,while the 325is was a nice driving car, my penuriousness made me wonder what the hell I was doing spending the cost of a Supercharged T-Bird and an Escort GT for one car that I felt was at best a mid-line performer with marginal interior appointments. Having owned a 2002 in the mid 70’s which I bought for a song, built to autocross, and still didn’t have $3000 invested in, maybe I was expecting too much. But, I am now married to said girlfriend, and what did she buy for herself this last year? You guessed it- a two year old 7. Go figure.

    Sounds like the investment in the girlfriend was a good one.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “They are INCREDIBLY difficult to work on. I’ve known two fellows who own highly popular shops just give up on the brand entirely. That’s saying something given that the profit for their products is usually far above the average. The risk of finding a parasite amongst this brand is simply too strong at the sales.”

    Although I’m not a professional mechanic and have only worked on 1 Bimmer, I have to respectfully disagree. The I6 engines make work in that area a snap. Tons of room all around. I admit there are a few areas of the car that make me realize the UAW is (or was) much more powerful than their German counterparts, but overall most everything is in a logical, serviceable location, and comes apart and goes together quite nicely with the right tools and instructions.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Johnson,

    “You forgot to mention details like the cleverly designed cupholders which bang right against your knees when they’re folded out.”

    I agree with you. The cup holders are crap on the 3. I don’t have I-Drive or an automatic transmission, so why should I be punished? I didn’t buy the car for it’s cup holders.

    L47_V8,

    “I’m no GM defender, and I can certainly appreciate a BMW for what it is, but let’s be honest with ourselves: GM supplied BMW with automatic transmissions for years.”

    You are correct. I misspoke. I was more concerned with the drive train issues that plagued the last CTS-V.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    They are INCREDIBLY difficult to work on. I’ve known two fellows who own highly popular shops just give up on the brand entirely. That’s saying something given that the profit for their products is usually far above the average. The risk of finding a parasite amongst this brand is simply too strong at the sales.

    I have no experience with the newer models, but the E46 3 Series (99-05?) are pretty easy to work on; granted I’ve never done anything super complex, but it’s the only car I’ve ever owned where I can do an oil change while wearing a suit and not worry about getting dirty… The filter is accessible from the top of the engine, and a fluid-extractor clears out the oil nicely. That being said, I’ve never worn a suit to change the oil!

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Nitro13,

    For around the price of a 325 or 328, I would also have to go for a Subaru Legacy GT, Infiniti G35, or Acura TSX. I think they are much better buys for the same price.

  • avatar
    GaryM

    Ouch… this hurt but was too true. I was an up and coming exec when I bought a 325i in ’93. In fact the sales rep’s pitch when he saw my Jetta Gli was was a shockingly blatant “you need something more fitting for your status”. After years of downsizing, the internet bubble etc. I stopped drinking the corporate kool aid and now drive a “low ego emissions” VW Jetta Tdi. Who cares what is sitting in the parking lot as long as you like the car?

    If I did want to impress people with what I am driving, I can’t think of one BMW I would want to own … in my opinion, Bangle ruined their designs and sadly his influence continues to infect things like the new Accord, the recent Camry etc. If I wanted a performance car, I wouldn’t even look at BMW.

  • avatar
    Nitro13

    Bangle has not ruined anything. The 3 series is still the class leader in sales numbers. If the current designs were that repugnant to the consumer, this would be reflected in sales. People are voting with their wallet, and one month of lackluster sales proves nothing.

    The Legacy, which is also a 32k car, and the Acura TSX, a Japanese Honda Accord in drag with an anemic four cylinder engine, are not even in the same class as a 328 or 325, and they certainly are not “amazing” cars. If I wanted to save money, I would take a one year old 3 series, which would have three years of free maintenance included and a 100k mile CPO warranty over any of the cars you mention. And you would even get a little blue and white roundel thrown in for free.

    And as far as value goes, many people on this board fail to understand that, if you are intending to purchase, a $5000-$8000 premium for the BMW is not a deal breaker to many. And if you lease, and if you do your homework, with BMW subvented rates, it is possible to drive a BMW for a lot less than you think. And I don’t buy the “lease queen” nonsense. A very large portion of individuals who drive luxury marks lease. This is not unique to BMW.


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