No car has defined and dominated a segment like the BMW 3-Series. It is the compact sport sedan everyone else has been gunning for since the origin of the line over 30 years ago. So when the 3er is redesigned, as it has been for 2012, everyone wonders: have they once again raised the bar, or have they lost their way, perhaps even choked? An answer, in two parts. First up: a “Luxury Line” 328i automatic. Next month: a three-pedal “Sport Line” 335i.
Wherever the hollow tubes of the InterWeb may reach, there you will find the argument that “it’s always a better idea to buy a CPO used car than a new one.” The mean transaction price of a new car in the United States is about $29,000. That kind of money will get you a loaded-up Camcord, a discounted LaCrosse, or any number of other mass-market sedans… but can it get you the BMW of your dreams? A friend and former co-worker of mine decided to find out, using his own time and money.
(Dramatic voice) This… is his story.
In an unusual twist, BMW decided to release the redesigned 650i coupé after the drop-top version we snagged last November. The reason for the coupé’s late arrival is simple; BMW tells us it accounts for only about 30% of 6-series sales. Two-door luxury cars usually drive better than their chop-top sisters, but if you have the cash to burn and care about driving, should you still go topless? Read More >
It seems unlikely that anyone in 2037 will be inclined to keep a 2012 BMW 650ci in such excellent condition as the 1987 635CSi pictured above -and even if such a thing happens, will said 650i make it that far into the future without a catastrophic electronics failure rendering it a two-ton paperweight? Although Jack and Steve have offered their own context on older cars, mine will be different. I’m still not yet legally able to rent a car on my own. This 635CSi was built before I was even born, so driving it gives me a glimpse into the past, but without the benefit (or handicap) of contemporaneous context.
Now that winter weather has (finally) come to Michigan, it’s time to look forward to spring, when roadsters will emerge from their long hibernation to frolic along twisty two-lanes. Don’t have one, and feeling the urge? More than with a midsize sedan or a compact crossover, a roadster is a very personal choice, as the contenders—Audi TT, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miata, Mercedes SL and SLK, Nissan 370Z, Porsche Boxster—vary in configuration and character much more than those in high-volume segments. If you know what you want in a roadster, the choice should just about make itself. So, what might lead someone to opt for the BMW?
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If you ask a certain segment of the automotive press, it seems that BMW is rapidly losing the plot. While I agree that BMW’s latest wares are bigger, heavier and more leather-clad than ever before, I can’t say thing is a bad thing in my mind. I upset a few people when I reviewed the then-new 335is by saying “BMW is the new Mercedes”. I’m not sure why noses were “rankled”, but there seems to be a large segment of TTAC’s readership that believe BMW has abandoned “sport” for “luxury”. Maybe they are right; the M3 and M5 have been gaining weight an alarming pace and now we have the X5M and X6M, a pair of 5,400lb SUVs wearing full-on M badges. The burning question at TTAC is: should the guy responsible for designing it be committed? Or should the vehicle be put in a straight-jacket for being a totally insane machine?
Full-size high-end luxury convertibles that don’t have budget origins are not as common as you might think (or like). E-Class Cabrio? Too cheap. A5 Cabrio? Same problem. So if you’ve $90,000+ burning a hole in your pocket for a topless two-door what should you get? Obviously Astons and Bentleys are out of your price range in this down economy (we all must economize after all), and you have trouble justifying the stretch to the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible’s $132,000 base price, that leaves BMW and Jaguar to battle in this broom-closet sized market. Whatever is the almost-wealthy shopper to do? Let’s find out
In the highly unlikely event that my father precedes me into the grave, I will have to come up with another way to describe him besides “the late Kevin Baruth”. The old man’s never been late for something in his life. Nor has he even been a terribly, shall we say, easy-going fellow. One of the medals he received in Vietnam was, if I recall correctly, for single-handedly halting the retreat of a disorganized Marine unit after the death of said unit’s commander and forcing them to turn around and advance towards the enemy. I have no trouble imagining how this might have happened; I’d rather shoot it out with a company of NVA regulars than contradict my father.
I mention all of the above for a reason. When I tell my friends that I learned how to drive in a black 1984 BMW 733i, they say, “That’s pretty cool.” When I explain further that it was the relatively rare manual-transmission variant, they say, “That’s even cooler.” It’s difficult to make them understand that it’s tough to learn how to drive in a stick-shift car, tougher to do it in a $36,000 ($77K in today’s money) BMW, and worse yet to do it with someone sitting next to you who might, just possibly, rip your head off at any moment.
Despite what Frank Greve might tell you, some automotive journalists (well, automotive writers anyway. Car writers. Hacks.) don’t have gleaming new cars dropped off curbside, with caviar and champagne in the cupholders and an eight-ball of coke in the glovebox. Instead, a jobbing freelancer such as myself usually has to hoof it on the ol’ public transit network to wherever the fleet cars are kept, staring out the window at people picking their noses in Toyota Corollas and pretending not to notice the pressure on my thigh as the portly, odiferous gentleman on my left overflows his seat.
This time though, BMW being so far out of the way, I grabbed a lift from a friend in a track-prepped, bright orange Lotus Elise. I have never indulged in methamphetamines, but now I no longer need to: never mind road feel, that car was effectively fifteen miles of licking the tarmacadam.
After such a Habanero sorbet, the drive back in the BMW was fairly muted. Ho-hum, another big heavy heffalump with a fancy badge on the nose and an options pricing list that reads like the GDP of Belgium. Right? Next morning at the on-ramp: um, actually no. This thing’s a rocket.
With the 2004 X3, BMW offered a compact SUV a half-decade ahead of other German car manufacturers. So not long after Audi and Mercedes have introduced their first such vehicle BMW has an all-new second-generation X3. The first-generation X3 had its strengths, but its weaknesses tended to outweigh them, especially in the U.S. market. The larger X5 has outsold it on this side of the Atlantic many times over despite a higher price. Has BMW learned enough in the past seven years to address these weaknesses and keep ahead of the new competition?
BMW loves America, and to prove it, BMW is sending us a North American exclusive sports coupé and convertible. No, it is not some fabulous concept car turned production, its last year’s 335i cranked up a notch with some M3 parts and an exhaust system that’s too loud to be sold in the EU tossed in for good measure. Does that make the 335is the perfect 3 series? BMW tossed us the keys to one for a week to find out.
With its 2011 redesign the BMW 5-Series is now much more closely related to the 7-Series. It’s smoother, quieter, and–both for better and for worse–has the feel of a larger car. So, why would someone spend roughly $18,000 more for the 7? (Add another $3,900 for the extended wheelbase Li, and another $3,000 for AWD.) To find out, I took a 750Li xDrive for a spin after driving the new 550i.
Back in the 1980s, BMW was all about the compact, performance-oriented 3-Series. They also offered the 5 and 7, but these were greatly outsold by competing Mercedes. Seeking to expand well beyond its driving enthusiast base, BMW made its cars ever more stylish, luxurious, and laden with technology. Despite mixed reactions to the Bangled exteriors and iDrive, sales of the larger sedans grew even faster than their curb weights, and in recent years they have often outsold the E-Class and S-Class. A redesigned 2011 5-Series recently arrived at dealers. With the new car, has BMW further lost the plot, or rediscovered it?
Diesel clatter in a BMW is like watching Bullit to the tunes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In other words, distasteful and illegal in 48 states. And yet, driving BMW’s new X1 is a surprisingly John Deere-like experience. Is this a BMW or the ultimate agricultural machine? Maybe this sort of confusion is the X1’s worst problem.
BMW is rapidly becoming the Swiss Army Knife of automobile brands. Elegant and well-trained coupes, estates and sedans? Check. Interested in CUVs of both respectable and questionable utility? They got you covered. Though the X6 and 5-series Gran Tourismo are answers to a question nobody asked, the smaller, racier 750i Sport treads dangerously into well established 5-series territory. And while the 5-er and 7-er’s pasts are more than a little intertwined, should history repeat itself?