Column: BMW’s Seven Deadly Sins

Others | October 7th, 2009 by 20
GERMANY-INSURANCE-AUTOMOBLIE-ALLIANZ-BMW

There is no need to explain how emotionally attached are BMW owners to their cars and how we all appreciate the company who makes them, …

There is no need to explain how emotionally attached are BMW owners to their cars and how we all appreciate the company who makes them, but sometimes, BMW does (or refuses to do) things which make us all ask – What in the world were they thinking?

7. Runflat Tires
The idea was to remove a spare tire to give more trunk space and enable engineers to create a more sophisticated rear suspension, but in theory, all you’ve got was rock-hard ride over bumps and holes. Runflat tires have enforced side skirts which makes them usable even when the tire loses all presure, but the comfort is sacrificed because the tires cannot absorb road damages, due to their stiffness. All BMWs have a wonderful balance between ride comfort and sharp responses so this new change wasn’t exactly received with a warm welcome. Of course, the ride would improve with speed, but perhaps a tire-repair kit as a standard would be a better idea.

Column: BMW’s Seven Deadly Sins6. BMW X3
The X5 was a major breakthrough, initially as a response to the infamous low-quality Mercedes-Benz ML, it had set new standards for SUVs in terms of handling and performance that were even difficult for the Porsche Cayenne to beat several years later. Unsurprisingly, expectations were high for its smaller brother, the X3, which was released with large fanfare and claims by BMW that it would feature near-3-Series-like handling. And it did, but that was the only thing it actually did well. BMW was determined to make the best handling SUV so to completely eliminate body roll, the suspension was as comfortable as a skateboard.

Furthermore, the interior was already dated when it came out in 2003 and it was not the last word in material quality either. However, the X3 was the best selling 4×4 in Germany, even outperforming cheaper models like the Toyota RAV4, and still it has the edge in driving manners when compared to its new rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

5. iDrive
First of all, the idea behind it is great; BMW’s interiors are always logical and ergonomically perfect, but as climate and entertainment functions advance, the number of buttons and switches is increased too and that’s not what you need when you’re enjoying your drive. BMW’s plan was to replace all buttons with a computer-mouse like dial to reduce clutter on the dashboard, and it did in the 2001, with the iDrive system in the 7 Series.

However, the system had one big flaw – it was too complicated to use and it had too much functions. For example, you could set up how long you would want the headlamps to stay on after you turn off the engine. In seconds. I’m not sure why would anyone care about that, but to set up that function was as distracting as would it be to choose the right interior temperature. As with all good ideas, Mercedes-Benz and Audi had stolen and improved it, but BMW has redesigned the interface, so now it’s perfectly intuitive.

4. BMW Z3
BMW has been making pure roadsters for over 75 years, so imagine how much attention has the Z3 attracted for its premiere in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye” in 1996.

Design-wise, the Z3 was a looker, with classic roadster proportions and subtle retro styling. The rest of the experience wasn’t so glamorous; the interior felt cheap and dated, while the rear window was made out of plastic, even Mazda MX-5 had a glass one. The suspension was carried over from the E30, which was quite advanced back in 1985. Nevertheless, due to its modest weight, the handling was fun and predictable, but it lacked the soul of a true roadster, putting it in the same league as the Audi TT and Mercedes-Benz SLK – a hairdresser’s car. The coupe variant looked odd, but enjoys a cult status today. Truth is that the true roadster wasn’t there until the 2002 Z4.

3. No M-version of the 1 Series
When BMW released the 1 Series, it was the obvious choice for the enthusiast on a budget: 50:50 weight distribution, aluminum suspension and of course rear-wheel drive were unseen in the so-called “Golf-class”. From the start, all reviewers noted that the car was capable of displacing a much more powerful engine than early cars had, so BMW responded with a 3.0 straight six producing 265 HP, also a previously unimaginable in that class. The 130i quickly outperformed its main rival, the Audi S3 which had similar power but from a four-pot turbo, obviously inferior to the advanced in-line six.

With the release of its coupe and convertible versions, the 3.0 was joined by a smaller 2.5 version and the landmark 135i, producing 306 HP. The latter was described as a “Junior M3”, and has received praise among automotive journalists, as Jeremy Clarkson said: “…then you leave the motorway and the road gets twisty and it’s like settling into your favourite armchair. The steering, the feel, the way you can adjust your line through the bend with the throttle. There is no other car made today in this segment that gets as close. If you love driving, this is the logical and best choice in its class.

Of course, a Mitsubishi Evo or a Subaru Impreza will grip more and slingshot you from bend to bend with more urgency, but if you prefer a more flowing style – less grip and more handling – then you would be better off with the “little Bimmer.”

Mind you, this still is a standard car, and the M division always reworks the suspension, the steering and the engine, so imagine how good would it be if they had made it. There is still hope that we will see one in the future….

2. BMW X5/X6 M
Bimmer community baffled as BMW Motorsport announced their first M SAV/SUV, mostly because it was a matter of time until this road will be taken, but  truth is we all felt like it wasn’t the right time or place to do this. All in all, the cars turned out to be pretty impressive, but again, the standard ones bend the laws of physics too, so what’s the point? Later on, it is obvious that the M-badge on those two is the same as the M-package on your daily 318i. It’s pure marketing, but it tells just how exactly BMW M name is respected and distinguished compared to its rivals from AMG and RS divisions.

1. No sign of collaboration with Fiat
Small cars are expensive to produce and the costs increase further with the MINI, as BMW owned British icon employs technology seen in much larger cars. The only way to make it profitable is to form a joint venture, because historically, BMW focused more on building rear-wheel drive vehicles and the experience level in building front-wheel cars might be lower.  Some engines found in the MINIs come from the collaboration between BMW and PSA, but BMW’s version is slightly more economical and MINIs have better gearboxes.

A year ago, BMW announced that for the next MINI, may join forces with Fiat, but after that, both sides remained silent. Just few weeks before, Autocar wrote that BMW will increase its collaboration with PSA, which tells us that the negotiations between the German and the Italian maker might have been stalling.(No official confirmation has been released on this).
Now, the “star engine” from last collaboration is remarkable, it has even won the Engine Of The Year Award for its turbo-charged version, but many believe that the Fiat sourced one could be even better.

Fiat’s small cars were always among the best (and sometimes even class benchmarks) and unquestionably more fun to drive than their French rivals, but it is unlikely that MINI would share its chassis with any other car. And after all, isn’t BMW making world’s best engines?

For a start, the 1986 Fiat Croma was the first car in the world to have a direct injection diesel, and the first common-rail diesel was the Alfa Romeo 156 in 1997. Fiat sold the common-rail technology to Bosch and now it can be found in all modern diesels. Furthermore, the Multijet II that debuted in the new Punto Evo gives the engine free-revving capabilities that were imaginable only in BMW diesels, without removing typical mid-range punch. But MINIs are mostly bought in petrol variants, and Fiat’s revolutionary MultiAir technology would fit in one perfectly. It features hydraulically-actuated variable valve timing which offers a more controllable flow of air during the combustion cycle in comparison with mechanical VVT systems, while increasing power and torque and decreasing emissions and consumption. What is even better, the technology is even more effective when used with a supercharger or a diesel engine.

Initial reviews were extremely positive and MINI’s main rival, Alfa Romeo MiTo, is the first one to have it.
Having all this in mind, it is unclear why BMW and Fiat have not “clicked” yet, but the reason might be Fiat’s recent purchase of Chrysler and the economic crisis.

So there you have it: these seven are not exactly BMW’s finest hour, and let’s hope that there will be less of them in the future. But then, no one is perfect, right?

And what do you think, have I forgotten something?

[Photo credit: JOERG KOCH/AFP/Getty Images]

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1631237176 Vaybach Khan

    well i cant agree with you on most of so called sins…the true is nobody is perfect,but different from other makers BMW have balls to look forward in future and make unique ideas a reality…like for example idrive ,if you were driving 7 series at the time you were the only one and first one to feel the technology..now it became the usual part of every car..
    and z3…that is the most beautiful car ever! specially the coupe version!
    x6 m x5 m…the dream..no mistake…
    we all regret for not having the 1m but hey,we are still best in class,and we have m package,this is the first 1 series ever ,so go easy : )
    yes of course we always have some objections ,but bmw is big corporation and sometimes they do things just for better results,not for pure art,sad but true its the only way to keep maintain….

  • Adrian

    You are worng about the X5 M X6 M

    They are very different cars, for example the powertrain has 555 horespower an DCT transmistion, the brakes and suspension and also the wheels are much different then the X5 and X6

    You are out of your tree !

  • BMW sales

    As a BMW Salesperson and long-time client/fanatic, I disagree with most of what is written here. The passions of BMW are still around, they are just more mass-produced than before. BMW isn’t losing many customers over most of these “7 deadly sins”. And lets not forget, BMW isn’t just a simple performance car company anymore….it’s one of the most financially stable automakers in the industry. There’s a reason for that: they are doing things right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stjepan.sandor Stjepan Šandor

    Guys, I think that you have misunderstood this article a bit; the title is just pure licentia poetica, I randomly thought of BMW’s questionable moves and I stopped at the number seven. And coincidentally, Christianity talks about seven sins :)

    Just read the text again in depth and you’ll see that my point of view isn’t exactly so rigid, the idea was to in some way excuse BMW for these “seven sins” because they were excessively criticized by the press and public.

  • wazon

    Everybody claims contrary to you that there is a point of X6M and it’s really different from X6 xDrive50i. It has more powerful engine with responsiveness that has never been seen in turbo-charged engines, taking corners better and so on. Even Edmunds confirmed that.

    iDrive was great and brave idea. It was a little bit unintuitive but was first step in improvement of automobility. Something that was needed for growing number of functions in cars. It was first step and as such it could have problems of child’s age.

    Cooperation with Fiat was something I hoped will never happen. In Europe, Fiat has an opinion of the most unreliable cars (next to Alfa Romeo) and indeed it’s true opinion. Fiat has unique ability to making cars that has problems not only with one or two sub-assemblies, but with all – starting from engine, going through gear box, suspension and ending on electric, if it has any. French cars in general are a little bit better in terms of quality and reliability. Cooperation with Fiat could have bad consequences for BMW’s marketing in Europe, after all, you would get BMW’s “premium” product made with the worst car maker known in Europe. Something wouldn’t match here. It doesn’t mean that BMW’s product wasn’t of great quality, but looking at it people would think: “Man, it has the same parts as Fiat – one of the cheapest car in Europe”. It’s something similar to VW’s yoke under which Audi is, but 10 times wrong since VW cars have pretty good opinion in Europe, which Fiat doesn’t have. Glad to know that Fiat is out of BMW’s interest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stjepan.sandor Stjepan Šandor

      I agree that the M versions of the X5/X6 are capable, but a 4×4 car will never match the pure interaction that RWD setup has. Just read the reviews of the new Lamborghini Gallardo Valentino Balboni and you’ll see what I mean.
      And aren’t M cars all about involvement? I’m pretty sure that they will beat the Cayenne and ML AMG (and I’m pretty sure that someone will conduct a test like that)..

      As for the Fiat, they were extremely unreliable in the past, but improvements have been made, and I can guarantee you that with my own experience. If you had read the text, you would see why the collaboration would have been a success for both sides.

      And times change; for example, Audi was always the synonym for quality, but now, according to british press, the A5 is the least reliable new car.

  • http://www.bmwblog.com Horatiu B.

    The opinion on the X6M is split, many BMW fans are absolutely against it, but for example, I am totally for it. I was reluctant before I drove it, but it changed my mind. I’m sure Stjepan will feel the same after he sees what it can do :)

  • Marc

    Interesting article and a good way to open discussion. I am one of those that does not see the “point” of the X6 and furthermore the X6M….It is PURELY for profit….case in point: How on God’s green Earth can they make a X6M but not produce a 1er based M-model???? Because if they produce a 1er M-model it would have to be priced in a realm that BMW is not comfortable with is why….the X6M can be priced at a premium due to the “6″ moniker at its stigma of being an upper level luxury vehicle.

  • BMfan

    But BMW has always been an upper end luxury car maker. If you really believe there’s no point for the X6, the sales figures reflect a totally different perspective. If I had my way I’ll trade in my X6 5.0 for the X6M. Afterall the purpose of a car is to move me from point A to point B faster than my legs would.

  • Marc

    BMW has always been an upper end luxury car maker AND mid-level luxury car maker. The X6 is a quirky shaped X5 in my book. And of course you would trade you X6 5.0 for the X6M….since the design is not an issue (and the cost clearly isnt….you being BMW’s target) then more power is always good bait.

  • 100$ GUY

    When u say this:
    BMW’s interiors are always logical and ergonomically perfect,
    Everybody agree on this?
    Comments?

  • s@sh

    Most notable “sin” of BMW is that M7 was never made

  • http://www.facebook.com/stjepan.sandor Stjepan Šandor

    So Edmunds does love the X5M after all ;)

    This wasn’t supposed to be a discussion about the XM models (but apparently those two are so polarizing the public so it’s impossible to avoid this) but a debate about BMW’s questionable moves. These are my choices, but the idea was for all of you to post your ideas too.

  • Marc

    @Stjepan:

    Ok if we agree with one of your points….and we discuss it….wasn’t that the whole point of the article and us being able to post responses? To discuss which points we agreed with and more importantly why we agree or disagree? Oder?

  • viper

    Z3 and X5 X6 Motorsport are No mistakes….
    discontinued 8 series is a Huge mistake
    Canceled CS is even bigger mistake
    a shitloads of concepts
    no M3 CSL
    no S AMG rival aka 7 M
    no Supercar in current bmw lineup , probably will stay like that forever

  • CS

    The bad:

    1 No supercar since the M1 (Audi R8, Mercedes SLR, SLS)

    Traditionally BMW had the most dynamic image of the three brands and despite having suitable engine architectures available never produced a supercar after the M1 where Audi and Mercedes did.

    2 Announcing X5/6M relatively close to saying no E90 CSL

    This send a signal that the core of BMW dynamic image, where M devision is part of, is dead. With a brand reputation you have to have a core set of key brand values, which attracts purist and enthusiasts. Then followers start following and you’ll be able to ask a premium even for people to whom those core values aren’t that important any more. If you neglect those core values you run the risk of seeing that whole structure collapses and no more premiums prices can be charged.

    Making a over 2 ton vehicle, set it to high on it’s feet for normal road use and then try to make it go fast has nothing to do with motorsport nor is it logical or purposeful. If roughly at the same time you anounce that you’re not gonna produce a car that is at the core of your brand values (CSL) you’re make somewhat of a mistake in my view.

    3 Structurally underusing engine capacity

    BMW has been structurally underusing the dimensions of their respective engine architectures. They switched they introduced a 3.0 and 4.0 V8. Of course putting a heavy V8 with relatively modest torque (3.0) in such heavy cars will not be a successful enterprise. The 5 litre V12 was also no proof of efficient use of engine size and weight. The horsepower of the S85 could’ve been produced with an engine based on the S62. Their 3.0 turbo produces a mere 34 hp more than their atmospheric engine and as a consequence is outperformed by the first competitor (Audi S4) etc etc.

    4 Dropping the big 6

    Actually I don’t view this as a mistake, a big six in line is just not suitable for efficient vehicle packaging, taking up a lot of interior space. But just imagine that light M3 CSL not with a heavy iron block, but with a 40kg lighter aluminium big in line 6 with 420 hp in stead of 360. That would’ve been an unforgettable car.

    5 Insufficiently dynamic and elegant styling in a lot of models

    E46 and E60, just a bucket on wheels from the side. E46 and E90 coupe, looking fat in stead of elegant due to the round flanks. Lost the elegant and sporty forward pitch of the BMW kidney’s (seem to be coming back luckaly) etc etc.

    6 No light weight (1000kg) roadster.

    Could’ve added another chapter to BMW’s dynamic history and portfolio.

    7 X6 and 5 GT useless cars.

    Sigh.

    The Good:

    1 Continuation of the 6 in line despite packaging drawbacks.
    2 Continuation of RWD
    2 Up till recently continuations of high revving engine in the M models
    3 Re-energizing compact RWD class with 1-series.
    4 Excellent engine innovation
    5 Efficient dynamics

  • :p

    I beleive the 760Li is the S class AMG competitor. X6 is pointless now since the 5 GT is here. A (8 series) 7 coupe would be very nice. X3M would make sales. discontinue the even numbers like the 6 and rename it a 5 coupe. Twin Turbo the new I6. a X7 may steal sells from Cadillac. a M7 with a supercharged V12 with 650+ hp and a 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. Pretty much take all the modern luxury and sports brand and make the best car in the world with the best value

  • lennardt

    to be honest, i disagree in every point…
    X6 would be a sin or hydrogen 7series, but not x3..

  • Anonymous

    Spot on.  Whilst iDrive was much improved by the time my ’08 535xi was made the latest version is really rather excellent but the first gen was terrible.  I just ditched runflats too in favour of proper tyres and the difference is staggering. 

    You missed the 5 series GT off the list.  For me it is far more of an abomination than any of the X series and is the reason I can’t replace my wagon with another BMW when the warranty is up.

    Perhaps you should do a post on BMW’s 7 biggest missed opportunities too.

  • smartacus

    8th sin is not resurrecting Riley brand which they still own.

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