If it seems like ages ago, that BMW wasn’t the automotive leader, or at least one of them, in technology and innovation, that’s because it was. Actually, I can’t remember a time when BMW wasn’t on the forefront of invention. Every week, it seems like, there’s a new innovation coming from Bavaria, and the trend most likely won’t slow down. Whether it be inventing a new technology, or a new automotive niche, BMW seems to have forever been set on pushing the envelope.
BMW, arguably, created the very first sport sedan, with the 2002. Alfa Romeo may take issue with that claim, but it’s safe to say that every automaker to follow suit copied the 2002. It revolutionized the way we think about small family sedans, and how they can be fun rather than dull. The Bavarians also created the first super sedan, with the E28 M5. At the time, a sedan which could have a higher top speed than a Porsche 911 was blasphemous. Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Cadillac have all since been trying to create their own M5s.
When it comes to the mechanical side, BMW was the first European production car company to turbocharge. The 2002 Turbo was the very first turbocharged production car to come out of Europe. While BMW wasn’t the first to use a twin-scroll turbocharger, the N55 engine is one of the most innovative uses of one, and the first in a long time.
BMW also all but invented the infotainment system. iDrive is the mother of all systems we currently use today. Though pretty universally hated when it first came out, much like a lot of new technology, every automaker thereafter sought to replicate iDrive. Now, it sets the standard for quality and usability for infotainment systems in the automotive market.
BMW also was the first to develop laser headlights, however it seems Audi may have beat BMW to production. Laser headlights were supposed to debut on the BMW i8, as the first production car to ever use them. However, Audi put them on the special edition R8 LMX available only in Europe, and the laser high-beams only work at speeds of over 37 mph. So Audi may have raced to production first, but there’s an asterisk next to that stat, for sure.
Now BMW might very well be the first to ever introduce gesture control, over an infotainment system, in the next G11/12 7 Series. Being able to raise or lower the volume or answer calls by just waving your hand and not taking eyes off the road is simply amazing. If it works as well as advertised, BMW’s gesture control will yet again set the automotive standard.
These are only a few of BMW’s many innovations, as all of them could fill a King James Bible. Other car companies, specifically the German ones, have had their fair share of innovation as well. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, General Motors and Ford have all been innovators in their own ways at some point in time, as well. So BMW isn’t the only one shaping the automotive landscape. But the Bavarian brand is definitely up there with the best of them.