It’s almost 2016 already. Crazy, right? So many interesting things happened in the car world in 2015 that it just flew by so fast. 2015 was also a big year for BMW, despite getting off to a slow start. I remember at the New York International Auto Show, BMW didn’t have any brand-new releases and it was a pretty dead showing for the Bavarians. However, towards the end of the year, things started to really amp up.
In the summer, we learned about the new 3 Series LCI and the brand-new BMW 7 Series. In October, we were able to test the new BMW 340i and X1 and we learned about the releases of the M2 and M4 GTS (which aren’t actually out yet). So with all of that goodness happening for BMW towards 2015’s later months, let’s take a look at the top five BMWs of 2015.
BMW’s first plug-in hybrid SUV, and one of the first plug-in hybrid BMWs to actually hit the steets, must make the list. While there are some philosophical issues with making an already heavy SUV even heavier by adding batteries to try and make it efficient, the X5 xDrive40e was an incredibly impressive car. Its hybrid powertrain was incredibly smooth and operated almost imperceptibly. The only real way to tell if the car was being powered by the electric motor alone was to watch the rev needle drop to zero. Other than that, it was whisper quiet and smooth all of the time. It also handled much better than anticipated for such a big girl and was quick, too. But the reason the X5 xDrive40e makes the list is because its powertrain is just such an achievement. Not only was BMW able to make a 2.5 ton hybrid SUV decently quick with a four-cylinder under the hood, but it was able to do so while keeping it incredibly efficient and still incredibly luxurious. It’s a very impressive engineering achievement.
4. BMW X1
The new BMW X1 isn’t very liked by many BMW enthusiasts for its front-wheel drive-based platform. However, once you can get behind the wheel and actually put rubber to road, it’s a fantastic little SUV (I’m sorry, SAV). It’s genuine fun to drive and a proper BMW, regardless of which wheels are driven. Plus, it’s fantastically practical, with loads of cargo space, passenger space and a seemingly endless amount of cubby storage. It also looks great, it really is one of BMW’s better-looking SUVs, and has a very nice interior. Its engine and transmission are great, despite the transmission being an eight-speed Aisin unit and not the typical ZF. With the X1 being one of BMW’s least expensive cars and having it as fun and practical as it is, it’s a hard proposition for anyone to pass up and is easily the best in its class.
3. BMW 340i
I wanted to say 3 Series LCI here, but not much changed with the 328i. The big news is the new engine in the 340i and, wow, what an engine. With 320 hp on tap and either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual swapping cogs, the BMW 340i is the most fun you’ll have in a car without an M badge. BMW was said to have changed some suspension and chassis bits in the 3 Series LCI to make it more dynamic while also being more comfortable and the Bavarians have most certainly succeeded. The new BMW 340i is back to the ways of the 3 Series, in terms of handling, but it’s that engine that keeps us coming back for more.
The BMW 1 Series hatchback sold in pretty much every other market except the North American market (because we can never have nice things) has been considered one of the most fun BMWs on the market since its inception. No one had any qualms about the way it drove. It was always fantastic fun, especially in M135i guise. However, it was ugly. There’s no two ways about it, it looked bad. Really bad. But that all changed with the LCI refresh. Calvin Luk was the lead designer on the 1 Series LCI (he also did the fantastic-looking X1) and did an incredible job. He turned what was once the ugliest car in its segment to the best looking one. Now that the looks match the exciting driving dynamics, the BMW 1 Series is easily one of BMW’s best cars.
1. BMW 7 Series
The most recent of launches for BMW also happens to be the best. The brand-new BMW 7 Series, the Bavarian flagship, is one of the most impressive vehicles in the automotive world not just in BMW’s stable. It’s built using groundbreaking Carbon Core chassis technology, has some of the most innovative cabin technology and is one of the best driving luxury vehicles on the market. The 7 Series sets the bar for all BMWs and is the car that future BMWs will improve from, as the 7 Series’ technology trickles down to them. But it isn’t just a luxurious techno-fest, as the 7 Series can properly handle, too and has great engines. It’s the most exciting BMW to come out this year, so it must be number one on the list.