Column: BMW’s Seven Deadly Sins

Others | October 7th, 2009 by 20
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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.

BMW Logo 26. 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]