2011 has been quite a busy year for Bavarian Motor Works! If anything, it was easy for us to tell given how busy the BMWBLOG staff have been. Hugo attended the US launch of the 1M Coupe at Monticello Motor Club, Horatiu and Shawn picked one up and rocketed down to the 24 Hours of Nurburgring to catch BMW Team Schnitzer pounding around the decades old circuit.

I managed to catch BMW’s Joey Hand win the 24 Hours of Daytona and then follow suit in the BMW Team RLL M3’s at Sebring and the finish up the season with another championship at Petit Le Mans. Horatiu also managed to head to Europe a few more times, stop by Mexico for the 6 Series launch and keep the site going day-to-day – we’re all pretty sure he’s a vampire or just doesn’t need sleep.

More to the point, though, BMW has launched a tremendous number of new products in the last year while finding continued success in many non-production car activities. 2011 has brought the general public the all new F10-based M5, the first M5 in history to be propelled by turbocharged engines with an explosive 550+ German horsies.

Speaking of turbochargers, 2011 could be called the year of the 1M as the littlest so-called M car. Accolades, rave reviews and a plethora of awards have filled the automotive headlines when it comes to the 2011 1M Coupe and our own staff would rightfully agree – enough so that Chicago is heavy an additional Valencia Orange two-door belonging to a certain BMWBLOG staffer/owner!

Aside from the obvious recognition of the M cars, BMW also introduced the world to the new 6 Series Gran Coupe – specifically aimed at knocking the Mercedes-Benz CLS off it’s self-generated perch as the lead in the sports coupe/sedan segment. The Gran Coupe is expected out sometime in 2012 to battle the likes of the Audi A7, Benz CLS and always awkward Porsche Panamera. Paramount to the introduction of all models is the reveal of the F30 3 Series – the sixth generation 3er to lay rubber to the road.

Our own Shawn Molnar has already sampled the latest 3 and so far, the F30 is shaping up to be bigger success both in sales and driver satisfaction than the outgoing E90. As we all know – success of the 3 Series is critical as this is the biggest selling model and as such has been the benchmark in its segment since the days of Creation, also known as the E30! The styling of the F30 brings the exterior appearance of the 3 Series more in-line with the 5 and 7 Series with a protruding nose, raked hood and windscreen and a high shoulder line giving the majority of the range a more uniform styling language.

Ironically, while the 3 Series has been the workhorse of BMW’s range over the last few decades, 2011 saw the debut of the second generation of the littlest BMW – the F20 1 Series. The F20 premiered in its initial form – the 5 door hatchback, available initially only in Europe. While the styling is somewhat controversial the F20 1er will no doubt continue to build upon the successes of the outgoing E8X 1 Series as the newest entry level BMW. Additionally, the F20 also trail-blazed a new method by which BMW will package certain models going forward.

The newest 1er debuted in two available packages, Sport and Urban with the former catering more to the core enthusiasts and the latter more toward the technology and luxury inclined buyer. This concept laid the groundwork for the three package types available for the F30 at its launch: Sport, Luxury and Modern – each blending a variety of options, colors and technology ranges suiting the distinct nature of the three primary groups of 3 Series consumers. 2011 was a time in which consumers saw BMW taking a very different approach to available packaging which has been received with both praise and disapproval – though each allows buyers to have a bit more differentiation from one BMW to the next.

While not quite a product yet, BMW did lift the curtain on the forthcoming i3 Megacity car as well as i8 hybrid sports car. BMW are unrelenting in their Efficient Dynamics initiative and the i3 and i8 are the tip of the iceberg. Aside from the reveal of the i3 – BMW managed to get super celebrity Tom Cruise behind the wheel of the i8 in the latest Mission: Impossible flick. While the car won’t be due out for a few years, BMW further drove home the point that efficiency doesn’t necessarily need be ungainly and bland like a Toyota Prius.

In the same vein of efficiency, BMW also pulled the wraps off of the wonderful little N20 engine – the replacement of the N52 – as the first four cylinder in a U.S.. BMW in a decade. The N20 ushers in BMW’s follow-through to meet the impending CAFE regulations of fleet economy while continuing to provide enthusiasts with the same engine performance expected from the now defunct buttery-smooth inline sixes.

Always teasing enthusiasts, BMW unveiled the gorgeous 328 Hommage concept – a tribute to the 328 race car of the 1930’s. While the 328 Hommage is strictly a concept not to see the light of day as a production model, BMW did introduce heavy use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics throughout the 328 both inside and out – a nod to some of the forthcoming technologies due to hit production cars in the near future.

Moving from open-top throwback racer to forward thinking droptop, BMW also gave the public the Vision ConnectedDrive concept. The ConnectedDrive concept marries drop-dead good looks with BMW’s latest safety and infotainment systems to suit both driver and passenger. From a design perspective, the ConnectedDrive concept highlights styling cues similar to the Vision EfficientDynamics concept with layers of materials and surfaces in such a way as to convey more organic styling throughout the interior and exterior.

Outside of concepts and production cars – BMW continued their reign in the world of motorsports with a BMW-powered Daytona Prototype winning the 24 Hours of Daytona – due in large part to a triple stint by BMW works driver Joey Hand! If it wasn’t enough, Joey and BMW Team RLL teammates Bill Auberlen, the Two Dirks, Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus pulled out a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring this past March.

The perfect start to the 2011 American Le Mans Series season where the last few seasons of work came together to hand BMW Team RLL another ALMS driver’s championship, team championship, manufacturer’s championship and nearly a tire championship via tire provider Dunlop. BMW Team Schnitzer, the European sister team to the U.S.-based BMW Team RLL, went on to contend the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a well-deserved 3rd in class finish. BMW Motorsport looks to be in excellent hands with the appointment of Jens Marquardt as it’s new director, effective from July 2011 on.

MINI’s foray back into the world of rallying didn’t disappoint, either. In only a handful of rallies, a privateer entry in the MINI Countryman rally car beat expectations and landed a top podium spot – before the official Prodrive-MINI team could turn a wheel in a race! Though the 2012 looks as though it will have a tumultuous start – we’re sure the MINI entry to the WRC will continue to have success.

Looking back on 2011 – it’s hard to believe that just over a decade ago BMW was still considered the up-and-coming brand to battle the luxury car giant Mercedes-Benz. 10 years on, BMW has not only established its own way, but  established itself as THE way in many segments through their dominant sales, class leading driving dynamics and continually evolving on-board technology. As we look forward to 2012, the road ahead seems to be a gilded one for BMW with a continued push towards the striking the balance between performance, efficient dynamics and luxury.

2012 is shaping up to be an even busier year for the BMWBLOG team and we cannot wait to show you all of the exciting developments for the coming year!