It’s almost exhausting to read about modern BMW performance cars. Every review seems to be exactly the same and feature the exact same talking points: The steering isn’t as good as it used to be, the ride isn’t as good as it used to be, the noise isn’t as good as it used to be, blah, blah, blah. We get it, modern BMWs aren’t as good as the old classics. While true, it’s an exhausting point to make because no modern car is as engaging as its classic predecessors. However, there’s no getting around the fact that fans miss the good ole days of BMW. And that got me thinking; what exactly do you miss most about old-school BMWs?
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For most, it’s the steering. Drive an E30 BMW 3 Series and the steering is so communicative and tactile that you can feel with your hands what brand of paint was used to make the lines in the road. Admittedly, the rack was significantly slower on an E30 than it is on any modern BMW, necessitating in a lot more sawing at the wheel, but it somehow felt more accurate, as if what you were doing with the wheel had a more direct translation to what happened at the front end.
But it wasn’t just the steering feel, it was the weight. For a few decades, BMW seemed to have figured out the perfect amount of steering weight for each and every class of car. Regardless of whether or not it was the 3 Series, 5 Series or 7 Series (remember when those three made up almost all of the models BMW sold?), the steering weight was perfectly judged for the sort of car it was.
For a lot of enthusiasts, though, it’s the ride quality they miss most. With a seemingly perfect blend of comfort, compliance and composure, most classic Bimmers ride with a sublime fluidity. Drive an E46 3 Series from nearly two decades ago and you’ll soon realize that it can teach modern sports cars a thing or three about what ride quality really is. Same goes for the E39 5 Series. Both were about as close to perfect as you can get.
Classic BMW engines are also deeply missed by BMW enthusiasts. The days of naturally-aspirated fours and sixes are gone. Now, turbocharging and hybridization rule the day and both lack the tactile response given by a free-breathing motor. The noise that came from those old-school engines is also unmatched today. Even the best sounding modern BMWs pale in comparison to their classic predecessors. Listen to the music that’s made by the E28 M5’s 3.5 liter inline-six and you’ll soon forget about the rock-filled, diesel-powered hairdryer that is the BMW M3’s sound.
There are a lot of things to love and cherish about classic BMWs. The Bavarians have a long history of making brilliant, intoxicating cars. Modern BMWs aren’t bad, though. For their time, which is currently a bit odd, they’re superb. The new BMW M5, for instance, is such an astonishing car that it’s already considered by many to be one of the very best M5s of all time. However, the new, highly electronic and all-wheel drive (gasp!) M5 can’t be mentioned without someone saying how much they miss the old days. So what is it about classic BMWs that you miss more than anything else and what would you pull from classic Bimmers to modern ones.