BMW is a brand with a unique flavor, one that seems to to really stick with its customers. It’s a bit like Porsche in that, once you’ve acquired a taste for it, you don’t really want much else. Also like Porsche, acquiring that taste happens pretty quickly. Ironically, I still remember both my first real BMW driving experience and first Porsche driving experience and, with both, I was instantly hooked. What was your first BMW driving experience, the one that allowed the Bavarian brand to really sink its teeth into you? Or maybe one that turned you off from the brand?
I’ll tell you mine. What’s interesting is that my first BMW drive and the one that got me hooked on the brand were two different drives, a couple of years apart. My first true BMW drive came behind the wheel of my parents’ E34 525i (I don’t remember the year but it was an early pre-facelift model). My parents actually owned two nearly identical cars (this was in 2006 and both were very cheap, old cars by then), so it was the car I learned to drive on. But because I had no other real point of reference, and their cars weren’t in the best of shape, neither car really jumped out at me.
After I got my driver’s license, I would drive some other friends’ and family members’ cars, which gave me a better idea of how different cars drove.
When it came time to buy myself a car, I bought an E36 BMW 328i. I wasn’t specifically looking for a BMW but just a cool European car so I could impress girls my age. It obviously didn’t work. Apparently, you need to actually be funny, charming, or interesting to get a date, and not a nerdy teenager with no sense of style. But I digress.
I was actually going to buy a 1994 B5-generation Audi A4 1.8T Quattro with a five-speed manual. I still remember it — green with black interior. However, it was in too ratty of condition to buy. A few days later, I found someone selling a 1996 BMW 328i sedan — Artic Silver over black interior, fully loaded, 142,000 miles, and in near-mint condition. The only downside was it was automatic and I wanted a manual for my first car. Still, when I saw it in person, I fell in love.
When I got the car home and took it for my first proper drive, I couldn’t believe how different it felt from every other car I’d driven at the time. Its steering was so heavy and responsive, its ride felt glued to the ground, and it felt so much more nimble than anything I’d driven before, even so-called sports cars like Mustangs. I’d never driven a car that I could wield so easily before, and I was instantly hooked. I genuinely loved that car; both driving and owning it. Most times. Many other times, I cursed its very existence due to its frustrating issues. Though, looking back, that was mostly my fault.
Unfortunately, I was an 18 year old idiot with no idea how to take care of a German car and completely ruined it. Over the years, I became far better at maintaining it, just not soon enough. Still, despite my initial, ignorant negligence, my E36 survived ten years, finally giving up at 248,000 miles.
Ever since that E36, I’ve loved the BMW brand. Since doing this job, I’ve driven countless other cars from other brands, and have come to appreciate their charms as well. Still, BMW will always hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite brands of any kind and I still go back to that moment of first driving my E36 as a reminder of why I love it so much.