8 Aug 2013

5 Things New Cars Could Learn From Old BMWs


1.) Fast cars don’t have to look fast

When ///M cars debuted, the vast majority of the population could not identify a motorsport-tuned variant from its base model counterpart unless tri-color badges were staring them in the face. Part of what made the E28 M5 so fabulous was its subtlety – a tweaked airdam here, a lip spoiler there, and a few small emblems. In an era of gaudy, big-face watches and fetishized ‘Type-R’ branding, it seems the coolness of a sleeper is lost on most automakers.

2.) Three pedals and a gear level

Though we’re fighting a losing battle on this one, but any motoring writer who actually enjoys motoring must bemoan the death of the manual transmission. By the mid-2000s, paddles were rapidly becoming the go-to choice for new sports cars. By keeping slick five and six-speed ‘boxes on life support, BMW gained goodwill with enthusiasts that is still felt today; we won’t soon forget that the M5 was available only in manual configuration until 2005

3.) Naked engine bays

Stephen Bayley touched on this in his August column for Octane, and I think it bears repeating. Though he mainly spoke about the ‘visual drama’ in early carbureted Jaguars, BMW let its engines go relatively nude throughout the 80s and 90s. Few moments are more gratifying than popping the hood of an E30 M3 or M635CSi and being greeted by a stack of exposed individual throttle bodies.

4.) Ergonomic gauges

Never – not once – have I ever climbed into a BMW and found my view of instrumentation obstructed. Those big, clean, simple VDO gauges (especially in the E36) are absolutely spot-on. It amazes me that the dramatic (and wonderfully useful) progressive oil temperature lights across the E46 M3 tachometer during warm-up still aren’t in every sports car.

5.) Design language across model range

BMWs ability to keep solidarity across its lineup actually made each model look even better. Sure, they all had the Hofmeister kink, kidney grilles and propeller logos, but each car was distinguishable and proportionate. Compare an E30/E28/E32, or E46/E39/E65: the fluency and sport/luxury ethos across an entire lineup makes many of today’s automakers seem disjointed. Even as exotic and wild as the M1 was, it still looked like a BMW.

Article by Max Prince.  Take a look at Max's site here