It’s that time of the year! As the industry evolves and auto manufacturers rebrand themselves as tech companies and “mobility providers,” the Los Angeles Auto Show, held every November at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is a chance for drivers to check in on product lineups and experience new models for themselves.
In the first full year since BMW dropped out of the Detroit and New York Auto shows in favor of direct product announcements and international shows, the LA show remains a unique opportunity to put product in front of the media and consumers, and it led to some big reveals this year. BMW’s competition in 2019 was stiff, with releases like the new GLS Class from Mercedes-Benz, and an entire booth full of Audi products (including the much-awaited RS6 Avant, part of a new class of North American superwagons in which BMW is not competing) but the Bavarian stand—run more heavily by the company’s German side and modeled after the molds of the Frankfurt Motor Show—had no shortage of vehicles, showcasing every facet of the BMW lineup over two days.
BMW kicked off the show, hosting the first press conference of the week to announce not only new partnerships outside the industry, like one with the Straus Family Creamery (a dairy farm with whom BMW is investing to develop methane as a power source) and partnerships within its own brands, bringing a variety of vehicles on MINI platforms onto the stage, in the form of the MINI Clubman JCW and MINI GP (more on those in a moment). As with other auto shows, BMW touted its continued investment in North America, given that the company remains the largest exporter of American-made vehicles by value.
One by one, behind BMW executives, the announcements rolled out. While the stand itself featured a significant EV presence, the majority of the new vehicles were thoroughly performance-oriented, including the Launch Edition BMW M8 Gran Coupé, finished in a stunning, almost pearlescent shade of Diamant Green metallic paint with bronze accents and yellow headlights. Even by BMW standards, this car executes the transition from concept to production more closely than almost any other recent model, and we recommend seeing one in person.
Both of these cars are significant additions to BMW’s ongoing story and history. The world premiere of the M2 CS, a long-awaited hotter version of the M2 Competition and a car we’ve covered extensively on BimmerLife, may have also made auto show history this year: It was one of the few manual-transmission vehicles on display (although it may need some new bushings after the ceaseless fiddling by attending media, many of whom wanted a go at the M2 CS’s interior).
The other 2 Series on display made history for another reason. The M235i xDrive Gran Coupé is the first BMW sedan designed primarily as a front-drive car—at least the first to come to the U.S. But it’s not an unfamiliar platform to the BMW Group family; the M235i uses the same 300-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder as the MINI JCW and X2 M235i. And before you cry blasphemy, note that we’ve driven the M235i before, albeit a camouflaged sedan. Earlier this month, at Test Fest, BMW brought two examples—including one with the optional fantastic M Sport seats—to the Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and fear not: it’s an absolute blast to drive.
Dynamically, the car feels like a Golf R or Focus RS in all the right ways, but in the ergonomically-improved package one would expect from a BMW product. Where the Focus was limited by a cheap interior and awkward seating position, and the Golf R still feels like, well, a Golf, the M235i xDrive hits above in terms of refinement and touchpoint quality. The thick steering wheel, the (again) spectacular seats, the short wheelbase, and the punchy motor make it feel like a toy, in all the right ways.
Our M235i’s aren’t even front-wheel-drive, either; as with the X2 M35i, xDrive all-wheel-drive is the only option with the most potent four-cylinder—but we look forward to driving all variants of the 2 Series Gran Coupé once it enters series production, to figure out if the lesser drivetrains (and the production visual experience) match the fun of the potent 35i.
BMW’s electrified future may not have been on huge display in the press conference, but on the stand the second day, the plug-in scene was packed. The X330e plug-in made its debut, as did a new, bronze-accented version of the i8 Roadster—and behind it, in two separate displays, BMW brought the iFE.20, their new Formula E racing platform, and the familiar but nonetheless striking Vision M Next Concept.
The Vision M Next also indicated another piece of news about BMW’s electrified future, in the form of their new Hans Zimmer-designed audio experience dubbed IconicSounds, which will be offered across all electrified models and bring an entirely futuristic and adaptive sound profile to the electrified BMW driving experience. Many enthusiasts have felt sound is a critical sensory aspect of the driving experience, and one that has been missing from EVs. We hope the new sound will make its way to BMW’s electrified range soon, and are excited to experience it.
To check out the demonstrations for yourself, visit the Los Angeles Auto Show before December 1, 2019 and let us know which vehicles you’re most excited to see on the road.—David Rose
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]