I must say that 2019 has been another wonderful year for BMW. Sales are strong, and the brand portfolio has expanded nicely. With the introduction of the 1 Series M35i and the X3 and X4 M duo, the performance niche-filling plan is almost complete.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, so by employing the powers of hindsight, completely ignoring budgets, and good old wishful thinking, I can recommend a few changes in the future. As has become tradition (well, it’s been six years!), this is the time of year not just to enjoy the holidays, but to rant, wish, and beg BMW for a few additions—and often a few omissions—to the business plan.
First on the list is for BMW to continue offering manual transmissions as an option. The M3 Pure edition, as it has been called, will go a long way to keeping alive the dream of a full-blooded M sedan with a row-your-own manual transmission, and the coupe duo of M2 Competition and M4 Pure should make for great CPO purchases in a few years, assuming that anyone ever sells theirs. In the States, beyond that trio of higher-end models, the 2 Series still has a no-cost manual option, but only in rear-wheel-drive form. Bummer.
I would love for BMW to include a manual option in more vehicles. A six-speed X3 M? Sign me up! But I’ll being realistic here—reluctantly. Porsche has stayed committed to the manual, continuing to develop its seven-speed that was introduced back in 2015. But with the demise of even the manual Corvette, it’s clear that more performance-inclined buyers are speaking with their wallets, and we are inching closer to a BMW world with not a single traditional H-pattern shifter in sight.
If that is going to be the case, then the iX3 and i4 had better be really good. With all of those development dollars being spent on the electrification of the fleet, these newcomers had better live up to the ethos of comfortable, sporty everyday transports that can still raise the pulse. They don’t have to rival their M counterparts, but it would a miss if they are not at least as fun as their more equivalent siblings.
Less boisterous kidney grilles would be nice. I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding about the term “large” when describing latest grilles on the 7 Series and the X7. Take a gander at the new 8 Series, and it’s easy to see how a large grille can look rather magnificent. The big difference is in the proportions; the 8 Series has a large grill, but it is low and wide, almost menacing. Meanwhile, the 7 Series looks like its kidney grilles are 50% too tall. The new Z4 does it right; the new X5 swings and misses.
There may be some folks quite enamored with the massive nostrils, but I am emphatically not one of them. BMW has adapted their more questionable designs in the past, so I hope that they can make appropriate adjustments from this point.
What is the purpose of the Competition model? Just because Mercedes started offering S versions of all of its AMG models does not mean that BMW has to do something similar. I’m sure that there is some margin-enhancing reason for this, but I just don’t care. If you are M GmbH, just sell the best version of the car that you can and be done with it. Looking at the 8 Series Competition versus its “normal” brother, the differences are just too small to justify such a high premium, let alone a separate model name.
With the M2, it made perfect sense, as so many components, including the entire rear subframe and differential, plus the engine, changed rather dramatically. Oh, and there is not a base version on sale at the same time. With the M2 approach, at least there is a distinct character and hardware change. Give me the outright authority, and I would make the “Competition” moniker akin to Porsche’s “GT” badging.
Similar to providing multiple driving modes and damper settings, the more common approach of including a Competition model feels like another crutch in the development process that takes focus away from making the best vehicle possible. If I had it my way, the product teams would get one actual model with a primary setting and “bumpy road” mode for cruising. And I still wouldn’t be happy about the two settings.
All right, it’s time for a bit of selfish wish-making. Having test-driven both the four-cylinder and six-cylinder variants of the Z4, can we please have a hardtop version of the car? Yes, yes, the Toyota Supra exists; I get it, but I want a true-blooded BMW version. Drop in the motor from the M135i, and I am in—and I just know that it would look gorgeous.
There are likely many more items that should be on my BMW wish list—a BMW van, pretty please?!—but the reality is that our favorite automotive company is doing a fantastic job right now. As with every other company, there are areas for improvement, of course, but I am confident that BMW is constantly assessing and reassessing its decisions and opportunities, so let’s all be sure to provide them feedback to guide them down our preferred path. I, for one, am looking forward to an exciting and prosperous 2020.—Chris Doersen
[Photos courtesy Chris Doersen, BMW AG.]