I think that at this point we can safely rename “cars and coffee” to “dogs and coffee.” If you’re an avid car enthusiast and an animal-lover, there are no better weekend plans. Personally, I am just as happy to show up Saturday morning at my local C&C and see a Golden Retriever puppy as I am a clean 3.0CSL ; for me, it’s the best of both worlds. Who doesn’t want to see a good boy poking his head out of the window of an M3?
With summer fast approaching and the quarantine in full effect, some enthusiasts—I include myself—are looking to adopt a new furry family member. After grieving the loss of our fourteen-year-old rescue dog that passed away last year, we’ve been on the hunt for a new companion—and there’s no better time than now. While our previous dog loved the top-down lifestyle that my E46 provided, it’s hard to know whether the new pup will think the same, and in the event that I do need to transport him or her, I want to make sure that the ZHP is as dog-friendly as possible.
For current and future animal-owners, pet safety and practicality remain top priorities when choosing a new vehicle—and BMW knows this. Over the years, the German automaker has had great successes with their pet-friendly crossovers and lifestyle products, aiming to compete with other pet-focused brands like Subaru and Toyota. BMW may differentiate itself from these brands with their focus on performance-luxury, yet the brand has always made practical cars that serve us well in everyday life.
But what are the best Bimmers to tote your four-legged friends around in?
Best Crossover: For Your All-Around Traveler
It should not come as a surprise that BMW’s coveted compact crossover is at the top of this list. As a sport crossover, the X2 nicely bisects the market between the smaller X1 and the full-size X3, offering efficiency, practicality, and performance for everyday life. The X2 supersedes the X1 on this list for one reason: performance. Unlike its smaller sibling, the X2 can be optioned in M35i trim, with a healthy 300-plus horsepower on tap, a reason that was good enough to land it on Car and Driver’s 2019 10 Best Cars For Dog Loverslist. Dog-lovers will be happy to hear that with the seats folded flat, 50.1 cubic feet of cargo space will be there to keep your pup comfortable. Car and Driver claims that this equates to roughly fifteen carry-on suitcases, but I think that it’s better measured in muddy Labradors.
Speaking of muddy pups, SensaTec leatherette interior remains a viable upholstery option in the X2, especially for those looking for a lower-maintenance, more-pet-friendly option. The moderate ride height of the X2 also offers a brilliant compromise between off-road clearance and everyday use, and when coupled with innate hatchback practicality, makes loading and unloading dogs a breeze.For many owners, it offers the perfect compromise between their pet’s needs along with their own desire for BMW power, handling, and driving satisfaction.
Best Classic: Hatchback Haven
Z3 M Coupe
It’s hard to utter the words “BMW” and “hatchback” without an image of a Z3 M coupe popping into your head. My favorite clown-shoe coupe doesn’t just offer an exhilarating exhaust note, however; it’s also a surprisingly good daily driver for enthusiasts with a third, furry passenger. While the S54-powered inline-six variant is well-known for its silky-smooth performance, its quirky shooting-brake body style also provides it with ample room for small and medium-sized breeds to be transported to a park, the car show, and everywhere in between. With a lower, squatting stance, it is also easier to load shorter dogs into crates and pet carriers. Make sure that they’re safe in the back before you cruise the canyons; while they won’t criticize your driving like a typical backseat driver, they surely won’t be thrilled bouncing around unsecured as you row through the gears. Speaking of metal grates, it’s not uncommon to see pet barriers separating the rear cargo area from the front seats in a Z3 coupe.
Best Touring: Grocery-Getter and Puppy Porter
E46/E91/F31/G21 3 Series Touring
The hatchback theme continues—and what better model to keep the motif going than with the now-endangered BMW Touring? Wagons are a no-brainer when it comes to peak daily-driver accountability. All you need are a few high-quality rubber floor and trunk mats and a harness for your dog, and you’re well on your way to conquering grocery runs, school-dropoff duty, and vet appointments.
You could choose a model from the last U.S.-spec G21 generation, but don’t sleep on the older longroofs. Both the F31 and E46 are viable choices, offering potent turbodiesel or naturally aspirated power, respectively. Unsurprisingly, the elongated wheelbase of the touring provides a stellar amount of cargo depth, and when the seats are folded, considerably more room than a hatchback or crossover would. In other words, you’ll have little problem fitting more than one medium-sized pooch in the back, or one giant Mastiff. Gleaning the OEM parts catalogs will also reward you with a deluge of aftermarket lifestyle goodies for your dog, including net dividers, cages, cargo liners, and more. BMW has been good about dog-friendly accessories for your car for a long time—they even make entire rear-seat covers for various models, from coupes to SAVs.
Best M: For Your Track Companion
Many of you may think that I am barking up the wrong tree here with this addition, but hear me out (and don’t call the HOA just yet). For those brave souls who dare let little puppy paws touch their leather interior, a jaunt down to the track with the entire family (dog included) can be a fun excursion. Granted, not everyone is enthusiastic about paw prints and a little slobber in their race-bred M, and that is completely respectable. But for those who aren’t daunted by a little prep work, an F80 M3 can quickly become your dog’s favorite Ultimate Driving Machine, just as it is yours. (Ask Andrew McPherson about small dogs in Z8s sometime!)
A low ride height looks aggressive on and off the track, but to your dog, it makes loading an easier obstacle to overcome, especially for smaller breeds and seniors living out their golden years in bliss—watch those hips and back. While you could argue the same thing for other M3 generations, the F80’s sedan body style gives it a smidge more space and accessibility than its coupe cousins.
While many might think that this is a risky addition to this list, it doesn’t have to be. With various genuine BMW and custom-fitted heavy-duty rear-seat and door-panel covers ready to safeguard the materials and surfaces against doggy mayhem, it is possible to keep your leather buttery smooth and free of tears, scratches, scuffs, and other forms of wear, and damage from fluids and contact. From personal experience, I’ve found that even conditioning the leather more often keeps it supple enough to make it more resistant to scratches in the rare event that the cover does slip.
Of course, you’ll have to do some vacuuming after you remove the cover prior to attending any car events, but I’m sure that your dog will appreciate you bringing them along for the ride—not to mention the fact that you’ll never be late a doggy playdate again with S55 power.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to you. An enthusiast with a hefty Saint Bernard may find the X2 too cramped, gravitating toward the roomier F31 instead for the sake of their pet’s comfort and safety—or maybe an X7. While a chihuahua-owner may find comfort in any model from the BMW lineup, they may finally decide to opt for that M car they’ve been wanting, since their pup is small enough to avoid posing a threat to the interior.
Of course, any BMW could have been included on this list; these were just a few of my personal favorites. If you already have a few Bimmers in the stable and are looking to welcome a new animal into the family, puppy-proofing your BMW so your pet is safe and you have peace of mind shouldn’t be a chore; if you’re determined to enjoy your BMW with your best friend, get out there and do it.
Be sure to spread some joy by commenting with a picture of your Bimmer-loving pooch below!—Malia Murphy
[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Illia Cholin, Calvin Chan.]