Last week, I wrote about my drive in the as yet unreleased ZB Commodore. One of my clients who follows this blog, noticed that I said that it out-Camrys the Camry, our-Mondeos the Mondeo and out 3-Serieses the 3-Series. Basically I wrote that the ZB Commodore is an excellent machine but I still wouldn't have one. This prompted him to ask what I think about the BMW 3-Series; to which my reply is "meh".
I have to attach so many asterisks and caveats to my opinion that it looks like a Christmas tree and say that I'm mostly operating in the realm of rubbish and nonsense because I haven't driven BMWs all that often. When you consider that I'm not exactly rolling in piles of hundreds like Scrooge McDuck, it's easy to understand that I don't exactly have the ability to buy each and every dream machine that I'd like. However, even if I was a multi-godzillionaire where money was no object, I wouldn't have a BMW through choice anyway.
After all is said and done, motor cars are really nothing more than metal boxes which are used to carry meatbags inhabited by consciousnesses and their stuff. This can easily be seen in a place like Hanoi where the usefulness of a motor car easily trumps any and all other functions that it might have. In a relatively wealthy place where people have overlaid stories on top of the motor car, through various elements of culture, the metal boxes take on more meaning that just a thing to move meatbags inhabited by consciousnesses.
Ever since I was a wee lad, I have followed motor racing. I know that it is an inherently idiotic pursuit but then again, so is all of sport, all of the arts, and indeed all of popular culture that isn't absolutely necessary. Like any other sport, motor racing is very much organised into tribes and the stories that are written on the racetrack spill over into the rest of the world. If it comes down to it, I like the stories of Ford, Mazda and Jaguar the best. The question then becomes what do I think about BMW relative to those stories and the technical prowess of the firm.
In my not very well paid opinion, BMW produces middle of the road motor cars, which have higher levels of trim than average, and adopt new technologies slightly earlier than most motor manufacturers, because they pitch their products at a higher than average price point. I mostly see that price point as unjustified and this attracts the kind of people who are more likely to be selfish and aggressive on the road. This in turn feeds my irrational internal prejudices through confirmation bias and in turn, I don't particularly like BMW as a tribe.
That I think, is a completely rational explanation of my irrational dislike of BMWs.
I have driven iterations of a 3-Series and 1-Series and I didn't really see them as special at all. I have a general dislike of SUVs and that would rule out every BMW with an X in the name, I would feel like a doofus in a convertible and so that rules out the Zs, and having owned a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the appeal of a big motorway burner was lost on me a long time ago.
What I want from a car is it to be little and quirky and fun, and BMW which makes highly refined and plush executive cars, is none of those things.
That means that if BMW were to have something that I want, it would be because they have a story which resonates with me. They do not.
I like the absolutely bonkers BMW 3.0L CSL of the 1970s, I like the E9 635i, I like the E30 M3, but all of those were in touring car racing and BMW haven't told me any new stories that I like, since about 1993.
When people win in a Ford, it is usually in spite of the apathy of the Ford Motor Company. Mazda are the small company in Japan which keeps on trying its little heart out and managed to win the Le Mans 24 Hour Race but was promptly banned. Jaguar's D-Type which won Or Mans in the 1950s, is the single most gorgeous thing ever commited to motoring; the noise which comes out of a Jaguar V12 is like the angels having a fist fight in a washing machine. BMW are a relatively big motor company, who occasionally goes motor racing and then fails to show any passion, which is something that I just don't understand because across the city of Munich, Bayern and their fans are mannschaftkrazygut.
When BMW bought MINI (all caps) from the Austin Rover Group, they had an opportunity to plaster the Union Jack all over the place but failed to take that opportunity. To date they have won zero British Touring Car Championships and zero World Rally Championships. In short, they have not understood the story and have not cared to do so.
When Mercedes-Benz decided to go back into sports car racing, they threw everything that they could at it until they won. Their partnership with McLaren lasted until they could find their own way to winning the Formula One World Championships and as we speak, they are the current holders of both the Driver's and Constructor's titles.
Ferrari is Ferrari. Even when Ferrari are terrible and tearing themselves to pieces, they do so with the flair and passion that can only come from Italians. The Tifosi (which autocorrect wants to capitalise because it could only be the definite article), are possibly the most crazy-go-nuts vans of any sporting team in the world.
BMW look at motor racing and shrug their shoulders.
For whatever reason, BMW either don't know or don't want to tell or write the stories that I want to listen to. They make competent machines which are driven by the kind of people who mostly confirm the stereotype that they driven by the kind of people who mostly confirm the stereotype. Although nobody wants to admit it, there's not anything that a BMW 118i does better than a Kia Rio. It produces 3kW less, uses more petrol in the process, has a smaller boot space but costs more than $15,000 extra; so I suppose that if you want to signal to the world that you are part of that tribe, then that's punishment enough.
I don't think that there's anything redeeming about a BMW to warrant the price tag and if it came down to it, I'd have lots of other things which are funner, crazier and madder and then put the change back in my pocket. All I see when I look at the BMW badge, is automotive boredom and meh.