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Friday, May 10, 2013

BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine no more?

Bayerische Motoren Werke built its brand on sporty sedans with excellent driving dynamics. Handling, road holding, braking, driving position, visibility, instrumentation, power and other characteristics make up the driving dynamics of a car. One of the most important elements is the feedback the driver gets from the car, which is crucial to vehicle control, because it gives the driver the information as to where the car is in its stability envelope. This allows you to “feel” how stable the car is and how close you are to loosing control. Good cars give the driver plenty of warning via the feel of the seat, steering wheel and the brakes before you actually loose control.

BMW used to be all about those characteristics, plus added things like comfort and decent ride to the mix. As a result, the Bavarian engineers crafted sedans that were very rewarding to drive, yet could serve well as daily drivers, including real family duty.

The brand eventually developed a following far beyond its original mission, became a status symbol for the yuppie generation and reached sales levels of a giant car builder. For a long time it managed to keep the loyal enthusiasts satisfied with excellent driving dynamics, even though the level of luxury, safety and style added weight, size and complexity to its cars.

Has the pursuit of volume and prestige finally caught up with BMW? Is it still the Ultimate Driving Machine?

It’s no secret now that recent BMW’s have been getting softer, bigger, quieter and more isolated from their driving environment. Although many models remain very rewarding to drive, more and more are abandoning the spirit of the legendary 2002 tii car.

BMW M6 Convertible
This is what Car and Driver had to say about the new M5: “So while this M5 remains an impressively powerful high-speed sled, its remote steering, control fussiness, and general aloofness remain.” Remote steering? In a BMW? Did the spies from Daimler-Benz infiltrate the Management Board in Munich?

This is what Car and Driver had to say about the new M6: “M6, we hardly recognize you. […] Whereas directional stability and roadholding are impressive on any paved road, and the car packs prodigious power, at-the-limit driving is made difficult by a distinct lack of feedback from the steering wheel and brakes.”

”Like Hearst Castle itself, the M6 strikes us as a noble project that got entirely out of hand. It’s just so enormous. […] The steering is duller than the others, and the body wallows and leans more as the mass pushes the suspension around.”

The car that always remained closest to the original cult sport sedan was the 3 series. The new one grew bigger, softer and less sharp than the previous one. Car and Driver: “Clearly, the new 3-series is the compact sports sedan for a changed world. This is where 24/7 connectivity and socially responsible consumption join hands with skidpad grip and slalom-course agility. Without totally abandoning its driving-enthusiast constituents, the 2012 3-series tenders a rich menu of gimmicks and gadgets that probably will appeal to those who always want more.”

The Ultimate Driving Machine no more?

Car and Driver: Comparison 2013 BMW M6 Convertible/JaguarXKR-S Convertible/Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG/Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

Car and Driver: 2013 BMW M6 Coupe

Car and Driver: 2013 BMW M5


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