Can’t Have It All

By Bruce McCulloch

07.18.2007

After a recent slew of magazines journalists downplaying the newly released, 4th generation BMW M3 for being ‘soft’, ‘smooth’ and ‘matured’, I can do nothing but shake my head. Not because I disagree with their assertions, but rather because I see our society has killed yet another legend.

This unfortunate news is deeply saddening to not only BMW enthusiasts, but to enthusiasts around the world who once viewed the iconic ‘M’ badge as a symbol for race-inspired, pure built road-going race cars. Those who are old enough to remember the glory days of the lightweight, compact, 4 cylinder rocket of the late 80’s/early 90’s, the E30 M3, will be sorely disappointed to hear that the special genes which once made an ‘M car’ are slowly fading away.

Mind you (and for those really paying attention), this discussion is not new to the world of BMW. Truth is, each and new coming generation of BMW M3 has undergone such criticism. That being said, it’s clear that for the longest of time the M3 has been evolving into a something less compact, more luxurious and comfortable, while ultimately becoming more powerful.

Frankly, automotive enthusiasts worldwide are not open to the thought that the M3 could soon become a luxury car and while I cannot hide my disappointment with the thought, I feel the majority of enthusiasts are acting obtuse about the whole thing – viewing the whole picture through a key hole. Many are muttering the words, “has BMW gone mad”, “how could they let this happen”?

But who’s really to blame? BMW or our ever growing needs as consumers to have everything? I think it’s only fair to say a little of both.

Evolution:

Obviously, evolution is not a new concept and BMW is most certainly not the only automotive company ‘going with the flow’. For instance, such criticism has followed the current generation of 911’s (codename: 997) which when first released was constantly bombarded with complaints from Porsche enthusiasts for being tamer, more refined and easier to driver than the previous generations. Furthermore, people were saying the exact same thing about the 996 911 when compared to the 993 911.

Problem is, evolution is somewhat of a necessity as a means of trying to please a growing body of potential buyers. Unfortunately with each coming decade our once “four-wheel transportation” continues to morph into a digital office. I suppose the real question is when is too far, ‘too far’? We consumers ask far too much and then complain about it. Hell, if you want a sports car, buy a Lotus Elise; if you want a luxury sedan, buy a Lexus LS.

There are those companies would have us believe you can have it all but few truly deliver. Case in point, BMW M5 – with a flick of a button you turn an ‘underpowered’ 400 horsepower civilized sedan into a so called 500 horsepower ‘snarling beast’. Please… I don’t deny that the M5 is a great car, but this rubbish has gone all too far.

Now, you might be gathering the impression that I feel there are absolutely no upsides to our ever-growing consumerism – however, that is incorrect. If there is any upside to this I believe it to be in the world of exotic metal which has surely benefited as these gas sucking, face-pulling, wallet-crushing autos are no longer the back-breaking, dangerous beasts they once were. On the other hand, one could argue that today’s Ferrari Enzo is nowhere as entertaining as Ferrari’s 40th anniversary supercar simply because it is tamer and more sophisticated.

It’s a debate which will gather a different opinion from different enthusiasts, but make no mistake; in the opinion of this automotive enthusiast it is us who are ruining the car industry. Our constant need for unnecessary items such as IPOD connectivity and MP3 adaptors are leading us further down a road which is forcing manufacturers to struggle to find the perfect threshold between the two ideals of luxury and performance.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article, Bruce. I agree with your main point – time was that power windows and A/C were luxury items. Now we expect “sports cars” to have navigation systems with Bluetooth connectivity. Oh, and also to get five star crash test ratings. Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so if you want all that stuff, then you lose the sport. Sure, the horsepower wars will give you the same or better acceleration than the earlier generations, but a two ton “compact” car certainly isn’t as light on its feet as a one-ton example would be.

  2. I’m eagerly awaiting the 1-Series showing up in the U.S.!

    Small, lightweight, powerful – now that’s a sports car!

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