Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.
The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011 Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better.
While admitting that Chris Bangle´s 5-series was, after all, a very good design which still looks fresh, much of the subsequent output from Munich has been disappointing at first and has stayed so. I admit also a sneaking liking for the last 3-series coupe which had an Italianate elegance; the 1-series two-door coupe also appeals since it´s not a million miles in concept away from the charming 2002 of 1962. And then I run out of nice things to say.
The subsequent iteration of the 5-series looks like a proposal rejected during the elaboration of the definitive 2003 E60. Much to my surprise, the current 7-series dates from 2008 but I had to Google that and only then had a weak sense of recognition. You know when you have forgotten a holiday and then find a photo which makes you reluctantly concede the fact you did indeed travel to that place: “Ah, yes, so I did go to Belgium in 2010 – there´s little Ed who was born that year, and Auntie Pru who died shortly after….” Much of BMW´s recent work is unremarkable to say the least. The one car I do like is the one the automotive hacks despise, the GT. Since I get the point of the car, which is that it has a raised H-point, it all makes sense. It´s a car for anyone who finds ingress and egress tricky (usually an age-related problem). The effect is to make for a useful and ergonomically sound car and I can´t see a problem with that. Apart from that we have a stable of cars themed around indifference. Exhibit “A” here is the hatchback they´ve launched which is, I suppose, asking Ford C-Max and VW Touran customers to consider going Bavarian. It´s a front drive car so it has no USP other than it´s made by a firm who specialise in RWD technology. The appearance has the look of a rejected Opel design. Take away the Hofmeister kink and there´s not much there.
The Ford C-Max runs from £20,600 to £22,800, according to Autocar. BMW want 22,125 – £31,705, say Parkers. What´s underneath the unremarkable styling is Mini mechanicals and Mini engines. Isn´t it time we woke up to the fact that BMW is quite as well able to offer product as cynically contrived as anyone else? And just as I have packed away my fond ideas of what Citroen and Lancia might have been, I need to re-set my expectation of BMW. The hard-as-forged-steel tightness of cars like the 1981-1988 5-series or the elegance of the 1986 E32 7-series are things of the long distant past. Alas, just as BMW and indeed Mercedes become so banal, their erstwhile competitors have dropped out of the race leaving Munich and Stuttgart to offer quite unremarkable cars in a lot of sectors. If Peugeot made a car now as good as the 406 was in its time, they´d now have another chance to claim that place at the high table. But all they sell is the 508