When BMW was the Ultimate Driving Machine

The BMW today is very different from the BMW growing up in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. I was 12 when my dad got his first BMW and the year was 1987. It was a bigger deal then it probably is today as BMW’s back then were sold in much fewer numbers and were seen as much more a driver’s car, more specialist plus car finance was probably much harder to come by in the late 80’s as a result there were far fewer on the roads. Before my dad got his I remember a family friend had an E28 M535i and an uncle had an E21 323i which both seemed like monsters to me when I was at an age where a 2.0 litre engine seemed big. For those of you that aren’t car nuts E21 and E28 and other mentions of E followed by 2 numbers are the internal designations of BMW models.

I knew my dad was getting a BM and during the day the excitement was too much to bear, coming home from school anticipating the cars arrival, waiting for what seemed an eternity, I stayed up for as long as I could but falling asleep at some point. When I awoke in the early hours of the morning, I jumped up and looked out of my bedroom window which overlooked the drive. The black beast was there. It was a metallic black with black cloth interior E28 528ise with a tasteful for the time period Zender body kit and a flash of M colours on the steering wheel on the inside which wasn’t nearly as lairy as the M Sport badging that is generously garnished on BMW products nowadays.

As I sat down in the supportive and reassuringly firm seats, the interior was dark, sombre, no nonsense, the dials and script and serious in the way that only Germans in the 80’s and 90’s could do, all the switchgear and controls angled towards the driver, because this of course was “The Ultimate Drivers Machine”, the slogan for BMW in period. As my eyes moved around the cabin from the trip computer to the check control panel, the aura was slightly intimidating, controls reassuringly heavy and as dark as it was serious. The straight six came to life with a metallic bark with a mellifluous idle, these were the days when petrol heads like me could tell what kind of car was coming from the sound before you saw it. BMW were famed for their six-cylinder models, quite aggressive sounding with a cultured bassy bark as it climbed through the revs.

From the late 90’s up to now manufacturers looked to cut costs with engine sharing between each other, diesel models becoming big sellers now hybrids and electrics, the tightening of emission regulations and the introduction of turbo charging for mainstream models, the marketing of BMW to a wider audience and other industry factors meant that a lot of the distinctive sounds and the harder edge of BMW was reduced and they lost their way a little bit. However, it seems like BMW are going through somewhat of a renaissance at the moment producing not only best in class but best overall driving cars like the M5 CS, M3 and M4, M2, M240i  beating some really serious metal and even the cooking models are getting rave reviews. The Ultimate driving machine is back it seems.

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