Just prior to shipping the August 2019 print issue, the only two BMWs I had recently driven were the X7 and X5—both all-new for 2019.
I had only a brief lunchtime spin in the supersized X7, in which I took five colleagues to a local pho joint and was able to use all three rows. My co-workers handle different parts of the business at the MotorTrend Group, from business intelligence to operations to ad sales, so they were excited to experience a brand-new BMW.
“Do you like it?” they hollered from the back. “How does it drive?”
“It’s really … big,” I said, struggling to find words describe the 5,300-pound, 203.3-inch-long (0.6 inch shy of a Chevy Tahoe), $100,000 (as tested), leather-swaddled behemoth.
I spent a lot more time in the X5: a full three-day road trip from Los Angeles to the Sacramento area, ripping along the I-5 and Route 99, five-and-a-half hours each way. More wheel time meant more time to be impressed, particularly by the X5’s balance. It proved sporty yet smooth on the road, tech-laden but not overwhelming, and cushy but not at the expense of genuine utility. BMW’s ability to balance ride and handling is the stuff of legend, but the new X5’s fullness in other areas shows the depth and experience the company has gained since it built its first SUV 20 years ago.
The 3 Series is going on 44 years (a year older than your humble scribe) and spans seven generations, and I wish I could say it held the same charm as that X5. I was as shocked as you might be after I heard the results of our latest comparison tests, so I had to see for myself.
What I discovered after a night in the 3 Series will surprise no one of a particular life stage. Middle age is a bitch, right? Pants are tighter than you’d like, breath is shorter, sweat comes quicker, things now creak that never did before. Wait, what was I saying?
Ah, right. Ever see an old picture of yourself and remember how it used to be? Or look in the mirror and just sigh? That’s kind of how it is with the new 3 Series. It’s a perfectly fine sport sedan—just not the class standout it has been in years past.
In truth, it’s been a few since we’ve lauded the 3 Series or any of its variants as God’s own chariot. The performances of the last M3 and M4 variants at Best Driver’s Car were spotty, at best, though I’ve heard amazing things about the Z4, M2 Competition, M850, and M8. We’re pulling a couple for BDC 2019 and look forward to sampling their wares.
Maybe the best BMWs are now super-sized SUVs. If so, good for them; the timing is right, and BMW will reap well-deserved rewards the world over. But at the expense of what? A fading Ultimate Driving Machine moniker? Or maybe what we need is for BMW’s performance division to step up and show us that the M on the back of coming 3 Series variants stands for something more than middle-aged.
BMW fanboys, I welcome your tweets @edloh.
More from Ed Loh:
- Ride-Hailing vs. Cabs
- Drift This!, Head 2 Head, and NEW Shows Are Heading Your Way
- Countdown to Our Electric, Autonomous Future: How Soon Is Now?
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