As will increasingly become the norm during 2013, brands are discovering ways of creating their own content which is watchable, sometimes entertaining and worthwhile. BMW’s review of 2012 is a case in point.
It’s the year in which BMW returned to the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) after a 20 year absence, and had the temerity to win all three titles (drivers, teams and manufacturers). They were understandably pleased about the achievement, so much so that they developed a special edition M3 to commemorate the occasion, based on 2012 DTM champion Bruno Spengler’s winning car.
But it’s been a busy year for road cars too. BMW launched their Mercedes CLS and Audi A7 competitor, the Grand Coupe and then topped it off with an ‘M’ version – joining the M5, M6 Coupe and M6 Convertible.
The ‘M’ name became diluted though with the new ‘Diesel’ M Performance Models – triple-turbo diesels including the X5 M50d, X6 M50d and M550d xDrive which are undoubtedly fast (740 Nm / 546 lb-ft has that kind of effect) but not really in the ‘spirit’ of ‘M’, which used to stand for Motorsport.
Another ‘M’ oddity this year was the sheer number of special edition M3s released – M3 DTM Champion Edition, M3 Coupe Lime Rock Park Edition, M3 (and M5) M Performance Editions, M3 Coupe Frozen Silver Edition, the Chinese-only M3 Tiger Edition and the M3 Coupe Limited Edition 500. That’s a whole lot of ‘limited’ editions, which begs the question ‘Did BMW sell any regular M3s this year?’
But perhaps the best ‘M’ news in 2012 was the launch of the aggressively priced M135i – just £29,995 bags you a 315 bhp rear-wheel drive (or xDrive) hatchback capable of lapping the Nürburgring in just 8:18 minutes.
The latest 3 Series Saloon and Touring went on sale in February and the all-new 4 Series concept was shown at last month’s LA Auto Show. The 4 Series is BMW’s first departure from the all-encompassing 3 Series nomenclature (for saloon, coupe, convertible and touring) and means there will no longer be an M3 Coupe in BMW’s future range.
2012 was also a year in which BMW Group achieved a market valuation more than double that of its rival Mercedes-Benz. That’s a sign of how much progress BMW made in 2012, but also how far Mercedes-Benz has slipped behind the competition.
2013 will see the premiere of BMW’s new turbocharged six-cylinder M3 saloon, the launch of BMW’s first all-electric vehicle – the i3, plus the production version of the 4 Series. The all-new 2 Series (Coupe and Convertible based on the 1 Series) will make its appearance later in the year and there will no doubt be a plethora of new concepts to whet our appetite.
BMW’s electro-mobility range received a boost in 2012 with the new ActiveHybrid 5 and we caught a glimpse of the future with its Concept Active Tourer (due out in 2014 as the 1 Series Gran Turismo).
This marks the beginning of a shift from BMW’s heartland as a rear-wheel drive only manufacturer, to a position by 2018 where it will produce around 20 front-wheel drive models (including MINI) – given that most customers already believe the 1 Series is pulled from the front, BMW will be consolidating its platform with the next-gen MINI to save costs and compete more strongly with the front-drive Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
In the future we’ll also notice many more xDrive models in BMW’s range. Four-wheel drive is proving a popular option in mainland Europe, although unfortunately here in the UK, where most of us drive through winter on summer tyres, the business case doesn’t yet stack up.
Perhaps the following video from BMW, entitled ‘BMW xDrive vs. snowcat’ might persuade a few more people of the benefits of BMW’s all-wheel drive system, even if much of the advantage stems from a decent set of winter tyres..