This is going to sound like a classic version of “bad is really good,” but listen to me: I think the big ugly nostrils on the BMW M3 and M4 are good, and I’m tired of pretending they aren’t. That has been my opinion since I first saw the mole rat poles. It’s my point of view now.
Everybody always complains about how cars bunch up and legislate to death and no one is taking risks anymore and there are no nonconformist executives executing their vision. But as soon as someone even gets close to the line, they all cry and grab their pearls. “What have you done to the M3 !?”
I did not find the David E. Davis’ 2002 BMW Story until I was an adult, and had no interest in the M1, which came and went before my time. But for much of my life, BMWs were on a separate plane of existence: untouchables. Cooler than Porsche and Ferrari because they weren’t making sports cars, they were making hot rod sedans that could run over sports cars.
I’ll never forget looking at the circular plate cooling fans positioned behind the bumper of an E36 M3 in the parking lot of our local mall, and then seeing an M3 Lightweight on Front Street. I will never forget sitting Alex Roy’s M5 and hearing him say that it was the last great BMW we would see. I will never forget reading Jonny Lieberman M Coupe Entry at the Jalopnik Fantasy Garage. Seeing a Laguna Seca Blue E46 in the parking lot of the restaurant where i worked in college. All these cars are unpretentious, modified and disheveled to offer great speed for those who know enough to buy one. The underdog, the q-ship, the wolf in the sum of the parts of the sheep.
In 2021, BMW is not a brave loser. Depending on the year, BMW is either the leader or the second seller of luxury cars in the world. He builds big, expensive tech cars and crossovers and sells them to shit, presumably at a good margin. At some point, BMW had to stop making the kinds of cars that formed the contours of its mythology. And stopping it did.
He just didn’t know what to do after that.
The consensus among BMW fans, enthusiasts, and the media seems to be that BMW itself has been trying to figure out what to do for the last decade or so. There was the detour from the i8 / i3, a front-wheel drive hatch with a rounded cool on the C-pillar? I have no idea if these cars are still in production. There were a couple of powerful but forgettable M cars. (People who would know would say that the new M2 CS is great.)
I admit that I, a person who has never owned a used BMW, was once very angry at BMW for “losing my way.” Some of the baddest reviews I’ve ever written were BMW reviews from years ago. I’m sure at some point I would have said that BMW just needed to bring back the magic of the E39 or E46, or whatever. As German executives liked to say the last time I saw one in real life, “It’s not possible.” If you are the one who counts the money, I imagine that it is not even desirable.
BMW cannot fully break free, the M3 still has to be a sports sedan. So it seems like you’re either taking a new direction or getting dragged endlessly into conversations about how the cars you’re building today aren’t as good or as good-looking or as good-looking as the cars you can’t and can’t. I want to do more.
For me, looking at this car, it is clear that BMW wants to take a break. There is more evidence in a completely mortifying and hard work social media effort and even more so at that. video where cars are bad with each other. Someone from BMW has made a decision.
The much-maligned 2019 Concept 4 was the first time in a long time that I had the feeling that BMW was heading in one direction. It was a break. The design felt familiar, but only tangentially related to BMWs of the past, more references than curtsies. It was also one of only three show cars that I have seen in the last 10 years and that I remember.
The regular Series 3 and Series 4 are close to fulfilling the promise of the Concept 4. The M cars get there. They are wicked, edgy, shocking, and somewhat ugly. Visually at least, they are a staunch rejection of much of the BMW spirit of the golden age. The people who worked on the E39 might recognize them, but they couldn’t have conceived them themselves.
Many cars vaguely resemble BMWs at the moment. The M3 and M4 look like BMWs from another scarier dimension where people use drugs that come in bottles and glow blue. It’s good, it’s exciting, it makes other sedans look dated instantly. BMW has taken the shit because the designs went where others weren’t ready, or not equipped, to go, and they were vindicated. I think they will be here too. Remember how crazy people were with Bangle cars? They may have seemed like another breakout at the time, but now they are just part of the BMW myth.
I am still vaguely aware of the cars that BMW currently sells. I even lost track of the M cars afterwards, I think the E92s. I have not driven the new M3 / M4 and did not like the last one. So I’m not really equipped to say if it’s good. But when it comes to style, this is a milestone for BMW. This is something different, an expression of a new spirit. You may not know it now, you may hate it, but it’s what you’ve been asking for.