Image of BMW 330Ci
Image of BMW 330Ci
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not only is the BMW roundel one of the most recognizable and looked-up-to brand marks in the world – top on the list last year of Forbes magazine’s ranking of luxury brands – the company’s message is one of the longest-running and most consistent as well: hear BMW and you immediately think, ultimate driving machine. Not many brands can claim such instant recognition. Which goes a long way to explaining not only why people are willing to pay a price premium to drive a BMW, but also explains why the brand is so closely guarded.You may wonder, then, if there’s still the same consistency now that BMW’s cars are looking so much different than they used to be (while still sporting the same logo). While I’m a bit of a fan of most of chief designer Chris Bangle’s recent work, there are plenty of people that aren’t, and it’s worth asking how the brand will fare against criticism of the cars, whether BMW should have been managing its automotive shapes as obsessively as it does the use of its logo.Take this 2004 330Ci coupe, for instance. Though it’s been treated to a bit of a nip-and-tuck courtesy of Bangle’s flame-surfacing tool – the headlights now squint from underneath pointed covers, the hood has a sharper and more pronounced power bulge – it still reflects old-school BMW’s almost anal-retentive design philosophy. The front bumper’s big air intakes are perfectly rendered, and even the complex double-spoke wheels have beautifully beveled edges and curved spokes. Unlike the Z4 and 7-series, it’s still got that recognizable shape, and details like the twin kidney grilles and the placement of those logos are still picture-perfect.
It’s an attention to detail, a finessing of the finer points, that translates directly through the driving experience as well. The entire car drives with a well-oiled precision, a sense of heft coupled with perfect balance, that always makes you look like a better driver than you actually are. People wonder why BMW drivers seem to be more aggressive on the road than most others: it’s not that they’re arrogant, insensitive people (as the stereotype goes); it’s just that the perfect clutch-shifter combination, the trusty weight and feel of the steering, and the stupendous braking performance, flatter BMW drivers into thinking themselves little Ralf Schumachers.