With a vast range and cutting-edge machines, there is a BMW to suit just about every taste.
Two decades ago the sum total of BMW’s model range amounted to just five distinct vehicles. Few thought that there would be need for more than the usual 3,5 and 7-series sedans and the odd roadster and sporty GT. Fast forward to 2018 and BMW is in danger of running out of numbers and letters for its vast range of offerings. In the US we start with the 2-Series and end with the 7, while a whole array of hybrid, electric, off-road and M models fill in any perceived gaps.
The crossover/SUV configuration has been spread across all sizes and permutations and with the rumored arrival of an even larger X7, surely only a convertible crossover remains unexplored. So too has the once rare and elite M-division grown. Where it was once compulsory to have a high-revving naturally aspirated engine, rear-wheel drive and manual gearbox to qualify, we now have M-cars with just about any drivetrain arrangement imaginable. Fancy a large 4x4 with the power to pulverize a Mustang? BMW has something for you. Do you prefer to do your supercar baiting a bit lower to the ground but seated in the utmost luxury? There is a big AWD automatic luxury sedan waiting just for you.
If this seems like BMW has simply lost the plot and left the factory robots unattended, think again. BMW sales and market share in the US has grown from 0.85% in 1998 to an all-time high of 2.06% in 2015. This has partly been to a knack for foreseeing customer demands and tastes with innovative vehicles like the original X5 SAV (they insist on calling them Sports Activity Vehicles) and the i8 performance hybrid, as well as cleverly realigning existing models to cater for changing market conditions. In fact, with so many models on offer, now is actually the best time to buy a new BMW, and we pick out some of the very best on offer.
Despite it being practically identical in size to an E36 3-Series, the 2-Series has more of a spiritual connection with the earlier 2002s. Its nippy driving characteristics can be enjoyed in RWD, AWD, four-cylinder and six-cylinder flavors. You can have it with a manual transmission too and a convertible roof. While all are fun, it is the base 230i that offers the purest drive. At $34,950 for the bare-bones model (add another $5,000 for some inevitable options) it is good value and with a 5.3-second 0-60 mph time, it is as rapid as some M cars from not all that long ago.
There was not much wrong with the original 3-Series sedan, the rare wagon was plenty practical too but BMW thought that there was room for improvement. A coupe-profiled sedan with a hatchback rear end may seem like a strange idea but the handsome 440i GC is a great mix between practical four-door sedan and svelte coupe. Go for the 320-hp twin-turbo 3-liter 440i on this one as the extra power is noticeable over the 430i and it is well worth the additional $6,400. A recent update means you get the latest iDrive infotainment system, although as with any BMW ticking too many options will greatly add to the $51,500 base price.
The X3 has recently received a major redesign and in its latest third-generation form is a class-leading luxury crossover SUV with a level of technology and safety that's hard to match. The X4 may be the sharper looking of the two but with a lower list price and more practicality, it is the X3 that will be the better seller. An xDrive30i is a perfect family vehicle with strong performance (0-60 mph takes 6 seconds) and at $42,650 is well positioned to increase BMW’s market share in this cut-throat segment. Don’t forget to spec it with the 12.3-inch dynamic digital instrument cluster and Apple CarPlay (that one is still an option for some strange reason).
Moving onto the electric range, the i3s is the sportier version of the popular all-electric i3 and now produces 181 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque from its electric motors. The 0-60 mph time is now 6.8 seconds (down from 7.2), the quickest in its class, and it feels a whole lot more rapid than that thanks to the instant torque on take-off. A claimed total range of 107 miles should suit just about any daily commute and if you need more, the range extender option extends this to 180 miles. The base i3 starts at $44,450, the i3s add $3,200 to that figure although certain State-specific incentives may apply in your area which could lower these figures.
The i8 is another eco-warrior from BMW’s stable that has received an update. The hybrid sports car uses a highly boosted 1.5-cylinder gasoline motor and an electric motor to get going, an unlikely combination but the resultant 357 hp gives it proper sports car levels of performance. You do lose two-tenths in the 0-60 mph sprint over the coupe but 4.4 seconds is still plenty quick enough and the removable top is more than enough compensation. The $163,300 price tag pits it against some strong gasoline powered competition but if it is efficiency and performance you are after, the i8 Roadster is in a class of one.
The M5 has gone through many permutations since the original first broke cover in 1985. The latest model combines previously heretical technologies like all-wheel-drive, turbocharging and an automatic transmission yet is possibly the best of the lot. It is definitely the fastest, with a 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds, you will need a supercar to keep pace. The switchable AWD system and quick-shifting auto transmission have actually enhanced driver engagement and made 600 hp accessible to even those who do not have a racing driver licence. At $102,600 it ain’t cheap but then again, this is a super sedan like no other.
The latest 7-Series is a technological match for even the mighty Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the top M760i is one of the fastest luxury sedans ever. Thanks to a massive 601-hp twin-turbo 6.6-liter V12, this leather-lined rocketship gets to 60 mph in a mere 3.6 seconds. $156,700 is your starting point here, and once you are done adding some choice options like the Rear Executive Lounge Package and the B&W Surround system you can expect that figure to be a tad higher. That said, even the base 740i is impressive and is half the price.
With so many models on offer there are bound to be a few that don’t quite hit the mark, and the X6 M is one of them. There is nothing inherently wrong with the way it drives, in fact it is about as sporty as a high-riding 567-hp coupe-shaped SUV gets. The problem comes when you try to load your kids and a weekend's worth of luggage into the comprised trunk. A problem it shares with other vehicles in its class, but seeing as it started this segment, the X6 M deserves its share of the blame. Rather save some money and get the more rounded X5 instead.