The German automobile manufacturer BMW is renowned worldwide for producing cars which blend performance and luxury in an intoxicatingly desirable fashion. They’re responsible for design classics and racing pedigrees, as well as stylish executive cars and functional family motors. But of all the BMWs, which are the ultimate driving machines?
The production costs of this classic roadster were nearly enough to bankrupt BMW when this car hit the streets way back in the 1950s. The company lost money on every 507 they made and they only manufactured 252 between 1956 and 1959 when it was discontinued, making it a very rare car indeed.
Elvis drove one of these cars – yes, Elvis! It boasted a 150 metric horsepower V8 and its design is like the sports car you imagine when you’re a little kid, except its real. They were originally meant to be sold for $5,000 each, but a 507 was recently sold at auction for $2.4 million; and I doubt that was with the BMW inclusive service package either.
The BMW M1 was originally supposed to be a collaboration between Lamborghini and BMW and mass produced in a limited run as a homologation special. In other words, they wanted to enter the M1 into a race that was only for modified consumer cars, so they mass produced this sports car in order to classify it as a consumer vehicle. However, complications arose and BMW ended up producing the vehicle themselves, the first product of their now prestigious M division.
The M1 was a unique animal. It was the only mid-engine car BMW ever produced and had a blistering top speed of 162 mph. And that was just the road version. The body was designed by none other than automobile design legend, Giorgetto Giugiaro, who was also responsible for the Lotus Esprit and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. The M1 survives as a relic of 80s futuristic designs and motorsport heritage; and is the father of all the M-series BMWs made since then.
The E30 M3 has had many successors worthy of this list, but ultimately this is the godfather of all the later models and therefore demands our respect. The M3 makes this list because it was an exceptional rally car. It was in this iteration of the 3-series that Barnard Beguin famously won the Tour de Corse in 1987.
In the later years of its competitive life, the M3 churned out 250 hp and was a favourite among gear heads worldwide. Its iconic white paintjob with blue and red stripes was a defining image of BMW in the 80s and early 90s. Its boxy design surely does nothing for the car’s aerodynamics, but boy did it look good.
The Z8 stands out not just because it was in a James Bond movie, but because it was conceptualised by the same guy who designed the Aston Martin DB9 and the V8 Vantage, Henrik Fisker. It was the realisation of an extremely popular concept car, the Z07, which was designed in homage to the 507 roadster at the turn of the millennium.
With a 4.9 litre V8 that developed 400 hp set on an aluminium chassis, it out-performed the Ferrari 360 Modena in terms of acceleration, making this one of BMWs most powerful road cars. Sadly, however, the road version comes with a speed limiter.
Yes, even BMW has succumbed to the global fascination with the lower case “i”, but this little car is a step ahead in the consumer electricals market. Yes, the i3 is BMW’s flagship electric city car. This dinky little thing can manage around 100 miles on one charge – pretty impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that it is the most fuel efficient EPA-certified vehicle currently on sale in the US.
OK so it hasn’t exactly the sleek design of the M5 or the acceleration of the Z8, but it is definitely a BMW and hopefully marks a change in the manufacturer’s approach to vehicular transport. A move away from the overpowering X5s toward a greener future. This car makes it into the top 5 not because of its horsepower, but its valiant attempt at a brighter future.
Five cars, five legacies, five reasons to make BMW proud. It’s a shame I’ll have to rewrite this article in 2016 when the M8 supercar is scheduled for release, but for now it’s still good. If you’re a BMW owner, remember to browse BMW’s service inclusive packages to keep your car in the best condition, and maybe it’ll be in a top 5 one day too.