I recently ditched my multi-blade Gillette razor for a safety razor. A bit unfamiliar to single-blade shaving, I decided to visit The Art of Shaving on a trip to the mall. Upon entering, you're greeted by an overeager salesman with patchy stubble who tries to sell you a product using words like "premium" and "luxury", without describing actual characteristics. From what I could tell, a majority of the products were simply Gillette products with fancy-looking handles. The products are designed to make users feel like they're high-quality products made by the craftsmen of yesteryear.
Unimpressed, I left en route to Chick-fil-A for a spicy chicken sandwich. I stopped on the way to look at a BMW X4 that was on display, mostly because I didn't know the X6 had spawned a slightly-smaller but just-as-ugly twin. There were a few bits of literature with many roundels and the world "ultimate". The only piece of literature to mention any aspects of the drivetrain was the Monroney.
Being a new and unique body style, I was expecting that some of the advertising materials would explain the why this car is any good. More importantly, what makes it an ultimate driving machine? What does this vehicle do better than any other? Can it take you through terrains that others cannot? Can it handle the the 154 turns of the Nordshleife with ease? Can it take five passengers in comfort? Or is it simply a good value for money?
These are questions that should be answered, especially when you use the word "ultimate" to describe a product and dare to ask potential buyers for fifty thousand hard-earned dollars. In the era where BMW was a brand that I liked and respected, these questions would have certainly been answered.
Until driving an E46, I wasn't able to appreciate or even understand why BMW did claim make the ultimate driving machine. Sure, I thought they looked nice; very elegant and subtle. Wood and leather made the it a pleasant place to be a passenger. Hop over one seat to the left and you're in for a real treat.
Every single review I've read of the X6 and the X4 indicates that these so-called Sports Activity Vehicles have very little in common with the E46 (and E39) that I respect (and want). It seems that they were designed by a committee based on the answers to surveys. Surveys that were answered by people who might even tell you that their 5-series has a V-6. I get the feeling that whatever consumers said they liked, the designers and engineers tried to incorporate, without considering if they were qualities that worked well together.
I get the impression that twenty years ago, a few Bavarian men and women drove their test mules around and smiled as they tried out the handling capabilities and ride comfort. Now, I get the impression that some marketing folks look at a spreadsheet through designer eyeglasses and are delighted when they can tick off as many boxes as possible.
The Art of Shaving and modern BMW do not strive to sell excellent niche products; they strive to sell the experience of a crafted, specialized product to the mass market. It's nothing more than a facade; just a pseudo-ivory handle or a blue and white roundel. Chick-fil-A, however, does exactly what they advertise: sell damn-good chicken sandwiches at a reasonable price.
Appendix A: reasons to still respect BMW
- BMW refuses to make a V6; the straight-6 is superior.
- BMW is one of the few manufacturers to offer a diesel option for some of its vehicles.
- BMW still sells a proper wagon!
- BMW will still let you configure nearly every model (except those diesel wagons!) with a manual transmission.
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