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      09-23-2009, 11:17 PM   #1
Crazy Bimmer
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Exclamation President of BMW M division, Dr. Kay Segler, provides insight into future of ///M

This is worth the read.



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In the driving seat at BMW’s M Division

With car makers under pressure from all directions – environmental, economic and safety – where do you take one of the most successful automotive brands of the last 25 years when, all of a sudden it just does not seem to fit with the status quo?

Refine and improve, or break it all down and start again?

This is Dr Kay Segler’s challenge, since taking on the role of President of BMW M GmbH earlier this year. His life will not be simple as he contends with the expectations of the many M-car traditionalists who fear the future means massive 4×4s, turbocharging and automatic transmissions.

It is fortunate that Segler is an enthusiast having arrived at M Division from his previous role as Senior Vice President Brand Management at Mini.

I first met him 10 days before the Frankfurt Motor Show at a BMW Driver Training event at the Nordschleife – 2 days of intense circuit training in DCT equipped M3s. And he wasn’t just visiting for the evening social, he was there as a pupil. An hour or so after my initial interview with him at the Frankfurt show, our paths crossed again, when I was photographing some of the M-cars which formed part of the (rather small) BMW M-presence in the IAA exhibition hall.
He grabbed me by the arm and led me over to a limited edition (of 100) M6 Competition Edition, telling me that he had been evaluating the new semi-matt silver grey paint finish, driving the car on road to see how it looked when dirty.

He clearly loves it, stroking the front wing of the car, saying, “You must be careful not to polish it, of course…”.

Despite Segler’s obvious enthusiasm, the overall health of M division has been a cause for concern to many enthusiasts.

This summer’s launch of the X5 M/X6 M has been met by many with a grudging acceptance of their capability, but disbelief that these – how should we put it…..rather large and heavy vehicles – could be considered true M-cars?

What has happened to the carefully refined-over-many-years philosophy of rear-wheel drive, high revving naturally aspirated engines and driver involvement?

This year’s Frankfurt Motor show demonstrated the car industry’s current obsession with fuel efficiency and environmentally-friendly motoring. All of the volume manufacturers have gone into hyperdrive, or perhaps ecodrive, in their efforts to demonstrate their good citizenship.

BMW’s own exhibition hall showcased their Efficient Dynamics concept admirably with a procession of whiter than white, eco-logoed cars dominating the visitor experience, as they circulated the hall on a banked track. M-cars were present, but in very limited numbers, parked, almost tucked away in a corner, as if their presence was a touch embarrassing in amongst all the planet saving. The display was dominated by Mini, and even Rolls Royce had more floor space, and a more prominent position.

Segler’s vision for the M-brand is “Childhood automotive dreams realised” which sounds good, but what will this mean in practice? The cars themselves are getting more complex, heavy and expensive, so the entry point becomes higher and harder to attain for many people. Those who do have the funds have found the E9x M3 to be less engaging initially than its predecessor(the E46 M3), and so are not necessarily getting their chequebooks out on the strength of a 20 minute test drive. It has become – at first acquaintance anyway – a supremely good GT, rather than an overtly sporting car.

Segler agrees but counters this with “The M button”, which he sees as a key differentiator over BMW’s competitors, with its capability to alter so many of the car’s characteristics – throttle sensitivity, steering weight, suspension damping and traction control thresholds – in an instant, changing the relaxing GT into something much more responsive and almost hard-core. The best of both worlds available at the touch of a button. This, he believes, positions the M3 uniquely against its competition.

“How would you feel after driving from Munich to Frankfurt in a 911? Tired and stressed” says Segler, “not so in the M3, which is relaxing when you need it to be, yet also entertains when you want to have fun”.

This begs a difficult question. What’s the M3’s true competition? The 911? Maybe, but Segler counters that the 911 doesn’t deliver the relaxation of the M3 when it’s in GT mode.

It‘s not just the noise levels either he argues, but the quality of the noise and this is something that BMW spends much time and effort optimising. Anyway, the 911 is far less versatile in terms of accommodation and usability, something which Segler maintains as a core virtue of the dual-personality M-car.

In the USA, he identifies the M3’s principal competitor as the Corvette. Mercedes C63? Lexus ISF? Nothing volunteered here by Segler.

I did mention Audi’s RS4, but I think I got away with it…..

Audi’s interpretation of the compact V8-powered sporting GT is a bit of a sore point with Munich people, with dark mutterings about former BMW executives, walking with future model plans. There was still no mention of BMW’s response to Audi’s R8, nor of an E92 M3 CSL and I get the sense that neither of these are particularly high on Segler’s to-do list.

Competitors for other M-cars are rather more clear cut, according to Segler, with the X5 M/X6 M very obviously targeted at the Cayenne. The M6 hitting the upper reaches of the 911 range and the M3 sweeping up the rest. The M5, sadly appears to be drifting into obscurity. In fact it was not even on display at Frankfurt, which might be explained by the fact that it’s approaching the end of its term in E60 form, with the F10-platform 5-series due out next year.

Neither were the M3 saloon or convertible present, but without the same excuse this seems another symptom of the low – perhaps too low – profile nature of BMW’s M-presence at the show.

Getting back to Segler’s strategy he explains that it has 4 themes:

* the products, i.e. the M-cars, the ultimate realisation of the BMW dream
* the experience available via the BMW Driver Training programme, which is part of M, and frequently uses M-cars (for example the E92 M3 is currently the vehicle of choice)
* the Individual Programme where customers can configure the vehicle of their choice – within the limits of body colour and interior trim at least.
* M Sport packages which allow a low cost entry into the world of M via some cosmetic additions.

The latter theme conflicts somewhat with the functional enhancements available via the BMW Performance Parts catalogue. M-cars have always been known for delivering function over form, and Segler recognises that this conflict needs to be – and will be – resolved, either with a re-alignment of the M Sport and Performance Package offerings, or better still their full integration.

Segler sees the BMW Driver Training programme as being a fantastic opportunity to engage with BMW’s customers and let them experience the product in a way that is almost impossible on the road. This is a great selling tool but only serves an already willing and committed audience. For most people the idea of spending EUR2400 for a 2-day sales pitch at the Nordschleife is a little difficult to justify.

The Driver Training programme is, however going to be tailored and rolled out into new or rapidly growing territories, such as China and Malaysia – but without the theatre of the Nordschleife.


But what of the future?

The gap in the range – beneath the ever more powerful, heavy, thirsty and expensive M3 – needs to be filled, and not just by M cosmetics or the aftermarket Performance Products range.

A proper M version of the 1-series would be nice, but seems unlikely. Perhaps a new (as yet unknown) model will join the M Division range? Or maybe an M3 version that brings the M3 GT4’s capabilities to the road?

The withdrawal of BMW from Formula 1 will mean that the link between BMW’s motorsport participation and their road cars could well become more obvious. There was a hint here that a conversation with Mario Theissen might be useful. This though, doesn’t sound like a cheaper version of the M3 but might address some of the concerns of the traditionalists – who fear the imposition of 4wd, turbocharging and auto boxes and need – or at least want – the “purer” driving experience that goes along with high revving normally-aspirated power plants and rear-wheel drive.

For the traditionalists Segler has a message – “assume nothing and discount nothing”. BMW’s M Division plans to get ahead of their competition (whoever that is) by 15/20% in each sector. If that means 15/20% better on fuel consumption and emissions then whether the 911 or the Corvette is the target, such a leap from the current M3’s performance will be a major challenge.
There is little chance that this can be achieved via conventional technology – either naturally aspirated or using forced induction – without a significant weight reduction, or will hybrid capability be part of the next M generation, as suggested by the Vision concept?

Could they really deliver this in 3 years time? If they do, it would be a major achievement, but this introduces further challenges from the traditionalists, who already appear to be struggling with radical change.

If the next generation M5 comes equipped with today’s X5 M / X6 M powerplant it is unlikely to be significantly quicker, cleaner or more economical than the current generation without either weight loss, or assistive technology – as showcased in the X6 hybrid which with its 4.4 litre V8 combined with electric motors, is claimed to be 20% more fuel efficient than the Xdrive50i model.

Segler also agrees that BMW should engage closely with their target market and use the internet much more, and better than it does at present. Segler cited 2 web communities – the Z8 Club in the US (which has got to be a pretty exclusive club by any standards) and MPower World in Germany as examples. That leaves a very big gap for interactive engagement which is waiting to be filled.



So what did we learn from our time with Dr Segler?

BMW M Division is facing an uphill challenge to remain at the centre of BMW – pushing niche versions of existing M-products (such as the M3 Edition or M6 Competition) is perhaps easier to sell for the time being than more radical versions.

But there ‘will’ be something radical coming in the next generation of M models – Segler wouldn’t be drawn on what this would be, but he is keen on weight reduction and said that different (future) challenges might well require different solutions from those used in the past.. He suggested that ‘traditionalists’ risked being too dogmatic, therefore ‘radical’ might mean something very different to those past M Division icons such as the E30 M3 and M3 CSL.

Does M stand for ‘Motorsport’ or ‘Marketing’? Segler said that F1 did not offer sufficiently overt links to BMW’s road-going products (for example, who thinks about engine management electronics?, which is one of the clearer trickle-down benefits of F1) and it should be possible to demonstrate closer ties in future if BMW are involved with other varieties of motorsport.

What about a road-going derivative of the M3 GT4? At which point Segler suggested that a conversation with Mario Theissen might be worthwhile – there was a very strong hint that something will happen this autumn although Segler reiterated the need to leverage BMW’s WTCC efforts (which could mean 2 litres rather than a 4 litre V8).

So, how about a 2 litre turbocharged 3-series? This would soften up the market in advance of the next generation of turbocharged six-cylinder M3…

Whatever happens, Segler clearly has change on his mind. He was the man behind Mini and clearly believes in the “new niches within niches” philosophy that continues to benefit his former brand.

Segler said that he wanted to be more specific in his targeting of the competition (which varies from market to market), meaning more specific configurations of product by territory and we asked whether it was really possible to achieve this economically. He said that it can.

So perhaps what we have really learned from meeting Dr Segler is to expect the unexpected.
Source: http://www.skiddmark.com/?p=4128
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Last edited by Crazy Bimmer; 09-23-2009 at 11:38 PM.
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      09-23-2009, 11:34 PM   #2
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Interesting, thanks for posting. All the talk about "radical" departures, and "traditionalists" risking being too dogmatic has me a bit worried. They don't need to try too hard, just put some sport back in the car (by taking things out of it...) The obscure profile of M at the Frankfurt show doesn't seem to bode well, hope that is just overreacting.
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      09-24-2009, 01:26 AM   #3
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I have some opinions, as evidenced by earlier posts, on this topic as do many here. The M division seems to have a clear direction in mind already, and my opinion isn't going to change that. I'm not going to waste any more time on this "what is M" thing. Either the next generation will "work" for me or it won't and in the meantime I'm just going to enjoy my car.
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      09-24-2009, 06:18 AM   #4
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I haven't read the whole article thoroughly yet, and have to get ready for work.

But, let me just say that the comments from Segler about the M Button are curious indeed. My experience with it are limited to the track (at M School) but there was nothing in the way those cars were configured that felt at all harsh. I would drive mine around 100% of the time in M mode if I had it equipped on my car. So do, I believe, many people on the forum. What I am saying is that to me this feature has limited value and I won't go out of my way to seek out a car that be configured in this way. I'd rather it was just set up for maximum excitement by default.

Also, I believe Audi has something very similar now as well, and it is available even on the lesser A4 if I am not mistaken. So, without digesting the whole article just yet, I have to say that if the M button is being held in such esteem that it can be singled out in a dialog about the future of M Division, well, I am not immediately impressed or excited.

Just my two cents.
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      09-24-2009, 06:58 AM   #5
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This guy does not even mention M3Post... who is he???
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      09-24-2009, 08:15 AM   #6
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Having read more of the article now, I am getting a little more perspective, but not exactly a warm fuzzy feeling about Segler and his vision for M.

I think that the citation of the Corvette as the key US competitor is interesting in a couple different ways. First off - that car is not even on my radar screen because I have to be able to haul kids. I would be quite surprised if I am alone in that situation. But secondly - I do think it is very telling that he is basically acknowledging the discrepancy between the efficiency of that car as a high performance machine and that of the M3. The Vette is brought up often for its accomplishment as world class sports car that is easy (relatively speaking) on the wallet at the pump. However, aside from the fact that it is a lighter car - which (thankfully) is one thing that seems to be coming across as a clear point to be address in future M products or at least the M3 - there is a certain irony to me in the fact that that car has a large displacement V8 and by most accounts will continue with that same winning formula for its 7th generation. Sure the displacement is rumored to get cut to sub-6L, but nevertheless the engine will remain the V8 that loyalists have always loved. Furthermore, GM is rumored to be introducing direct injection to their small-block V8 lineup (not to mention that they already have cylinder deactivation available as well).
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      09-24-2009, 08:52 AM   #7
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///Meh
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      09-24-2009, 09:40 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
Having read more of the article now, I am getting a little more perspective, but not exactly a warm fuzzy feeling about Segler and his vision for M.

I think that the citation of the Corvette as the key US competitor is interesting in a couple different ways. First off - that car is not even on my radar screen because I have to be able to haul kids. I would be quite surprised if I am alone in that situation. But secondly - I do think it is very telling that he is basically acknowledging the discrepancy between the efficiency of that car as a high performance machine and that of the M3. The Vette is brought up often for its accomplishment as world class sports car that is easy (relatively speaking) on the wallet at the pump. However, aside from the fact that it is a lighter car - which (thankfully) is one thing that seems to be coming across as a clear point to be address in future M products or at least the M3 - there is a certain irony to me in the fact that that car has a large displacement V8 and by most accounts will continue with that same winning formula for its 7th generation. Sure the displacement is rumored to get cut to sub-6L, but nevertheless the engine will remain the V8 that loyalists have always loved. Furthermore, GM is rumored to be introducing direct injection to their small-block V8 lineup (not to mention that they already have cylinder deactivation available as well).
You have to remember that the Vette's rest of the world sales amount to diddly squat in comparison to what is sold in it's home market, and compared to the rest of the world the US still sits very close to one of the cheapest places for fuel.

BMW as many others see the US as an addition to it's overall sales, not it's biggest market so they all have to see a much bigger picture.

I love the American motor industry's way of sticking two finger up at the idea of conforming to world commitment to improving economy and emissions but it will all come to an end soon enough.

BTW, I see the UK will soon be rolling out a percentage of ethanol in petrol, don't know what the percentage will be. Anyone know anything more?
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      09-24-2009, 10:37 AM   #9
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weight reduction, no turbos, less electronic crap..... not going to happen
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      09-24-2009, 11:21 AM   #10
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What a depressing read. The guy isnt an enthusiast at all, wtf is the writer talking about.

This board is full of enthusiasts.

The M Division is going no where with this guy. He is a slippery marketing monkey and clearly has no vision for the M Division. It is all smoke and mirrors marketing

I can't believe BMW pays this guys salary. Brutal

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      09-24-2009, 12:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
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What a depressing read. The guy isnt an entusiast at all, wtf is the writer talking about.
My thoughts exactly.
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      09-24-2009, 12:28 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Robo Squirrel View Post
weight reduction, no turbos, less electronic crap..... not going to happen
somehow the e30 M3 with the shoehorned M5 V10 engine seems like an awsome deal right about now. Elsewhere on this forum is a vid... flatout e9X M3 vs this e30. enough said!!!
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      09-24-2009, 12:36 PM   #13
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2 liter turbos 3 series, might as well get them to put an Impreza engine on BMW's, turbocharged M3, M5 in a complete shadow, and M6 against the high end of Porsche's lineup, it all sounds like bull, Dr. Segler has lost one loyal M customer
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      09-24-2009, 12:44 PM   #14
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What a depressing read. The guy isnt an enthusiast at all, wtf is the writer talking about.
+1000000
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      09-24-2009, 12:45 PM   #15
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“Childhood automotive dreams realised”

I like that.
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      09-24-2009, 01:05 PM   #16
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“Childhood automotive dreams realised”

I like that.
I didn't spend a second of my childhood dreaming about gas mileage and co2 emissions...

I think it's great that normal cars, used primarily as transportation, are becoming more efficient but I don't think they need to dilute the M models to make them fuel efficient. Is it just me or is the main reason for having M models in addition to the regular production models to be able to aim them at two different types of buyer?
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      09-24-2009, 01:30 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by footie View Post
BMW as many others see the US as an addition to it's overall sales, not it's biggest market so they all have to see a much bigger picture.

I love the American motor industry's way of sticking two finger up at the idea of conforming to world commitment to improving economy and emissions but it will all come to an end soon.
just to clear up something 1) the US is the worlds biggest market for BMW M vehicles 2) not defending US auto industry but US automakers will have to adhere to Obama's new CAFE numbers, BMW and Mercedes got a very controversial exemption.
That said, change is inevitable for the M cars (I guess we now have to say vehicles because of the M trucks) let's hope lower weight takes a priority that alone would greatly help keep the sports part alive.
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      09-24-2009, 01:34 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PencilGeek View Post
To sum it up...

It was a very long article that said basically nothing. The only clear message I received was Segler is saying "screw the enthusiests, they need to accept change." And to me, that philosophy doesn't bode well for the M-Division fans.

http://www.skiddmark.com/?p=4128
That's pretty much it in a nutshell, and why I've decided to stop wasting my time on what "M" means or where "M" is going. It's not worth wasting time on as the M Division has it's mind made up on direction and we're not going to change it IMHO.

I also caught this tidbit: "Segler also agrees that BMW should engage closely with their target market and use the internet much more, and better than it does at present. Segler cited 2 web communities – the Z8 Club in the US (which has got to be a pretty exclusive club by any standards) and MPower World in Germany as examples."

Wow.
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      09-24-2009, 01:56 PM   #19
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I'm not too familiar with skiddmark.com, but c'mon!

You never know how much is lost in translation, but this article left me relatively disappointed. It seems that M GmbH is getting caught up with bigger BMW in being concerned with market and economy changes. The bottomline is that M is forgetting where it came from, and what it is supposed to be about. Maybe I'm a purist...but it almost seems like they have already given up...that ///M SUVs are inevitable and that ///M will sell its own soul in order to make money.

Two absurd comments:

1) Segler's vision for the M-brand is "childhood automotive dreams realised." What kind of garbage is that?

2) "The M5, sadly appears to be drifting into obscurity."


I also loved how Segler countered the argument about the E9X M3 being a GT (and as a key differentiator over the competitors) with the "M Button." If the M button is such a key feature, why the hell is it optional!
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      09-24-2009, 01:59 PM   #20
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Seems that Ms will be targeted to cover the needs of masses and represent everything but what they used to at inception. The badge is becoming so dilluted with luxury and has lost focus to the extent that I feel that the name of the game as from now is to go eco and to make more money. Thats it.

Look at the numbers: 22,340 Ms were sold in 11 months in 2008. Not a small number. But even more surprising is the fact that it is 50% greater than the result of 14,092 cars in 2007.

Well reading the interview I get it. Its all about selling more Ms, flooding the market with M cars designed to cover needs of the masses, not of the fewer purists. And this new guy at the steering wheel of the M division doesn't sound to me as somebody who enjoys the idea of his bonus being driven by selling fewer cars to the purists isntead of even more to the general public. Not to mention that his interview was a total waste of my time, nothing but a shallow, marketing-oriented, politichian-like interview full of fluff and of zero substance.
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      09-24-2009, 02:02 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Windy View Post
You never know how much is lost in translation, but this article left me relatively disappointed. It seems that M GmbH is getting caught up with bigger BMW in being concerned with market and economy changes. The bottomline is that M is forgetting where it came from, and what it is supposed to be about. Maybe I'm a purist...but it almost seems like they have already given up...that ///M SUVs are inevitable and that ///M will sell its own soul in order to make money.
Probably I was typing my post whilst you were posting yours. I see similarities in our posts and agree with what you say...
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      09-24-2009, 02:09 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by ChinoOrtega View Post
2 liter turbos 3 series, might as well get them to put an Impreza engine on BMW's, turbocharged M3, M5 in a complete shadow, and M6 against the high end of Porsche's lineup, it all sounds like bull, Dr. Segler has lost one loyal M customer
Lets talk when the new M line comes out. All of you guys are biting the bullet prematurely. BMW has been making awesome cars for how many years now? Give them some credit for making that change.... I guarantee that NONE of us will be dissappointed.

BMW makes driver focussed cars and they are not going to waver on that mantra.

A few posts ago I did remark that the V10 e30 is a beast and EVERY automaker shold concentrate on lightening of the cars and suppplying apt performance, not the bonkers 600hp engines that lug around dinosaurs (yes CL65, that is you), but a 'modest 400hp engine tuned to perfection in a body that weighs 25-40% less.
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