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      09-13-2011, 02:07 PM   #1
Gator328i
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In what ways are BMWs of old better than today

In a recent conversation with a friend, we started discussing how, despite the notable technological improvements, BMW may have lost some of its ethos of being the ultimate driving machine in the past decade or so. My friend took the position that the E30 and E34 era cars had a lot more soul to them. They were better engineered, sturdier and more driver-oriented vehicles than what is produced today.

I countered with the point that BMW cannot be faulted for equipping its cars with technology and relying upon the latest cutting edge design techniques to build its vehicles. Yes, they may be more complicated but the technology adds real benefits to the driving experience.

I'm just curious to hear where other BMW owners fall on the continuum of past vs. present cars. If they think one era was better than today or vice-versa.
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      09-13-2011, 02:25 PM   #2
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Older cars are better at being driver oriented. Lighter, more focused on driving.

Newer cars are more powerful WITH more efficiency in some cases.


Technology will always be apart of newer cars no matter what brand.
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      09-13-2011, 02:36 PM   #3
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Not BMW specific, but electronic power steering has not achieved the same feedback as hydraulic steering. Much as manual steering feels better than hydraulic. Same goes for electronic throttles, they just don't feel as good as cable actuated throttles.

My one complaint of having one older BMW and one newer one is that the window switches being centrally located really does make more sense.
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      09-13-2011, 02:39 PM   #4
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The same can really be said about any car brand. Drive a car from 20-30 years ago, then the same model, assuming it's still being made, and tell me which one feels better to you. Most people on a car forum will tell you that the older car feels more connected to the road. That's due to the lower weight, smaller size, shorter wheelbase, shorter steering ratio that older cars offer.

Your description of technology is vague. What specifically do you mean that gives a car more "soul" or makes for a better driving experience? BMW's active steering is generally considered an answer to a question nobody was asking. Sure, it's a nice idea but I think it should be left to the Mercedes'. Personally, I can't stand a car with electric seats, and if I could order manual windows I definitely would.

IMO, the more electronics a car has, the less a person is able to focus on the driving experience.
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      09-13-2011, 02:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swaite View Post
What specifically do you mean that gives a car more "soul" or makes for a better driving experience? IMO, the more electronics a car has, the less a person is able to focus on the driving experience.
I think what he meant by that is that the cars of that era had more of a human element to them, more human involvement in the driving experience as you point out. Today, the cars are getting to the point that they can practically drive themselves. What do they need us for?
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      09-13-2011, 11:46 PM   #6
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Sure, past cars were more involved. And when you got to your destination after twelve hours on the road it took an hour for your hands to stop shaking and your ears to stop ringing. Modern cars are actually a miracle of increased comfort and safety with retained control of the vehicle.

We should be glad we've got that, in a world where one single working mom with three kids and a blog, who just forgot one day where the brake pedal was and got the whole lot killed, has more influence on automotive design than a hundred thousand loyal "enthusiasts".
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      09-14-2011, 12:50 AM   #7
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i hate how big the newer bimmers are... i parked next to a E30 the other day and i forgot how big the E90 was till then..
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      09-14-2011, 01:26 AM   #8
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Like most things in life, it's a mixed bag. The big gripe about the E46 over the E36 was it's size and weight, but to me the E46 was a solid advance in pretty much every area - comfort, safety, handling, build quality, ergonomics. The E90 is less clear-cut, because the change to RFTs and electric-assist steering make the driving dynamics inferior, while the other areas are pretty similar. I don't feel like you get a lot for the compromises when going from E46 to E90.

It's different for the Z3/Z4. Driving two generations of the same model, I hear a lot of nostalgic, dreamy-eyed owners that say the Z3 is better than the Z4, but to me the standard Z4 loses out only in steering feel (also due to EPS) and the lousy run-flats, while the chassis/handling dynamics, comfort, and performance are a strong step forward with much more improvement in moving from E36/7 to E85.

Where I would take an E46 330i over an E90 330i and not feel I was losing out, I'd take an E85 Z4 3.0i over an Z3 3.0i and swap out the run-flats because the improvements to the newer car are worth it (actually, that is what I did - after test driving both I bought a Z4 and added Goodyear F1s).

With my current stable, my Z4 M Coupe, with hydraulic steering and conventional tires, feels 2 generations newer than my Z3 Coupe - more solid, more comfortable, better quality materials inside pretty much everywhere. I like my Z3, but it gives off a strong mid-80s vibe in terms of interior quality/design and handling dynamics - and it was built in 2000! The Z4MC feels thoroughly modern, even 3 years after production ended. You can, as many do, blame the Z3's use of an E30-derived suspension, but the Z4Ms use an E36-derived front suspension.

And all that sets aside the subjective opinions of appearance.
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      09-14-2011, 01:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianbiz View Post
i hate how big the newer bimmers are... i parked next to a E30 the other day and i forgot how big the E90 was till then..
+1. E90 always felt gigantic and insulating (from the road) compared to my E46. I just never connected with it the way I did the older one and wasn't really sorry to see it go at lease end.
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      09-14-2011, 02:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epbrown View Post
Like most things in life, it's a mixed bag. The big gripe about the E46 over the E36 was it's size and weight, but to me the E46 was a solid advance in pretty much every area - comfort, safety, handling, build quality, ergonomics. The E90 is less clear-cut, because the change to RFTs and electric-assist steering make the driving dynamics inferior, while the other areas are pretty similar. I don't feel like you get a lot for the compromises when going from E46 to E90.

...

Where I would take an E46 330i over an E90 330i and not feel I was losing out, ...

And all that sets aside the subjective opinions of appearance.
Again, totally agree, though now I have to add that the E46 was also much better looking than the E90 (mine was full-bangle pre-LCI). The E46 looked unusual and a bit odd when the design was new, but grew into its own over time and I think it still looks great. The early E90s already look dated to me. LCIs are better.

Here's hoping the F30 comes out better looking than the E90. Looks good so far.
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      09-14-2011, 02:31 AM   #11
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Many factors influenced how a car is built today. IMO the most notable is the build quality of old vs new cars.

Back in the old days, most German car manufacturers are focused on driving quality (ie. solid handling for BMW, and luxury plush ride for Mercedes, etc), solid feel (as maybe the myth back then is more solid = safer), and durability.

Today, while they are still focused on driving quality, many factors are influencing them.
Cars have to be as efficient as possible, so manufactures are forced to use lighter and thinner material for body panels, more technology are used to keep the fuel consumption down (electric steering, part of BMW's efficient dynamic is one example).
Cars also have to comply many safety regulations that are influencing the overall design (ie. pedestrian safety regulation affects how the car's front end is designed).
Increased pressure from competitors (ie. mainstream brand spawning luxury brands; Toyota with Lexus, Honda with Acura, etc and spawning completely new line up to compete in different segment; Porsche with Cayenne) forced them to widen the audience in order to attract newcomers to the brand and cater their needs (Now BMW is trying to be more comfortable and sort of softer to attract Mercedes drivers, while Mercedes is trying to give better handling to attract BMW drivers, and so on). More new luxury brands also means they have to be able to sell a car with competitive price (as usually these newcomers sold their vehicle at lower price to keep up with the existing brands), and most of the times that means cutting corners in few areas and using cheaper materials here and there, sadly.
Not to mention environmental laws that forced manufacturers to use environmentally-friendly material also affect the overall quality (ie. BMW's water based paint is notably softer, etc).
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      09-14-2011, 09:51 AM   #12
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Public: "Great car, just wish it were more comfortable."
BMW: <makes car more comfortable>
Public: "Great car, just wish it were more connected to the road."
BMW: ...
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      09-14-2011, 10:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pangloss View Post
Public: "Great car, just wish it were more comfortable."
BMW: <makes car more comfortable>
Public: "Great car, just wish it were more connected to the road."
BMW: ...
BMW: ...<makes car bigger and heavier>
Public: wha?
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      09-14-2011, 12:35 PM   #14
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BMW: Uh, you said you wanted it more comfortable. Why do you think we made the E90 half a foot longer?
Average BMW Driver: Hush, I'm busy chatting on my cell phone and trying to do my nails.
BMW: <stops worrying about the 3-series and designs the 1-series>
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      09-14-2011, 01:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianbiz View Post
i hate how big the newer bimmers are... i parked next to a E30 the other day and i forgot how big the E90 was till then..
this..too big nowadays
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      09-20-2011, 10:54 PM   #16
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Same topic will be brought up 10 years from now. "e9X was so much better then ......"
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      09-21-2011, 09:38 AM   #17
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In the 70s, cars took a serious dive in fun and performance after the OPEC crisis, which took about 15-20 years to recover from.

Now, we seem headed towards a similar period, where performance will be strangled for economy and emissions, so in 10 years the cars of this period will seem like muscle cars of the 60s.
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      09-21-2011, 10:17 AM   #18
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As a toy old cars are fun but as DD I don't know. Just thinking about my old 93 civic totally turns me off the wind shaking me from left to right rusting like crazy. Old MK2 Jetta fun but turned pink due to bad paint in those years.
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Its because a lot of BMW owners are housewives or business professionals and know little about cars other than BMW's are a status symbol in their own circles so that have to have one. But exotic car owners know cars, that's why they are willing to spend for a killer car and they know something different when they see one.
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      09-21-2011, 10:52 PM   #19
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love my turbo e36 to death. so connected, light, powerful as hell. Its a blast to drive everytime I wake it from its beauty sleep. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I have yet to drive a newer car that makes me feel like that.

that being said, I enjoy a new, heavy, quiet cruiser at times too. I dont have to think about crap except point and shoot.

then I pull out the M3 again and my smile returns.

bring it on

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      09-25-2011, 04:17 PM   #20
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More simple and better build quality, this is very simply a fact.
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      10-01-2011, 07:47 AM   #21
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Being the owner of a '89 E30, '97 Z3, '06 E90, and very familiar with the E21, E36 (worked on all of them), and driven an E39 and E60 5-series I'll throw in my 2 cents.

The E21 had much more feel than the E30, the E30 has more feel then the E90. If you've ever felt the E21 steering back in the day with then era tires (not an old E21 now with more modern tires), the steering on an E90 seems artificial and vague. The first time I drove an E21 up our gravel driveway in 1978, you could feel practically every stone under the tires. I've not driven any newer model BMW since that has provided that type of feedback. The E90 is a boat compared to those cars, but it's still a hell of a nice boat.

When I was looking to replace the E30 with an E90, I was concerned about weight (a typical E30 weighs around 2,850 pounds, my E90 scales in around 3,285 pounds). I did some math as a comparison. The E90 has 105 cu/ft of combine passenger and luggage space (EPA data) and the E30 93 cu/ft combine passenger and luggage space (EPA data). When you look at the pound per cubic foot ratio between the two cars, the E30 is around 30.7 pounds per cubic foot and the E90 is about 31.3 pounds per cubic foot, so the idea that the 3 series has gained a lot of weight is a bit of a misnomer when you consider the combined passenger/trunk space of each body. The E90 is a much larger car than the E30 but weighs approximately the same per cubic foot. When you consider all the additional performance and safety features an E90 has compared to an E30, it really is amazing how little weight gain there really is.

I loved the E30, but a modern E90 is a much better car. It is 2 seconds faster to 60 (in 325i guise), gets better fuel mileage, and is a whole lot more safe in an accident; and had a less expensive retail price when factoring for inflation. What’s not to like.
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      10-01-2011, 08:24 AM   #22
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new cars are isolating. Old BMWs' required total attention. Driver need not to be distracted with these gismos.
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