BMW has long been considered one of the superior brands in the automotive industry. With high quality products, ranging from motorcycles to high performance saloon cars, a recipe for success has truly been mastered.
Success is only brought about by innovation, with BMW having demonstrated marvelous, and often brave, feats of innovation throughout the course of history.
The car production side of the business has proven particularly eventful in this aspect. Current affairs boffins will know of re-branding of the 1 and 3 Series coupes and cabriolets into the 2 and 4 Series nameplates respectively, along with a Mercedes B-Class rivalling front-wheel drive 2 Series Active Tourer, and the upcoming i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.
As exciting as the future sounds, the past was equally eventful, as demonstrated in this top ten list.
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10 – BMW X6
Certainly a controversial chapter in BMW’s history. As a concept though, the X6 combined the functions of an off-road vehicle with lines of a sports coupe.
Whilst heavily impractical and useless in the absence of tarmac, BMW’s Sports Activity Coupe certainly explored the boundaries of crossing genres. Previous experiments elsewhere also brought us the Renault Scenic and Nissan Qashqai – highly successful vehicles.
9 – BMW X5 (E53)
Whilst the X6 later pushed the boundaries further, BMW created their first exploration mission into off road vehicles in 1999. The German brand benefited from owning Land Rover during the X5′s development, resulting in technology sharing.
Emphasis was focused mostly towards on-road performance, challenging traits of poor road handling amongst rivals, with the branding of the vehicle as a Sport Activity Vehicle. The X5 became an over-night success, leading to more off-road models spawning in later years.
8 – BMW 3 Series Compact (E36)
The E36 3 Series was a success in the 90′s as the entry level model in the BMW range. The tables turned in 1993 with the launch of the Compact.
Available only in a two-door hatchback format with a shortened wheelbase, the 3 Series Compact paved the way for later affordable models such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the superseding BMW 1 Series. Cleverly, at the time not many rear-wheel-drive rivals roamed this segment, owing partly to the Compact’s success.
Downsizing was a daring innovation for a company largely famed for their luxury saloons.
7 – BMW Isetta
Downsizing was not entirely new to the premium German brand, as the Isetta proved. Largely a licensed and re-bodied project from an Italian fridge manufacturer, the Isetta offered no-frill transport for the masses. The bubble car arrived at a perfect time in 1955, as Europe was still recovering in the wake of the Second World War, even from a company producing the likes of the 340 (5 Series segment) and 327 (6 Series equivalent).
6 – BMW M1
1978′s rarity was BMW’s first and only “mass-produced” mid-engine vehicle. Furthermore, the legendary M1 also spawned the epic M (Motorsport) brand, which later brought on today’s M3′s and M5′s.
5 – BMW 5 Series GT
A confusing concept to say the least. As mindboggling as the X6, which also crossed genres. Here, the GT has combined an ordinary 5 Series with an SUV and Gran Turismo, branded a Progressive Activity Sedan. Practicality was excellent though, later spawning a 3 Series equivalent.
4 – BMW Z1
A two door sports car which started a list of successful successors. The Z represented Zukunft (Future in German), which began a legendary range. Demand was initially excellent and looks striking, with an innovative door design.
3 – BMW Z8
Whilst not proving particularly innovative in genre, the Z8 began a retro trend, later adopted with the new Mini series. The stunning looks and limited production run also landed the Z8 a starring role in ‘The World is Not Enough’ as Bond’s wheels.
2 – BMW M535i (E12)
The M Sport moniker was truly christened by the aforementioned M1, the first adoption of such technology into a production saloon arrived with the E12 M535i. Whilst not regarded as a true M5, this vehicle became the genesis of the car which would later slay giants.
Need we mention the expansion into the 3 Series line and beyond.
1 – BMW i3
Branded as a Mega City Vehicle, the i3 is the future of automotive technology. Recently launched, the i3 is a five-door zero emissions urban electric vehicle, with the option of a range extending petrol engine.
With relative affordability, the i3 has become the first affordable electric vehicle that normal people will want to purchase. Not to mention paving the way for the upcoming i8 and future models.