BMW Shows Off New 1-Series Coupe at L.A. Auto Show

The memory of the 2002 gets a workout

By Brendan Moore


Yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles, BMW rolled out their new 1-Series Coupe for its North American coming-out party. There was zero suspense as the 1-Series has been sold in Europe already and already been shown extensively in the global press, but BMW nevertheless gave the debut the proper gravity, with some nice words about heritage, performance, and so forth.

If you talk to the people at BMW about the 1-Series they will invariably bring up the iconic 2002, a car much loved by auto enthusiasts everywhere, and particularly in the United States. It is not an exaggeration to say that over 40 years ago the Michelotti-designed, light and nimble 2002 put BMW squarely in the sweet spot of love and affection that the company still enjoys today from its ardent U.S. fans. And I am one of those people.

So, the marketing people at BMW being pretty sharp people, they are doing their best to trade on the positive equity of the 2002.

How is that working out for them?

Before I answer that question, let me say that I think the new 1-Series looks like its going to be a fantastic car. Small, nimble, attractive and powerful are all admirable attributes in a sports coupe, and generally even more so with the BMW propeller on the car. The car platform has gotten great reviews by everyone, so one can assume it will more of the same here in North America when it goes on sale in Spring 2008. Having owned seven BMWs so far in my life, I am very much looking forward to driving the car. It’s possible it could be BMW No. 8, too-small backseat and all.

Now, about those 2002 references – the 1-Series is a powerful car, it is a luxury car, and further, it is no lightweight. There is also the matter of price. A stripped 128 (230 HP straight-six) is 28 thousand dollars and change on the MSRP and that’s if any dealer would ever actually order a car like that with no options. Think mid-30’s for most of these. The 135 (300 HP twin-turbo straight-six) is quite a performer, but its even more expensive, starting in the low 30’s and going up very quickly in price as you pile on the options. The BMW 2002 was a bargain-priced paragon of incredibly good German engineering that had good, but not great performance for its time, and the 1-Series is a fairly-priced paragon of incredibly good German engineering that promises very-good to great performance in the here and now.

Here’s the summing up: Don’t worry about the marketing one way or the other. If you like your coupes small and nimble with plenty of performance, BMW has got something special waiting for you next year.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Techshake Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at .

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  1. I am too young to have had a 2002, but I had a 3-Series that I loved, then another, and now have a 540. It’s got a lot of miles and I need another car, but since it’s just me in the car something smaller is in order and I think I just found my next car.

  2. Man, I love this thing! I think it looks great, and the performance should be wonderful. I am looking for a smaller and sportier car than the Mercedes E320 I have, so this might be the ticket. I can wait until spring, no problem. I’ve seen a photo of this before but I have a feeling this is one of those cars that you don’t realise how beautiful it is until you’re in front of it in person.

  3. Can there be any doubt that BMW is the best car company in the world? Yes, I admit, I am biased because I love BMWs, but when you think about what each company does, which market they compete in, their product results, their profit result, etc., I think that BMW has this thing called the car business down.

  4. Folks, it’s not that nice. I think some of you have been drinking the Kool-Aid they send over from BMW. Compare it in performance to several cars from Japan, compare passenger room and comfort and then compare the price. I think you’ll see that you’re paying a premium for the BMW name.

  5. The Japanese cars tend to get close in technical specifications and not so good in actual driving experience. This isn’t my opinon. It’s what all the car mags say every time a Japanese car company trots out the latest car “that’s just as good as a BMW”. But it never is.

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