The Ultimate Driving Machine has been my automotive drug of choice since I turned 16. My first Bimmer was a reliable 1977 320i. Soon after, I upgraded to power steering with my Alpine White 1995 318i, which I still drive today. My love for my car is renewed every time I hear the engine turn over and start right up. (It probably has something to do with a childhood spent bump-starting stubborn Alfas.)
With my background and loyalty to the German automaker, the SCM gang should have known better than to disclose that they had received a new 2014 320i as a press car. My hand was clasped around the key and I was out of there conducting “research” before Executive Editor Chester Allen had the chance to respond.
Lo and behold, the car was Alpine White and a 4-cylinder. The younger, hipper cousin of my merely adequate daily driver made me feel like I instantly belonged to that elite group who opt for a new BMW lease rather than pay off student loans. Sliding in, I pushed the start button and smiled at the unmistakable sound of the German automobile waking up. I felt at home instantly.
Over the weekend, the car performed perfectly. The steering felt light and sensitive, the same as mine. In the corners it felt heavier and more planted than my car, elminating the fear of kicking out the back tires. It packed more power, too.
Aesthetically, the 320i is the beauty of the two. It looks fierce and modern, opening my eyes to the dated styling of my ’95. However, it’s all in the details. The “dolphin shape” that I love in the E36 is slightly masked in the 2014. The heritage is not in your face, but when looking at the two next to each other you can see the strong resemblance. There are exactly two features that always catch my eye: the two-section “kidney” grille and the lines on the hood. I look for those features in each new BMW, since they are strong body features on my ’95.
The opportunity to compare two cars from the same marque, separated by an almost 20-year difference, left me feeling proud to be a BMW owner. Even with the glaring improvements in technology, comfort and power, both cars share the unmistakable DNA of the Ultimate Driving Machine.