So many B letters in the title, couldn't I come up with something better? Anyhow, today we're test driving the products from Bayerische Motoren Werke available in Gran Turismo 2. Is "sheer driving pleasure" really guaranteed, as they advertise? Responsive steering, neutral handling, menacing looks - these are the terms I immediately think of when somebody mentions acronym BMW. Once a modest aero engine builder is nowadays a major pillar of the German car industry with a portfolio of admirable machineries. But the success didn't come over the night. BMW had to go through a period of stagnation and even tremble for its own existence. Luckily, after the 50's it finally found a strong foothold for steady growth it was looking forward to for so long. Over the past few decades BMW has produced more awesome cars than I can name, at least not without writing some of them down. These cars were equally awesome on race tracks as well as on public roads, which made them even more sought-after. The entire brand as we know it today was built on deeds of these old legends. A major change for the company image came at the beginning of the new millennium with a new generation of designers surfacing from the background, aiming to "tweak" the philosophy of design BMW was known for. Under extensive load of newcomers' ideas, the manufacturer's pristine identity was compromised. Strangely shaped cars people couldn't grasp started coming out of the factory one by one. It was a sign of change that was about to swallow the entire concern. Opinions on the approach these modern designers took vary. Some people think the individuals have done a fantastic job converting the design philosophy, while others think it's a warm piss. Personally, I'm not sure what to think. It is true that some of the new Beamers don't look that bad, especially when you physically place them next to all the preceding models. On such occasions, somehow everything starts to make sense, even though you can't understand why. But then you look at these exact models apart from another angle, and you start wondering would it be possible to bring any more shame to the company than they already had? So I'll just say I prefer older Beamers, because their design - and I think we can all agree on this - never left any room for doubts and controversy. 323, 740, 320... pick you god-damn number. Luckily, the game packs few of these "old" Beamers from what certainly was a productive period for the manufacturer. I wanted to test drive all of them and see how they measure up against other cars in terms of fun and abilities. I put the disc in, turned the game on, clicked on that BMW dealership icon, aaaaand... I started complaining. What else were you expecting? The first major issue I have against the lineup is general shortage of power. Every single Beamer in the game suffers from this. Now, I know what you could be thinking. You could say that power has never been all that important in Gran Turismo, and for most of the time you would be right. But I can tell you straight off the bat that in normal circumstances most players wouldn't give a single inch of jack's potty about that argument. Why? Well, what do you think modern gamers would be attracted to, a high-performance car that you may never be able to see, let alone drive in real life, or a sleeper you can find parked around every block? Exactly. When it comes to video games, having performance cars is just as important as having the brand they represent. I know M models were out of reach at the time, but what about Alpinas? Were they unavailable as well? In worst case, they could have included most powerful versions of standard models, but even that proved to be difficult, as you will find out as we cover the models one by one. Simply put, after a while you can feel something is missing in the lineup. It's just too ordinary. Is it a 323, 320 or 328? C'mon Beamer experts, where are you now? Another problem is that some of the Beamers look very, very alike. Why, for holy mother of crap, did we have to get like five different versions of the Series 3 model?! The 320ci is the entry model and the most miserable link in the chain of identical cars. It feels quite fast, but only before you get to its twins. Then it becomes apparent it doesn't have enough juice, especially when going up hills. The only advantage is that it's easier to drive at the limit. Unlike the 323ci or 328ci, it doesn't pick up as much speed, so you can keep pinning the throttle pedal down for longer. As far as I understand, it uses the same engine as the other two, though its version takes up 500cc less space beneath the hood. It's an engine that operates smoothly, but without delivering proper sense of acceleration. And how could it with all that weight around? The steering is quick, sometimes a bit too much. It's great for sharp turn-ins, but can occasionally disturb the car's balance a moment before you turn into a corner. Even worse, sometimes you end up steering a bit too much or too little, which leads to overcorrection and losing your speed or ideal cornering line. Of course, this problem exists on the faster 323ci or 328ci as well, and occurs more frequently. To prevent the problem from troubling you, it is advisable you tweak the spring settings to match the steering, or find a way to fix the damn steering itself! As the variation in power wasn't enough already, Polyphony also ensured we wouldn't be missing any body types. Hence we got the 328i, a saloon version of the three Series 3s. It's essentially the same thing, but with one extra pair of doors. You know, family image and stuff. Probably the best thing about it is that you no longer need to beg people seating on front seats to get their asses of them so that you could slide in. No, on the 328i you have your own doors, your own independence. You're in control. The game suggests both the 328ci and 328i share the same suspension configuration, but they don't really behave equally. I think the saloon drives somewhat better. It can recover just a little bit quicker from loss of grip on corner entries, and is capable of making tighter cornering lines. Beware though, only sharp eyes will spot this microscopic differences. A modified Series 3 Beamer. Feeling tired of the Series 3 talk? Yes? Good, then let me introduce you to the last model in the line of the smallest BMW wheelers. It's called Compact, and it's a perfect example that even the most successful manufacturers aren't immune to making crappy things. I think their intentions were pretty clear on this one - build a BMW that youngsters could dig, and make them believe they're buying smaller, cheaper Series 3 alternative. The only problem, the Compact was neither of these things. And it looked like tits. I mean, it's just an old Series 3 with its rear end sliced off! Even a toddler with no knowledge of design could come up with something like that. They even had the courtesy to borrow rear suspension components from the E30 Beamer, model that dates from late 80's. Were they trying to cut down the production costs or simply make the car more exciting to drive? I don't know and I don't care because all they managed to do was tick off some of the critics, which lately resulted in mixed reviews for the car and prejudices repealing customers to buy it. You might me hate for saying all this, but the truth is that even BMW knew it wasn't good. For the next Compact model they significantly changed external appearance and left obsolete components out in favour of up-to-date undercarriage. That's more like it. Anyway, the model we have in the game is powered by a 167 HP 2.5 litre engine. It seems short on power compared to the saloon or the coupé, but in reality it's just as fast as the other two, if not faster. The chassis is capable and feels solid, the springs support it accordingly. Once again spotting a difference in handling is difficult. From what I could feel, the Compact can maintain drift slightly longer than either of the Series 3 models. All in all, this is the best Series 3 model of them all, it drives really well. Have in mind that it can't be modified with a body livery (neither can the 328i); this is reserved for the coupés only. Generally speaking, all these Series 3 models have good tires and fine balance. Understeer usually kicks in if your entry speed exceeds potential of the tires, not the car itself. In these cases they respond with increased turning angle; eliminate it by slowing down. What, you're shocked, you thought they would be pitch-perfect? Remember these cars can't fly, so respect what you have and you'll be moving fast in no time. And just in case you wasn't aware of what the game can do for you, you can take any of these Series 3 bastards and compete in the Series 3 manufacturer cup. Nothing special, it's just a regular 2-lap race at random track and with insulting prize money. But I think it's worth completing it, if anything, for the sake of the shot I took down below: A family meeting taking place at Autumn Ring. Okay, moving on to a higher level. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to reviewing the 528i, but for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to make fun of it and spit on it knowing how bad it would be. The main problem is that Polyphony crippled the car by taking away 50 HP from already abysmal horsepower figure. This is really not helping the situation, you know. Imagine someone spending over 60,000 credits on a car that can barely win anything unless it is fully upgraded. And you can forget about making an M5 replica, aftermarket ponies stop reproducing at 315 already. But why was it so necessary to have the 528i in the game anyway? Even if the power was rated to 190 HP (as it should have been), it still wouldn't change anything. The 528i doesn't offer anything you couldn't get from the Series 3 models. It's a heavier car with higher price tag and longer wheelbase. And since stability is rarely an issue in this game, I have to ask you a simple question - what for? They certainly didn't help BMW sell its Series 5s with a poorly depicted car like this. If I were to walk in a dealership any buy a Series 5 based on what I experienced in GT2 with the 528i, I would exit the shop empty-handed. Or would fall asleep on my way to the exit door. Besides, the stronger 540i was available back then, so why couldn't we get that one? Just imagine driving a Series 5 BMW with so-called Sport Package installed and 280 HP ready to vent off on your mark. That would have been awesome! You wouldn't even need a Series 7 model then, this would serve as a flagship performance model of the entire range. But no.... they had to give us this. And how come we only got one version? Where is the 520i? Where is the 523i? What about touring models versions of those? You were slacking off, PD. So... how is that 528i then? A modest attempt at drifting the stock 528i.. I had no interest driving the 528i with a fake power, but I had to do it to make myself appreciate any additional power upgrade. As I had expected, acceleration was dull and unworthy of my time. But the chassis was good, great actually. It allowed me to precisely lead the car around corners and make the best use of its crippled engine. It became clear it could withstand far more pressure than this. Taking care of 140 HP for this chassis was like towing a trailer with a G63 AMG Mercedes-Benz. Good lord, I can't believe I'm even making a mention of that thing... The next logical step was to return the lost power with some basic upgrades, but since I didn't want to waste any more of my time playing with silly values, I went all the way up to 290 HP with upgrades. That costed me a little fortune, but I didn't care much with Load Game option being few clicks away. In spite of having way more power than any Beamer I had previously tested, it resembled the Series 3 models quite nicely. The same steering, the same capable chassis. I had to brake slightly sooner, and be more careful when tossing the rear end around, but overall it was the same handling style as before. But there was one big problem I couldn't tolerate. The power output - it is so spiky. Once you increase the power to maximum possible, it becomes even worse. I think only the closest gearbox possible will allow you to use all the power efficiently. The stock one wasn't up to the task and I could rarely drive with actual 290hp. For most of time it was way below that. Overall, it's one big forgettable car. That's all I can say. Okay, only two cars left. Let's wrap this son of a review with some "upper market" rides. In the executive class of flagship cars there is very little room for anything other than prestige and luxury. That's okay if you care about these things, but I can tell you that majority of petrolheads don't. From their point of view, the amount of invested money is rarely a mirror of value you truly get. You do get to watch DVDs or sit on leather wrapped sofas that make you sweat like a pig after few minutes already. You even get a hook for hanging your evening suit, and a cellphone for making calls that are just as boring as the suit you hanged up. When it comes to equipment, this class knows no boundaries, but that's expected considering the market the cars are intended for. But toss it in a corner and you better not be there when it starts embarrassing itself. Embarrass like this? But not all executive models are on the same level. BMW was one of the earliest manufacturers that opposed treating its high-end cars like that. They said "Screw that, we're doing it our way!" And you know what, the result wasn't bad at all. The result was something that truly resembled a driver's car... or at least it tried. The 740i we have in the game proved to be entertaining for a short period of time I spent driving it. It wasn't perfect, but quite above what I had imagined. Besides, after driving the 528i, I was ready to hope into literally anything that could wash that scent of failure. Even if it weighed over 2 tons. Yes, the weight is clearly a big problem here. The 740i is loaded with crap much like any other executive car. Even with weight reductions applied the situation doesn't improve much, you can take away like 200 kilos at best. You wouldn't call that a progress, would you? The power is on shy level as well. Once again we don't get the most powerful engine available. The 4.4 litre V8 packing 285hp through a 5-speed gearbox may sound awesome (or 276hp upon purchasing, a loss is inevitable), but BMW put 322hp V12s in those as well. Though difference between the strongest one and this piece of junk is not too big, using the V12 would at least mend the problem to highest extent possible. Due to all these reasons I wasn't expecting anything but jacks from this car. Jacks that are so useless they aren't worth popping car's tires on a public road, let alone a play they are invented for. Luckily, once I suited up and got behind the wheel, the situation changed to better. James Bond's personal jacks for taking out pursuers. Q's hand-made product. The 740i performs fairly well for its size and weight. It's agile, especially when you start braking hard on corner entries. When things get tough and you swing it too much, electronic angle prevents the car from spinning out. I approve this, it doesn't interfere on high-speed corners, but kicks in only when a loss of traction is about to send the car into rotation. The power drops down and you have enough time to steer back even if the angle at which the car moves suggest you're about to be doomed. Ausgezeichnet! You can always rely on spring ratios for extra safety. Slightly stiffer front keeps the car from going to "sideways" side of things too often. The rear end likes to hop around, but even on Deep Forest - the bounciest track in the game - I never found myself in situation to panic and decelerate for the purpose of getting jumping body bags in the trunk in order. After a while you get used to it, but you may also apply some damping back there if you don't like the motion. I said the engine was a junk, but in reality it's everything but. I tried to find some flaws in the rpm range or the way power gets delivered, but couldn't. The 'box works okay, needles are nicely aligned for most of the time. The steering is traditionally quick, but after driving like five of these Beamers that comes as no surprise. All in all, it ain't the best model from the house, but better than the 528i. And that says a lot. The only problem is the price. It's so expensive, more than life itself. I wouldn't recommend career undertakers to buy it once they earn some serious cash because it will be a waste, it won't get them far. Perhaps that's why most people will buy it after they finish the game. Or maybe they won't buy it at all. You're going to learn why right below. And now, for the grand finale, the piece de resistance, the car you've all been waiting for... the one and only 840ci. Leaving a corner... What a dramatic opening, wouldn't you say? But a car with such strong looks deserves no less. Let's be honest, the Series 8 looks amazing. I think it perfectly sums up what was so awesome about the vintage Beamers. It was the only modern BMW model that kept all the great drawing cues from most memorable historic models. I don't think any other model came that close. Maybe one day we're going to consider the electric i8 thing, but for now, the Series 8 is my link to the past. But is it as good as it looks? I apologize for raising a question of suspicion, but I won't give up on my role of party breaker that easily. The thing is, once you decide to look past its exterior, you realize it doesn't have much to offer compared to other sports cars. At the end of the day, it's just another fat grand tourer with insufficient amount of power to keep the mass moving in a spirited way. Unless you are ready to involve some tuning into the equation, a race track is not going to become better place for it any sooner. And then we have the price. The executive's wet dream is just as credit-hungry as the 740i. The good news is that for extra 4 grand the 840ci is worth more you get 200 kilos less on your back, a better design, and a 6-speed gear cube. Now you can see why nobody would pay any attention to the 740i with this baby around. In a video game a conventionally shaped car like the 740i would need far more arguments to lure the buyers away from the 840i. Not even the fact James Bond drove a Series 7 can help against the 840ci. Bond's chariot from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Coincidently or not, these two cars have another thing in common - they share the same 4.4 litre V8 block. Interesting, for some unknown reason the engine's maximum power is six ponies shorter on the 840i. I may be picky here, but on fatties like these every horsey counts. You won't get much power anyway (415 ponies tops), so you truly need everything you can get. I mentioned the 840i has a 6-speed gearbox. True, but as long as the car is stock you'll never need to use it. If you got any extra cash, install a close-range box to improve acceleration or wait until the power gets raised a little bit. I suspect the stock gearbox could be a perfect fit for the car's maximum power. When it comes to handling, the 840i whistles tunes the 740i knows of, but it is not used to them when the time comes to sing. The main difference is that the 840i is more resistant to understeer on medium and high-speed corner entries. On the Clubman circuit the 740i would sometimes need greater reduction of speed before it could bite the road and eat the rest of the corner. On the 840i things are less dramatic. It's not that understeer doesn't exist, but I have to say if it was there, it was well concealed. Of course, you have to take into consideration that the 840i is lighter by approximately 200 kilos and has 1 cm lower ride height by default (spring ratios are identical). At first you won't notice any difference in speed, but measure lap times carefully, and you shall see that it will be the 840i that grabs chequered flag everytime. But the one thing that I found disappointing was its electronics, or lack of it, precisely put. In spite of being less prone to rear-end tossing (being a grand tourer and all that) I was surprised to see it trying to do a spin when the 740i would still hesitate to do a doughnut. Aren't these things supposed to be cutting-edge?! Okay, we have said enough, time to stop for today. CONCLUSION I couldn't say I'm too disappointed with what I have driven today, but there is a whole lot more room for progress in my book. Neither of these Beamers was slow, far from that, but it's plain obvious a dose of something magnetizing is missing on them when you turn up for a test drive. The fact we don't have a performance badge stamp hurts a lot, obviously. Imagine what would happen to popularity of Audi and Mercedes-Benz lineup in GT2 if Polyphony decided to rule out those badged models you have in the game. Even though they may not be that special in the long run, the badges themselves make them special. One important thing you have to remember is that additional investments in your BMW will be required regardless of which model you choose. As far as the 740i and 840ci are concerned, you'll need to invest huge amounts of credits (as you haven't done that already by purchasing them) to make them both fast and fun. I'm not even going to mention the 528i, that thing is a money pit right from the beginning. If you need something fast to clear tougher race events, the 328ci is your best bet. It can be modified with racing liveries and can support up to 473hp when fully tuned. Just have in mind that you'll be putting lots of stress on a car that wasn't built to cope against that much power and forces you'll be exposing it to. To conclude, I think it is possible to find something for your soul once you get used to limitations of the lineup. Beamers do have that kind of magic.