I know that Porsche and BMW can’t really be compared on any front. You definitely can’t compare them on their product range and not in terms of the number of cars sold every year. But, in my mind, there is a thread of thought that connects them very strongly. Managing change, divisive change. You see, both companies have long and rich histories, which like ballast in a ship, keeps them tracking smooth and straight in an ocean of jostling waves. But, at some point, doing things differently and doing different things becomes inevitable.
Now, Porsche has done it again and again. The Boxster, the Cayenne, the Panamera are some examples.
BMW too has led the way in a rapidly evolving world with new cars to meet the burgeoning demand. The changes have been brought in amongst considerable opposition from hardliners. The end of the world was predicted amidst the hue and cry. But, as Planet Earth keeps on spinning, I find the Porsche and BMW stories get more and more diverse.
The first car to step away from the BMW formula was the 5-series F10. The soft suspension and the insipid electric steering were clearly pandering to a world where the guy calling the shots was no longer behind the wheel. Fat, large and soft. Imagine describing a BMW that way before 2009. But, what surprised wasn’t the change as much as the extent of the change. Old BMWs like the 2002tii were fun to drive, yet softly sprung. A recent drive in an E46 showed that BMW has made cars that were good to drive and be sat in as well. So, why the drastic change? And when it comes to girth, even today’s BMW M5 and M6 feel fat and heavy. They are brutally fast and menacing; light and cheerful they certainly are not. Then there is the abundance of new models and a family look which is practically cloned onto all the different sizes of cars BMW makes. The altered DNA has changed the way I think about BMW. Sure, the fastidiousness to luxury, build quality and engineering remains unchanged. Only now, it feels the focus is more on moving more people down the road in an inoffensive Toyota-esque manner rather than making moving cars.
Which BMW would I have today? I would be glad to have the X3 and 3GT – not because they are exciting but, because they are sensible and comfortable choices. The only BMW that sends my heart pitter-pattering is the 6 Gran Coupe – which is absolutely epic to look at! Although, the task of getting me excited about BMW’s drivers’ cars rests on the futuristic i8. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Porsche. This German company has also moved well past its two-seat sportscar maker tag. The Cayenne SUV looks smart and drives incredibly well. A four-door Porsche was considered as normal as a FWD BMW. But, the Panamera has wowed on almost all counts. Personally, I dislike the way it looks but it is beautiful to drive. And now there is the small SUV, the Macan, and talk of a baby four-door Porsche. Am I looking forward to them? Yes, very much! Porsche has received flak for switching to an electric steering and for the new segments it has ventured into. But, when you drive any Porsche you can feel that Porsche-ness has only gotten sharper and purer. Sure, today's Porsches have also grown cuddly – less hairy, more accessible and comfier than ever before. But, because they haven’t lost their soul or their edge, mere machines they aren’t.