In the mid-90s, just prior to getting my license, I remember the feeling I used to get when I would see someone driving an M car. I used to think two things: 1) That guy’s probably got some serious money and 2) That guy really must like to drive.
M was, and still is, my favorite vehicle sub-brand — the “M” standing for Motorsport, BMW’s internal skunk works. Earlier M cars, like those in the mid to late ‘90s, had mild body kits, unique colors and wheels, and breathed-on, normally aspirated “S” engines producing more power than the run-of-the-mill engines (though not prodigious power like today’s turbocharged units). The cars were classy and discreet but had that extra pop that made you look twice (if you’re a car nerd, anyway).
Seeing that M badge on the deck lid was exciting; call it “attainable exoticism.” They weren’t “McLaren rare,” but they were still somewhat exclusive.
While BMWs true M cars probably make up a fraction of its total sales, the M badge seems to be making its way onto more … stuff. The company seems to have launched an entire line of M accessories, dubbed “M Performance,” for many of its cars. The line includes everything from M-badged rocker panels, to floor mats, to dashboard liners.
An M-badged dashboard cover? Really? What’s Motorsport about a dashboard cover?
The accessories also include M Performance black grilles, M Performance asymmetrical stripes that span the length of the vehicle (which are kind of cool looking, especially on an Alpine White car), and probably the most sacrilegious of the offerings, an M Performance automatic shift knob. To be fair, there are some M Performance parts that would actually add “performance” to a BMW owner’s car
There’s no denying that the M badge, with its red, blue and purple stripes, is exciting, but I’m not sure I would dilute it by affixing it to … an automatic shift knob in an entry-level 3-Series.
It’s not just BMW that’s overusing single letters of the alphabet. Audi, for several years has been slapping the “S” on several of its non-S vehicles, calling them “S-Line.” The same goes for Lexus and the letter “F.” Though the company only currently sells one real F car according to its website — the previous generation IS F — it sells what it calls “F Sport” variants of each of its models, including the Camry-based RX SUV.
Yeah, these accessories, whether they read “M,” “S,” “AMG,” or “F,” really enhance the look of otherwise vanilla cars … but I think they take away from the allure of real M, S, AMG and F cars. It’s like a thinly veiled attempt at bringing prestige to the masses.
“Yeah, I couldn’t swing the M3, but check out this nifty ‘M’ racing stripe on my 320!”
Let’s keep the really powerful letters on the powerful cars; they shouldn’t be fashion accessories.