Facing financial doom with an expensive and not very popular line of premium models produced in the ’50s, BMW was forced to think fast and find a product that could sell with significant profit. The BMW motorcycles were always popular with European buyers and management believed this was a good direction. In the post-war years, most customers could only dream of owning a proper car so there were plenty of micro-car companies which sold small and inexpensive models (via Hemmings).
One of those companies was Italy’s Iso, which produced the tiny Isetta. BMW liked the product, bought the license, thoroughly re-engineered the car, and installed its motorcycle engine. The original BMW Isetta was introduced in 1955, first with a 250 cc engine and later with bigger 300 and 600 cc engines. Even though the Isetta sold well and helped cars BMW produced stay afloat, it was nothing more than a motorcycle with a cabin far, from what BMW wanted their cars to be.
After the war, BMW wanted to attack Mercedes in the luxury car class and introduced 501 and 502 Sedans. Those cars were powerful cruisers nicknamed “Baroque Angel” for their looks and swopping fender curves. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell well, and the company lost money. In an attempt to gain wealthy customers, BMW introduced the 502, a luxury hand-made two-door coupe/convertible with an aluminum V8 engine and a high price tag (via Supercars).
Needless to say, BMW’s reputation wasn’t strong during the 1950s. The 502 Coupe, despite looking fantastic, was a failure with only a few hundred made. Today, it is one of the rarest and most sought-after cars BMW ever made, but in the ’50s, it was a costly mistake. Also, the all-aluminum V8 wasn’t reliable as Mercedes’ straight-six.
The idea behind the BMW 318ti was pretty straightforward, and it should’ve worked, but somehow didn’t. In 1995, BMW introduced its E36 3-Series Compact model to US buyers in an attempt to present a premium compact car that was perfect for an emerging market. The 318ti had all classic BMW features, design, and performance, but somehow it sold far less than anyone expected. Ultimately, US buyers didn’t even consider buying this version of the 3-Series.
The sedan, coupe, and convertible proved to be far more popular. The 318ti was on the market for just a couple of years, selling around 10.000 examples in total. We believe that it has something to do with the rear-end design since it looked a bit strange compared to the rest of the 3-Series lineup (via BMWBlog).
We are sure that we would get crucified for this claim, but the legendary E30 M3 is kind of a flop. Yes, it is one of the most successful racing cars ever made, and it is highly sought-after by collectors, but at the end of the day, BMW lost money on them. It was a fantastic competition model but it failed as a road car (via Road and Track).
The reason was the S14 engine, which was powerful for the times (and for being a four-cylinder). But it was too fragile, problematic, and unreliable. It wasn’t as fast as people thought it was and maintenance bills were enormous. If you compare it to its biggest rival, the Mercedes 190 2.3 16V, you can see that BMW failed by only managing to sell 17,000 examples while Mercedes sold three times as much. Learning a lesson due to the E30 M3, BMW changed the philosophy with subsequent M3 models and sales were much better.
This wasn’t a replacement for the aging 6 Series coupe; this was a brand-new model conceived as the best Gran Turismo coupe in the world. The design and platform were brand new as well as the engines and 8 Series featured a V8 and brand even advanced V12 engines (via Motor1).
The car was filled with advanced technical solutions, electronic systems, top-of-the-line hardware, luxury details, and the finest leather. Even though those things were considered advantages by BMW, they turned into a nightmare since the cars were unreliable and heavy and performance wasn’t so convincing. Production lasted until 1999 and only around 30,000 were made.
BMW was quite busy in early 2000 when it came to racing. Formula One, GT championship, and ETCC series were all dominated by BMW racing teams. However, for the Touring car championship, BMW needed a homologation special and that is how the E90 320 SI came to be. It looked like any other E92 sedan from the outside, but under the hood, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine was a true racing gem (via Collecting Cars).
Even though it sounded cool, the 320 Si repeated the same mistake as E30 M3 – putting a racing engine into a road car. To start, BMW Germany never produced this engine, and the N54B20S was assembled in the UK by a specialized engine shop that made Formula One engines. It means that this engine was hand-built from the finest and most advanced materials, but this didn’t help the reliability. Interestingly, the N54B20S came without BMW’s signature Valvetronic system since it limited the rev capacity of the unit. The result was 175 HP with 147 lb.-ft of torque which was pathetic. BMW made only 2,600 cars, and almost all suffered fatal engine failure at some point.
BMW’s intentions on building clean vehicles are well-known throughout the industry, but nobody expected the i3. It is a small hybrid or fully electric car with a high price tag and very advanced technology. It is definitely not what a BMW enthusiast wants, but it is necessary in the modern world (via Autocar).
Somehow it is popular in urban areas, although it is pricy and has a limited range. However, due to the lack of any true BMW characteristics, ugly design, lack of performance, and driving dynamics, it should be considered one of the worst cars BMW ever produced and a proper disgrace in the eyes of any true BMW enthusiast.
When BMW introduced the 1-Series model in the early 2000s, fans were very intrigued. All of a sudden, there was a smaller, cheaper BMW but with all signature features like precision steering and a RWD chassis. Even though most models were fantastic to drive, some were downright disappointing (via BMW Blog).
One of them was 116d, an entry-level model powered by a small, four-cylinder diesel unit. With just 114 HP on tap, this model was painfully slow to drive and lacked any real excitement or feel. Even though it sold reasonably well in Europe, it wasn’t what BMW fans wanted.
The E30 3-Series has a reputation for being one of the definitive BMW models. Rightfully so as this is an extraordinarily successful and important model for the company. However, not all E30s are fast despite their excellent handling and high-revving driver’s cars. One of them is quite the opposite.
The 325 E was introduced in 1984, and E stood for “Economy.” Under the hood was a 2.7-liter straight-six with low compression, red line at just over 4,000 rpm, and just 120 hp. The car was pretty disappointing since it didn’t have any of the straight-six performance customers wanted (via E30Zone).
The BMW 7 Series was always considered a prestigious luxury sedan filled with power and comfort. However, the 2002 to 2008 model was dangerously close to ruining its reputation since it was notoriously prone to braking, electrical failure, and engine problems (Via BMW Blog).
The E65 generation had a specific and controversial design. Also, it was often called ugly. However, BMW is filled with the latest technology, electric systems, and numerous innovative features. This is the reason why it was problematic, and customers reported many problems. If you are offered a 2002 to 2008 model, walk away from the deal.
When E90 M3 debuted, enthusiasts raved about the glorious new V8 engine but complained about weight gain, that made the car feel less agile. BMW answered the criticism with a unique, costly, and highly limited model called M3 CRT. The “CRT” stands for “Carbon Racing Technology” and represents the M3 Sedan with a fully carbon body, seats, interior, and other pieces (via Motor1).
Although the effort to reduce weight was extensive, the result was just 70 kilograms less than the regular model, which was disappointing. However, BMW did install a 4.4-liter V8 engine from M3 GTS with 450 HP, which provides M3 CRT with very strong performance. Produced in just 67 examples in 2011, today, you’ll need around $300,000 to buy one, and we believe this car definitely isn’t worth the asking price.
It might be hard to comprehend, but BMW doesn’t offer all of its models on the US market. Apart from the 1-Series hatchback, BMW has one more interesting model which would surprise American enthusiasts. That is the 2-Series Active Tourer, a minivan with front-wheel drive (via Car Buyer).
In America, BMW sells the 2-Series as a compact two-door model with classic BMW design and technical cues, rear-wheel drive. But in Europe, there is the Active Tourer, a minivan version with totally different mechanics and purposes. Active Tourer is a disgraceful use of the BMW nameplate and a painful topic for all BMW enthusiasts; built on the Mini platform and features FWD technology.
We know that X6 sold in significant numbers and made a lot of money for the company. But we also know that such an “SUV Coupe” form is an insult to all traditional BMW design values. The BMW X6 was introduced in 2008 and based on the successful X5 platform but with different styling, lower roofline, and rear end.
The design changes limited the headroom and practicality, not to mention ruined the X5’s good-looking aesthetics. Some say that X6 looks like a frog, and it is often driven by people who are clearly not a BMW faithful. Regardless of how many they sell, the X6 will always have a place on the list of the worst cars ever from Bavaria (via Top Speed).
As a company that always was at the forefront of automotive technology, BMW didn’t miss out on the electric car revolution. There are several electric cars on sale at the moment, but we feel that all of them are not as good as they could be. The iX is a perfect example of this claim.
It’s a big, heavy all-electric SUV with strange styling, a massive 111 kWh battery pack, and substantial range. BMW claims almost 400 miles on a single charge, but the actual figure could be less. However, despite being very advanced and pretty fast, the iX is also eye-watering expensive at almost $90,000 for the entry-level model. Also, it isn’t anything like BMWs enthusiasts love and want to drive (via BMW USA).
The 328d 3-Series from 2012 to 2018 was a perfect sedan on paper. It was powered by a 2.0-liter diesel engine with 180 hp and 300 lb.-ft of torque. It had an eight-speed automatic and impressive fuel consumption figures. Offered on the American market, it looked like BMW will finally manage to get its customers hooked on oil-burners (via Auto Evolution).
Unfortunately, despite the excellent spec sheet, reliability was terrible. The N47 engine developed numerous problems with timing chains, oil pumps, injectors, and EGR valves which meant that the 3-Series diesel wasn’t there to save you money but to bleed you dry every time you visit the dealership.
BMW owns the Mini brand, and since the early 2000s, it has been very successful in reviving it and expanding its range. Most Mini models are well-designed and executed cars; however, one flop left enthusiasts scratching their heads – the Mini Cooper SE. This compact EV comes with a 32.6 kWh battery pack, front-wheel-drive, and power output of 181 hp, suggesting lively performance (via Mini USA).
But with 7 seconds 0 to 60 mph time and just 110 miles of range (in a real-world, even less), the Mini Cooper SE was a disappointment, and BMW didn’t sell many of them. With a base price of almost $30,000 when it was released, it was the cheapest EV in America, but it wasn’t a great value for the money.
We’re still unclear what BMW had in their minds when they created the 5-Series Gran Turismo model. This, third body style for the 5-Series, was not only completely unnecessary but also downright ugly. It looks like regular 5-series had swallowed an elephant. The higher roofline and rear hatch door definitely didn’t help the aesthetics (via Auto Express).
As expected, the sales of this model were terrible. People just didn’t find it attractive or more practical than the sedan (or wagon). BMW stubbornly introduced the 3-Series with the same feature but since has retired both models and moved on.
In the early ’60s, BMW experienced incredible growth due to the enormous success of the “Neue Klasse” models. The company needed bigger production facilities and decided to buy struggling German independent brand Glas and absorb its models in the BMW lineup (via Silodrome).
The result was BMW-Glas 3000 V8 coupe introduced in the late ’60s, which was basically a Glas design but with BMW mechanics and badge. The car was expensive and sold in limited numbers, never managing to fulfill its potential. In those days, the idea of a premium GT BMW model with a V8 engine was ludicrous. Customers just weren’t ready to pay a high price for BMW.
Built from 1992 to 1999, the E36 M3 featured a newly designed six-cylinder plant. Earlier models had a 3.0-liter engine with 291 hp, but from 1995 until the end of production, the bigger 3.2-liter with 321 hp was installed. Unfortunately, in America, the E36 M3s had only 240 hp due to emissions regulations which crippled the otherwise pretty powerful BMW engine (via Road and Track).
Even though the lack of power didn’t affect performance that much, US-spec models had somewhat problematic interiors, which proved very fragile. The car sold in sufficient numbers, but customers felt a bit shortchanged.
We all know that compact SUVs are one of the best-selling car classes and that all car companies want a piece of the action. BMW has a pretty extensive SUV lineup, which in 2008 became richer for X1, the smallest member of the family. However, the X1 is not a genuine BMW and, besides the design, hasn’t got any fundamental BMW features (via Motor Trend).
Underneath the body lies the Mini Countryman platform with longitudinally positioned engines powering the front wheels. Also, since it is not a genuine BMW, the early models haven’t got an X-Drive all-wheel-drive system. The standard models are front-wheel-drive, which is heresy for BMW.
Back in the mid-1970s, BMW thought that it would be appropriate to enter the exclusive sports car market. Basically, BMW needed a halo car, but the company didn’t have experience and turned to Lamborghini. At first, it looked like the deal was a good idea, but Lamborghini didn’t deliver on time, so BMW disbanded the partnership and finished the project by itself. In 1978, the BMW M1 debuted (via BMWM).
The heart of this sports car was BMW’s famous M88 six-cylinder engine with 3.5-liters of displacement. It had advanced fuel injection, and 273 HP, which was a pretty high number for the standards of the day. However, the customers were unimpressed, although the car was good-looking and fast. In three years, BMW made just over 450 cars. Calling M1 one of the worst cars BMW has ever made is a bit of a stretch. However, the financial hit, and embarrassment this model caused to the brand cannot be ignored.
Today, BMW sells most models with diesel engines, especially in Europe. The diesel technology proved an ideal match in most cases. The oil-burners can never have the same sound or feel as the thoroughbred six-cylinder engine. However, the start of BMW’s diesel offensive was very modest and in the form of 324d. It was one of the worst cars this company ever produced (via BMW Guide).
Introduced in 1985, the six-cylinder diesel was significantly underpowered (86 HP), slow and heavy. It was complicated and not very reliable. It turned the light and nimble E30 3-Series into a terrible driving car. Some buyers found it appealing but soon regreted the choice.