Photo credit BMW

No, I’ve never driven a BMW 2002 Turbo. It’s still on a the bucket list. I have driven a few BMW 2002s ranging from “eternal project car” to “absolute deathtrap,” but all were magical in their own way. As the automaker celebrates 100 years in business, what’s your story with one of BMW’s cars?

There’s a lot you can say about modern BMW, with its massive proliferation of crossovers and weird niche vehicles, or how its most storied performance models aren’t unquestionably at the top of the food chain the way they used to be.

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But you have to say this about BMW too: throughout the company’s history, it has made far more good cars than bad, far more fun cars than boring ones, and has established a motorsports legacy that few can match. That is not something you can say about every automaker.

BMW, for the most part, has done good. It’s still an independent automaker, tiny in comparison to rivals like Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen’s Audi, but it still manages to crank out amazing enthusiast cars like the M2 and brilliant forward-thinking rolling experiments like the i8. BMW backs up its talk better than most, even in the era of chunky crossovers with names like math equations.

I feel like every enthusiast has a BMW story. I have many. My parents’ first-generation X5, probably the nicest car they ever bought themselves, was one of the first cars I drove alone. I have fond memories of rowing through the gears in the E46 M3 convertible my father bought later on. I tried my hand at racing an E30 last year (it ended badly.) I experienced D.C.’s rush hour traffic in a new and visceral way once in a modified 1602 owned by a good friend. And my wife and I are now on our second Mini Cooper, and those are BMWs these days, which is a bizarre outcome when you consider the histories of both brands—it’s like living in an alternate history where the Germans won the war.

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But I think my favorite BMW experience was the time Jason Torchinsky and I drove a 228i with a manual halfway across the country, from Texas to Los Angeles. As you might expect, he’s a first-rate road trip companion, an adventurer of the highest class. And the small but potent 2 Series, with its great six-speed, brought out the best drivers in both of us.

(There were also some on-ramp shenanigans the Border Patrol wasn’t too happy about; that’s a story for another day.)

As it moves into its second century, BMW is going hard on autonomous driving and electrification, even as it tries to appease its still-sizable enthusiast base and remain true to the tagline of being the Ultimate Driving Machine. Can it meet both goals?

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As long as BMW keeps cranking out fun cars too, I won’t complain too much.

What’s your BMW story?


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.