What Happened To German Cars?

Illustration for article titled What Happened To German Cars?

The mega gallery for the 2010 Mercedes E-Class, compared to the 1974 BMW 3.0 CS we posted this morning, creates quite the contrast. Frankly, it begs the question: what happened to German cars?


How did the ultimate driving machines turn into the ultimate snooze machines? Why did those smart Bavarian designers stop building exciting cruisers? Who is to blame? What is wrong in Germany?

We used to love German cars, and not just E30s and M Coupes. We liked B5 Audi A4s, and giant W123s. Whether slow or fast, a German car represented not just luxury, it represented understated design and competent-yet-thrilling driving.

The Germans built up a great legacy of wonderful cars and a reputation for excellence and then, instead of continuing it, they just traded on it. Rather than trying to one-up themselves, they took to slowly "improving" their cars until they became unrecognizable. With each new 3-series the cars get a little heavier, a little more refined, a little more unbearably boring. Remember the old E-Class? It was the model for luxury cars but, slowly, the cars became luxury bloaters.

There's a reason why we'd rather have a Cadillac CTS-V than an M5 or an M3. It's because the CTS-V is more exciting than anything Germany is putting out. The E39 was the model for the super sedan but now the Pontiac G8 GXP is the new E39. Pontiac is beating BMW at their own game. Listen, Germany, we still like you. You're not doing everything wrong, but stop trying to build the "best" 5-series and start trying to build the best luxury sedan.


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But you make a good point, and its the reason why when Pontiac is scaled back to more of a boutique brand of performance cars with understated-yet-handsome looks and competent-yet-thrilling driving, Pontiac truly will be the new BMW that was.

All they need to do is narrow-ize their twin kidney grilles, ala 2002.