A $45,000 BMW Doesn't Come With Leather: How Is This Acceptable?

Editorial

If you put too many options on a 3 Series, you will be paying M3 money.

Last week, we talked about how Ferrari wants you to spend thousands of dollars to option up its already pricey sports cars. We questioned why when you were already paying well over $200,000 on a car, that a company could possibly charge over $100,000 just for options. As pointed out in the comments, people who can afford a Ferrari can probably splurge on options without a second thought. But what if you're not uber-rich and you just want a nice car from a nice manufacturer, like BMW? Does a company like BMW charge too much for options?

For this analysis, we decided to start with a 2016 340i which has a base price of $48,795 after destination and handling. You can raise the price by going with an X drive model or the hideous Gran Turismo, but the regular 340i sedan is the one we would buy. Just for fun, we decided to see how far we could balloon that sub-$50,000 base price. After looking at the standard features on the 340i, we noticed that a few really key features were missing on a car that costs almost $50,000. BMW charges you $1,950 for navigation, $2,750 for the M Sport Package, and $1,450 for real leather seats. That's right, on a $50,000 car you have to pay extra to sit in actual leather. Not the fake stuff you see in a Jetta.

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We decided to load a 3 Series to the brim with options just to see how high it would go. After a few silly options like $575 for window shades and $2,095 for a two-year maintenance plan, we got the price of a 340i up to $64,195. That is a difference of more than $15,000. You may think, "why would anyone put all of those options on a 340i when they could just buy an M3?" Don't worry, because we thought of that. Interestingly enough, when you start to configure an M3 on BMW's website, BMW takes the liberty of adding a few things that it thinks you might want. Yas Marina Blue paint costs $550, extended leather costs $950, but luckily that rare six-speed manual costs absolutely nothing. The DCT is an extra $2,900.

We took the liberty of removing these "BMW-approved" options to build the cheapest M3. Oddly enough, only one color that doesn't cost extra is Alpine White. Why not just make all of the colors standard and raise the price by $550? You can also order quite a rare option on a car at this price in the form of a Cloth/Leather combination carbon structure in Anthracite Black. This cloth interior is actually quite nice, and has become a rare option for M3s for many years now. With these options deleted, our optioned M3 costs $64,495 with destination and handling. That is just $300 more than our insanely optioned 340i. So what will you be missing out on in the M3 if you go for the stripped out model?

The M3 is actually a nicer equipped car that the regular 3 Series. You do, for instance, get navigation as standard. You can pay $5,500 for the competition package, $1,900 for the lighting pack, and $3,500 for the package that comes with the heads up display and a backup camera. While the M3 is better, it still makes us wonder why BMW doesn't give some of these things as standard. On a car that costs over $60,000, why should we pay extra for a backup camera? Without going all-out on options, we did build a nice Estoril Blue, manual 340i, and our total came out to $56,695. That is still almost $8,000 in options. Cars have become more expensive, this is just a fact of life. But we still aren't happy about it.

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