The news almost got lost in the cascade of upgrades BMW released.
The race for the crown of the hottest-selling luxury automaker is as hot as ever with the leaders, BMW and Mercedes, ending 2018 with only 4,000 sales separating the two from a tie. And while both automakers are churning out incredibly compelling cars at an unbelievable rate just to stay ahead of one another, BMW wants to make sure that it claims the Mercedes’ crown this year. To do so, it’s rolling out what can be considered a light "freshening” of 11 of its models, in addition to the inclusion of new features like BMW Drive Recorder, which lets drivers record the view outside their vehicles during high-performance driving or in the unfortunate event of a crash.
And while recording hot laps and long drifts would liven up any track day in the updated M550i xDrive - especially since it’s just been given the 8 Series’ engine - Drive Recorder isn’t available on the 5 Series. Only the 3 Series sedan, 7 Series sedan, 8 Series, X5, and X7 get the new technology. In place of that, both the M550i and M550d get BMW’s Laserlight technology, while the 530e PHEV now comes with available all-wheel drive.
The 3 Series’ lineup will also be updated, with three all-wheel-drive variants and a plug-in hybrid model being added to the line-up along with an "ultra-sporty representative with a straight-six engine” coming July 2019. xDrive will become more broadly available across the 3 Series lineup, and the M340i will get a new inline-six engine that makes 374 horsepower to go with its now-standard M Sport differential. M Sport suspension and adaptive M suspension will also become an option across the rest of the lineup.
At the same time, the X2 will get LED headlights and foglight as standard after July 2019, while the specs sheet will inflate to accommodate five new wheel designs along with new upholstery options. Even the navigation screens will grow to 8.8-inches in models with the Navigation option and to 10.25 inches for cars with Navigation Plus. The go-fast X2 M35i isn’t excluded either since it now gets M Sport brakes as standard.
BMW’s other SUVs also get some love, with the X3 and X4 getting M Sport seats and trim strips as options, and the X5 and X7 getting new interior trim and exterior colors, with the former of the two getting optional 21-inch M Sport wheels. On the fun end of things are the Z4 and M4 coupe and convertible. The former car sees its entry-level version, the Z4 sDrive20i, get a six-speed manual gearbox, and the latter two M cars now receive the M Competition package as standard.
PHEV models also benefit from new battery cell technology as well as from the inclusion of an acoustic pedestrian protection system that sounds audible alerts to warn people nearby that a plug-in hybrid BMW is rolling around with its engine off.
In our eyes, the most exciting upgrade is the new six-speed manual in the Z4 sDrive20i. The reason? Because the Z4 shares its platform, an engine, and many components with the (currently) automatic-only Toyota GR Supra. If BMW has a stick shift that's ready to go in the Z4, it wouldn't be a stretch to see it migrate to the Supra before too long. If you want that to happen, then the job is on you. Be an activist and call your local Toyota dealership to demand a manual Supra. Just be sure to actually buy it if and when it hits the market.