Limited Edition

Was BMW Even Trying When It Made These 'Special Edition' Models?

A special edition car needs more than new paint, a new name and a higher price tag.

BMW certainly isn’t the only automaker out there guilty of slapping a new coat of paint on a car, raising its price tag, capping production and calling it a “special edition.” A lot of automakers do it, but it stings just a bit more when you see it from the Bavarians. BMW is certainly capable of doing much more to its special editions yet sometimes chooses the easy way out, eschewing added performance and exclusive interior bits for a new name and a claimed "rare" paint job. Here are five special edition BMWs that weren't all that special.

What exactly makes a special edition not so special? For starters, not bringing much new to the table. The i8 Protonic Red Edition featured Protonic Red paint with Frozen Gray metallic accents. Other exterior goodies include BMW W-spoke 470 light-alloy wheels painted in Orbit Grey metallic with aluminum matte hubs. The unique look is complemented inside with red stitching and carbon fiber accents. So, to recap: There is new paint, interior stitching to match and cool accents. So what exactly makes the i8 Protonic Red Edition special? It’s got to be the badging on the door sill. Yup, that’s it.

At the 2013 Detroit Auto Show BMW came packing some big reveals, including the M6 Gran Coupe and the 4 Series Coupe Concept. It also brought along the 1 Series Lifestyle Edition. This special edition came in three colors and the convertible version was offered with a brown top because that color springs to mind whenever someone is thinking of a rare car. While this 1 Series was the epitome of the phrase “nothing special” we will say that the wood trim on the inside and those unique 18-inch alloy wheels are quite nice.

The BMW i3 Shadow Sport Edition made history as the first i3 Americans could order with a sunroof. The fact that this was its most notable achievement shows you how not special this special edition really was. Yes, there was the exclusive “Fluid Black” paint and the sport-tuned suspension. But those things don’t do much for a car like this. Only 50 were available and each one cost $48,395, or $6,000 more than a standard i3. That’s not an awful price hike but the i3 Shadow Sport Edition was electric-only and could only run 81 miles per charge. For $6,000 more BMW could have thrown in the gas range extender!

Created in collaboration with ski company K2 Sports, the X1 Powder Ride Edition is actually a legitimate special edition. For starters, it came with a set of specially designed skis and a ski box. Buyers also got specially designed ski and snowboard bags. The exterior graphics are a bit much but at least BMW decided to do something unique instead of offering an obscure shade of paint and calling it a day. The reason why this special edition succeeds is because it is actually special. The skis it comes with can only be had by buying the car. The exterior graphics, while garish, don’t appear on any other X1. If BMW wants to say a car is a special edition without making it all that special then the X1 Powder Ride Edition should be its blueprint.

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