Never Meet Your Heroes

There's a saying that I've heard before: "Never meet your heroes." Well, now I know why.

One of the big benefits of working at a larger dealership is the ability to see and drive a lot of different makes and models of cars. I've driven everything that General Motors makes, as well as assorted Fords, Chryslers, a Lexus  IS300, Toyota Sequoia and Land Cruiser, Hondas...the list goes on.

I have a favorite car that we've taken in on trade. The guy who writes and coordinates our commercials traded in a 1999 BMW 740iL, in almost mint condition. I LOVED that car. Everything about it was perfect, except for the thermostat that went bad and cost the dealership $500(!) when we had to have it replaced at the nearby BMW dealership. We didn't have that one for very long before the owner sold it for close to wholesale price to his brother-in-law.

I've had a long-standing man-crush on BMW and their sport sedans. I drove a 2004 BMW 525i a couple years ago and absolutely loved it. The steering was perfect, the inline-six motor was peppy and eager to rev, and the drive was genuinely enjoyable.

Fast forward to today, when our health insurance representative decided to trade in his 2006 BMW 530xi (xi denoting all-wheel-drive) for a 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS. The Beemer is an absolutely stunning forest green, with saddle-brown leather interior. To get in this car is to know what money feels like when contained in an Italian leather wallet.


I snuck the keys away from the salesman who did the deal and hopped in. A cursory glance around the driver-centric cockpit revealed the level of precision and assorted Bavarian whiz-bangery that BMW stuffed into their car. It even had the BMW Comfort Access feature that allows you to insert the key-fob into a receptacle on the steering column (which turns on the accessory mode for the car) and a push-button start to start the motor. I started it up and maneuvered the German sedan into traffic.

Immediately, I felt the heavy steering of the car fighting my every input. A lot of modern premium sedans have a kind of "active steering" that will vary the amount of effort needed to change course depending on road conditions and vehicle speed, but the Beemer seemed to always need maximum steering effort. "That's fine, I said, BMWs are known for their heavy steering." I thought to myself. I accelerated up to speed, while trying to fiddle with the radio.


I don't know if you've ever driven a BMW with the first generation of iDrive, but the system is MADDENING. Simple things like changing the bass and treble of the radio become exercises in futility and frustration. You take the ability to make changes to your car's audio system for granted, but using iDrive makes everything more complicated.


After traveling for a bit, I decided to take the 530xi onto the highway, its natural habitat. Instantly, the BMW got up to cruising speed, the heavy steering doing its job and making sure that no unintentional inputs set the car off course. I enjoyed the utter silence of the interior, the throaty hum of the motor, and the comfort afforded by the thin but carefully sculpted seats. I got off the highway after a few miles, and took the 530xi through town on the way back to the dealership.

I pulled back into the lot. I felt confused, worried. How could it be that a drive in a vehicle that I held so dear could have me in a state of disarray? Did I enjoy the ride? Yes, of course. But something was missing. The BMW je nais se quoi was missing. I had met my hero, and I was disappointed.

Here's my point, if this post has one. People like to think that German and Japanese cars are so much better than what General Motors and Ford are putting out right now. I have to say, there's no way I would purchase a BMW 5-series knowing that I could get literally everything that's in the BMW on a Buick LaCrosse for $20,000 less. A LaCrosse, loaded to the gills, is about $40,000. This BMW 530xi stickered for about $55,000. When you compare the vehicles on price, there really is no comparison, and I think the Buick easily drives just as nice as the Beemer. I honestly don't see the point of spending so much more for a BMW. I honestly don't. Not when everything about the Beemer is more expensive, including maintenance and insurance.

Give me a Buick (or Cadillac) any day.

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