Guilty of the BMW Bias.

#BMW, #Camry

Okay, it just happened again. It happens quite often, actually. I, as a representative of the automotive media, have been accused of having a bias toward BMWs.

I started my email retort all defensive-like, but then I realized it was time for some self-examination and introspection. And now I’ll share that with you. But first, and here’s the most important part: it doesn’t matter what I like. It doesn’t matter what I don’t like. It’s my job to tell you, Automobile’s readers, what a car is like and whether it fulfills its intended purpose.

So in this month’s issue, I gave the 2012 Toyota Camry a glowing review. For all the crap that poor Camry gets, it’s an amazing car and no one (not even Hyundai, in my opinion) has equaled it. Do I yearn to own one? Not so much - the things that make the Camry so incredibly good are things that aren't really important to me. And it lacks most, if not all, of the things that make me fall so stupidly in love with a car that I buy one.

But my headline on the Camry story wasn’t: “This car sucks. Buy a BMW 3-series.” Okay, so I’d totally buy a 3-series. But Camry buyers don’t want a 3-series. They don’t want a subcompact, rear-drive sedan with high-performance tires that suck in the rain and snow. They don’t want big wheels and small sidewalls that make your (okay, my) body fat jiggle over rough roads. They don’t care about silky smooth straight-six music and aren’t, frankly, all that impressed by a clutch pedal that works with you so your passengers think you’re a hero.

Camry buyers want a quiet, smooth, reliable, comfortable, easy-to-use four-door with a big back seat and an even bigger trunk. And stupendous fuel economy. And they want a cut-rate, bargain-basement price. The Camry does all that, and it does it all well. So I gave it a glowing review.

Okay, so I’m not biased, right? Right. Ahem. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I can hear deputy editor Joe DeMatio’s voice in my head saying “Our resident German-car snob Jason Cammisa…” While it’s true that I’m at least partially responsible for the sale of two VW GTIs and a Jetta TDI Wagon this week alone, I want to point out that I’ve recommended the Acura TSX Wagon – a decidedly not German car – to more people than any other car. Acura, I’ll take my commission check in the form of a grey TSX wagon, please. Sigh – if only it worked that way.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I figured the best way for me to judge where my vehicular allegiances lie is to look back at the cars I’ve spent my hard-earned bucks on, how long I’ve owned them, and the number of miles I’ve put on them.

I’m ignoring cars that I bought and sold without putting a huge amount of miles on. Like my Mercedes 6.9, which I sold to my dad before I even got to know it. (He borrowed it from me when his car was in the shop, raced a Porsche 911, won, and called me saying he just had to have it. The apple doesn't fall far, you know...) So discounting all of those cars, here’s the list of my cars' badges, the cumulative time I’ve owned them, and total miles I put on them.

Brand # Cars Time # Miles
Volkswagen 3 17y 9m 95,597
BMW 5 17y 7m 71,731
Mercedes 2 5y 5m 31,669
Porsche 2 3y 2m 14,668
Toyota 1 3y 0m 62,100
Mazda 1 1y 6m 2,531

Okay, so at least I put my money where my mouth is. I’m not a German Car Snob, but it’s pretty obvious that I’m a German Car Owner. And although cumulatively, I’ve spent more time in my VWs, I’ve had more BMW titles than any other.

Drat. This doesn’t look good.

But wait, I said I make sure this bias doesn’t make it into my reviews. And I try to pitch features like “let’s pit every generation of Camry up against each other” – but they get shot down. If I pitch the same story about M3s, everyone gets all tingly. The fact of the matter is: for the things that are important to me, and other enthusiast drivers, BMW just makes the best cars.

For the BMW haters of the world, you’re in luck. That seems to be changing: other than the 1-series M Coupe and the aging 3-series, there isn’t a single BMW I want to buy. That wasn’t always the case.

Ten years ago, for example, I wanted every single Bimmer in the showroom. E46 3-series? DROOL. Just bought one for my mom last week, and it’s still an amazing car. E39 5-series? I owned two of them, one sedan, one wagon. Best cars ever built. E38 7-series? Still the best 7-series ever.  Z3? Yes, please—make mine an M Coupe with the insane S54 engine.  Z8? Sure, why not. And X5? I’ll take the 3.0-liter and a stick.

Today, I certainly don’t want a 5-series GT. Don’t want an X6, either. Don’t really want a 5-series sedan, which is perhaps the most disappointing. 7-series? Nah, I’ll take a Jag XJ. X5? Yeah, okay, sure, if I have to. X3? Well, okay, but I’d rather just have a 3-series wagon.

So there’s hope. Perhaps ten years from now, I’ll compile my list again, and it’ll look different. I’m frothing to own another 190E 2.3-16, so you’ll see the Mercedes number go up by one. And I can’t die until I personally understand the misery that is Italian Car Ownership, so you’ll probably see a Ferrari or an Alfa Romeo on the list.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll give in and buy a TSX Wagon. Damn, that car is good.


[caption id="attachment_11727" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="It's sure great looking, but the TSX wagon is even better to drive. I think it's Honda's best car in the U.S. right now."][/caption]

Brand # Cars Time # Miles
Volkswagen 3 17y 9m 95,597
BMW 5 17y 7m 71,731
Mercedes 2 5y 5m 31,669
Porsche 2 3y 2m 14,668
Toyota 1 3y 0m 62,100
Mazda 1 1y 6m 2,531
Chris Carter
I have sold a lot of German made automobiles, but never drive one personally other than a test drive. I guess I am just all about American made steel. Is that wrong of me? Am I truly missing the boat on a great driving experience? I very well may be. It's just a personal preference for me to buy American made cars.
Jason Cammisa
Sina: The Peugeot 405 Mi16 Collectible Classic story is in the October 2011 issue, which is on newsstands now! Hurry up, though, you only have about a week left! Marc: I tried. The rest of the office laughed at me. Christopher: Dude, seriously - you sold an Imola Red 740i Sport?! *smack*
Jason, I know you started off talking about your obsession for German cars (which I don't see a problem with), but I was thrown off by your liking of a particular Acura. I've never driven the Acura TSX Sport Wagon, and maybe I should... but there is just something that seems wrong about calling this a "sport" wagon when it's front wheel drive with a 4 cylinder engine and a manual trans isn't even offered... is it just me, or did I miss something? I really like the way it looks, but would I buy one without a manual? Uh, doubtful. And for the record, Jason, I love your brutally honest (unbiased) opinions about whatever you review... and the fact that I usually end up laughing out loud at some point. Always entertaining...
Agree! We just handed our 1997 318Ti down to our son and bought a 2004 Z4 3.0. I also own a 2008 Mazda RX-8 and we have a 1979 RX-7 we are restoring. the only toyota I ever owned was a 1980 Celica GT coupe. All manual trannies of course! Obviousley we care more about how a car drives than the qualities that make a lot of people buy toyota Camrys.
I'd love to see that every generation of Camry comparo. Bring it on!
"....Best cars ever built. E38 7-series? Still the best 7-series ever. " ---- I couldn't agree with you more, Jason!!!! My Imola Red 740i SPORT was the BEST Vehicle I've EVER owned....THE PERFECT AUTOMOBILE!!!!

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