Are You a Poser or a Purist?
By Robert Farago
At the risk of getting flattened by my friend Mary’s fire-breathing Subaru WRX Sti, I reckon image is the most important factor influencing GLBT car buyers. And why not? Today’s automobiles are more reliable than Portia de Rossi’s hair color. While pistonheads get themselves into a lather over torque and structural rigidity; and eco-warriors obsess about tailpipe emissions and hydrangea– I mean hybrid power; the majority of us choose a car simply to suit our image/social status, knowing it won’t leave us high and dry (pity). So why not a BMW 325i?
About six years ago, a dishy US car designer named Chris Bangle convinced BMW’s strait-laced family owners to get down with their bad selves. When critics clocked the effect of Bangle’s work– a bizarre farrago of lines, shapes and indentations inflicted upon the company’s ultra-conservative designs– they nearly spat beer out their noses. And yet, the art school American was allowed to inflict his “flame surfacing” on Bimmer’s entire line-up. By the time he got to the 3-Series, they’d somehow managed to dial Mr. B back a bit. But not enough.
The BMW 3-Series was the Ralph Lauren polo shirt of the car world: elegant, unpretentious, versatile, comfortable and durable. The 3’s classic lines and perfect proportions were suffused with the kind of anti-style style that told the world that its drivers’ didn’t need to pose or preen (even if they liked to do so). The fact that the model was by far the best-built, best-handling car in its class underpinned its low-key aesthetic appeal. For GLBT buyers, driving a 3-Series insulated them from questions about fashionability– even as it elevated them on the social scale.
Well, you can kiss that image goodbye. The 325i now looks like a Japanese car. Those angry Pokemon eyes, those odd creases, the tiny-looking wheels– it all adds up to an automobile that’s surrendered itself to the thrill of the new. What’s more, the hard-abs build quality that used to provide 3-Series drivers with subconscious satisfaction has disappeared in an orgy of cost-cutting. It’s as if Giorgio Armani decided to make a cheaper, knock-off brand. Oh wait, he did…
Deep breath everyone. All is not lost. More specifically, the 3-Series still drives like a dream. It may look like an accidental Oriental, the headliner might be made of mouse fur, but the car goes like Chardonnay at a gallery opening and handles like a box fresh Braun shaver. Even better, the $30,300 base-spec, 325i is the best of breed. Without Bimmer’s distracting iDrive controller or abominable active steering, drivers are free to concentrate on the fundamentals. And it’s fun to be mental in this mean machine, slicing through the gears, tear-assing around town. It’s still one of the best driver’s cars made. Unfortunately, and ironically, BMW is not gay friendly. Think about that the next time you see an HRC sticker next to the spinning propeller.
So, are you a poser or a purist? If image is all, the 3’s lamentable modernity frees you to consider sharper alternatives from a gay-friendly manufacturer. If you’re a driver who doesn’t care about ethics or aesthetics, blacktop nirvana awaits.
BMW is a gay-friendly company.
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