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The Simple Reason Why Mazda No Longer Benchmarks BMW

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Talk to anyone at Mazda and it’s clear that they love cars, driving, and everything related to automobiles. This is especially true in the engineering and benchmarking side of things. 

During an event last month at Mazda’s R&D facility in Irvine, California, AutoGuide.com was paired with an engineer who was tasked with telling us all about the upcoming SkyActiv-X compression ignition engine technology. When asked about other projects he works on, he explained that he does a lot of benchmarking, meaning that the company will take various competitor products and see how Mazdas compare to them.

ALSO SEE: SkyActiv-X is Mazda’s Secret Weapon for Fuel Economy

In the past, the engineer explained that Mazda frequently held BMW as a benchmark — the German automaker is supposed to be famous for building Ultimate Driving Machines, cars that are engaging, fun to drive, and focus on the driver. It’s fair to say that Mazda has a similar philosophy for its cars. The products from the Japanese automaker always impress by their engaging driving dynamics and how they handle.

But as many car enthusiasts will tell you, things have changed, and BMW seems to no longer prioritize driving joy. The German automaker is often criticized for the way it approaches steering feel, engine and exhaust noise, and weight these days. Simply put, the cars tend to feel artificial, which really robs them of any engaging feel. There’s not much connecting the driver to the car in today’s BMWs, and they’re not that much fun or engaging anymore.

Apparently, Mazda has noticed this and is no longer using BMWs as a benchmark. You’ll never guess what automaker and car Mazda is smitten with now: the Toyota Camry.

Now riding on a new architecture, the Toyota Camry is unquestionably sharper and more engaging to drive than it ever was (and it was always known for having an uninspired drive).

The Mazda engineer was really concerned, stating, “If the Camry sold so well before when it was so boring to drive, they now actually have a good handling car on their hands!”

It says that a lot that Mazda, an automaker that makes brilliant cars, is concerned about the Toyota Camry and not a BMW.

While we’re sure Toyota will be happy to hear that it’s impressing its rivals, we wonder if BMW will ever get back to being the benchmark.

Discuss this article on our Mazda Forum

11 Comments

Fuckyouthatsmyname says:

What a stupid article.
“BMW seems to no longer prioritize driving joy. The German automaker is often criticized for the way it approaches steering feel, engine and exhaust noise, and weight these days.” Hang on a second! Oh what about for example, I don’t know, all fucking M cars? M2, M3/4, M5, M6, upcoming Z4 and the upcoming M8. Is this a copy paste article or is it an ad for the Camry?!

Benjamin Hunting says:

It’s not stupid. I was there when the Mazda engineer said the exact quotes featured in this article. I’m not sure how many M cars you’ve driven recently, but aside from the M2, their electric steering isn’t a benchmark for anything.

Kevin Wright says:

Is doing driving a new BMW that bad? I have been in a few audi’s and they had that numb boring feel to them. But BMWs I thought stil had that driver first formula?

Benjamin Hunting says:

It’s not ‘bad,’ but BMW has skewed much closer to the luxury/comfort side of the spectrum over the last 10 years.

disqus_8YchtRit8p says:

Owned a ’74 3.0 CSA, pretty damned luxurious. Even the Koreans are pursuing luxury/comfort.

disqus_8YchtRit8p says:

It is p.r. b.s. Toyota & Mazda are literally invested in one another, they purchased 50 billion yen of each other’s shares & are opening a U.S. factory together for $1.6 billion. Since Mazda do not have a single model that directly competes with BMW, why would the Germans ever be their benchmark?

Benjamin Hunting says:

Really not following you here – why wouldn’t an automaker benchmark another automaker that was seen as a leader in a certain area of vehicle development, in this case dynamics?

Would it surprise you to know that during the development of the WRX and WRX STI, the Porsche Cayman was a development target for certain dynamics?

As an engineer, you aim for the best, regardless of whether you’re in the same consumer space. You then try to execute using the resources and financial restraints associated with your segment.

I also fail to see how Toyota comes into this at all. And, if you’re not seeing criticisms of BMW’s vehicle dynamics, well, then I’d suggest broadening the scope of what you’re reading.

Christopher Burrell says:

Mazda engineers have readily admitted for years that they benchmark all their direct competition, but also go beyond that and bench mark luxury brands as well…deceptive article because I highly doubt that Mazda engineers are now using the Camry as the pinnacle of their benchmarks because from all the reviews I’ve read of the new Camry, improvements they made to the suspension and handling now only put its on par with the other cars in the segment where as it lagged behind with the old platform…Mazda is still considered the best in class for handling and fun to drive factor, so I doubt they view the Camry as the end all be all for handling performance.

getoffme says:

People in this market do not just look for a nice handling appliance. And that is why the Camry excels.

Jonny_Vancouver says:

I also wonder if BMW will ever get back to what they were especially with the little time automakers have left to build great driving cars. I think back in the day they felt like they had something to prove like many automakers did, and it showed, but now it seems like they’ve been focusing more on building cars for people who care more about comfort than driving dynamics. With the exception of the M2 and new Supra twin, I guess it’s good they haven’t abandoned sport mode entirely, but it’s all a moot point in the long run. When autonomous driving becomes mainstream, it’ll be all about the comfort.

Martin Power says:

Im swapping my 2013 BMW for a top spec Mazda 3 Sport..Gettin it next week 🙂 BMW was very disappointing compared to my old 525 many years ago.