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Here's Why I Hate BMW Turn Signals

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

I recently posted a column about the BMW M2, a little sports car I found to be perfect in very nearly every way except for two. First, the fact that it was owned by a guy named Jeff and not by me. And second, the turn signals.

You can see me complain about the M2's turn signals if you watch my video review of the car. Just as I start to drive it, right before I begin to heap lavish praise on it as if I'm some neatly trimmed model in a BMW advertisement, I say something to the effect of, "I hate BMW turn signals with every fiber of my being." There's also a part a little later, which I edited out, where I ask Jeff if he would be willing to trade his BMW for my 11-year-old Range Rover.

A few people saw this and asked why I hate BMW turn signals, and I've decided to clarify the whole situation with the following explanation: because they're idiotic.

For those of you who want a slightly more in-depth explanation, allow me to explain how BMW turn signals work. When you push the signal stalk to make a turn, such as when you're going to be sitting in a turn lane waiting for a green arrow, they can be pushed like a normal turn signal -- but then they pop back into the neutral position. So now, the turn signal's on, but the signal stalk is sitting in the neutral position.

When you want a shorter flash of the turn signal, such as when you want to make a lane change, you push down the signal stalk a little less severely -- and it activates the "lane-changer" feature, where the signal blinks a few times and then turns off. Once again, the stalk returns to the neutral position.

The result: When the turn signal stalk is in the neutral position, it can be doing one of three things: It can be completely off, it can be using the lane-changer, or it can be using the full turn signal. And there's absolutely no tactile way to know which is which.

This alone is infuriating -- but it gets worse. If you have the signal on (with the stalk in the neutral position), how do you turn it off? In a normal car, you turn off the left signal by moving the stalk upwards to the neutral position. But in a BMW, the stalk is already in the neutral position. So your left signal is on, you push the stalk upwards to turn off the signal, and -- guess what? -- now the right turn signal is on. In fact, the way to turn off the signal is to push the signal stalk back in the same direction you pushed it originally.

Now, all this stuff is tremendously inconsequential, simple and idiotic, for the reason that it only takes about 2 weeks in a BMW before you've completely mastered all this and will never complain about it again. And I get that.

But here's my question: Turn signals have worked the same way for decades, and they've been totally fine. Why fix something that absolutely, certainly, unquestionably isn't broken? And maybe more importantly, why fix it with something that's counterintuitive?

Or perhaps most importantly of all, in a world where cars are getting more complicated and advanced by the day, why make your TURN SIGNALS have a learning curve? Seriously, people have to master iDrive, parking cameras, iPod connectivity, BMW ConnectedDrive, blind spot monitoring systems, seat controls and endless menu screens. Why not just make the turn signals easy?

This, I suspect, is something I'll never get an answer to. I also suspect it's something BMW has completely committed to, so they'll never change it -- and that means every time I climb into a modern BMW, I'll always have a hint of unadulterated fury when I reach for the turn signals.

Fortunately, at the very least, I can rant about it here.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Here's Why I Hate BMW Turn Signals - Autotrader