A Better Hood Latch - 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo Long-Term Road Test

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo Long-Term Road Test

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: A Better Hood Latch

March 21, 2014

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

The way to open a car's hood hasn't changed much in years. The last big innovation came decades ago when inside releases were introduced to prevent "unauthorized individuals" from opening the hood and making off with, say, the battery.

Since then the opening process has been a predictable two-step affair with a secondary catch that must be groped-for under the popped-up edge of the hood before it can be lifted fully. Some are easy to find and manipulate, others aren't. There is no standard placement, even within the design studios of a single automaker.

This secondary catch is a required safety feature that prevents an improperly-closed hood from flying up against the windshield once a car gets underway and the rush of air builds to a point where it can lift steel (or aluminum as the case may be.)

What BMW has done is so obvious that we must all give ourselves a face-palm of monumental proportions. It's just a hood latch, and we can all recall incidents when we couldn't find the safety release without some probing and swearing. Why didn't we think of this?

Here they've got this new-fangled inside handle that, wait for it, you pull twice. That's what the "2x" is telling us. The first pull undoes the primary latch and the second one releases the safety catch. After that you simply walk to the front of the car and lift the hood.

No more fiddling around is required in unseen places where grime tends to collect, where hidden sharp edges sometimes lurk.

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

Nothing has changed with respect to the safety latch. It still stands guard in the event you drive off without fully closing the hood. And the inside handle isn't really new, either.

The key element in the system is instead a clever hood latch mechanism that has two catches that release in turn with consecutive pulls on the same cable via the same handle.

I'm not sure how long this has been out there. It seems to be new as of this latest generation of 3 Series. I'm fairly certain our last-generation 3 Series long-term test car didn't have anything like this.

Whenever it started, BMW is spreading it throughout their lineup. I noticed the same setup on the soon-to-be-released 2014 Mini Cooper when I test-drove one in Puerto Rico some weeks ago, and I think it was among the interesting features to be found on the new 2014 BMW i3 electric car I test-drove last fall in Amsterdam.

Of course, I don't personally open every hood of every car that comes through our doors for testing. I may have missed an earlier appearance. Have any of you seen it on other cars?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,251 miles


  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    Forgive me but this seems like a terrible idea. Yes, it provides protection for when the hood is not fully closed. But it doesn't provide any protection against an accidental release while driving. Yes, this happens. People have borrowed my car in the past and I find that they have released the hood while trying to figure out which lever opens the fuel tank door or the parking brake release or whatever they were doing. I don't know. But I do know that the more typical design requires you to pull a lever and then walk around to the front of the (presumably) stopped car to release the secondary latch. Yes, this annoying and it gets your hands dirty and for a few seconds you don't look like you know what you're doing. But it does prevent the driver from inadvertently opening the hood while driving or before driving.

  • 7driver 7driver Posts:

    Put the hinges at the front instead of at the windshield. Simple. Done.

  • vvk vvk Posts:

    Legacygt, it is a German car, so there is no lever to open the fuel door or the trunk. There is no way any one can confuse this.

  • "Legacygt, it is a German car, so there is no lever to open the fuel door or the trunk. There is no way any one can confuse this." - - I think his post involved people that weren't familiar with the car: "People have borrowed my car in the past" - - So I could see how they might think there is a handle for the fuel door, unless you gave them a thorough tour of the car before handing the keys off.

  • I can see where this would be very handy since nobody ever standardized where the second release is for the hood so it always ends up in a search of squeezing your hand between the hood and the car or into the grill area. But at the same time I have to agree with Legacygt a bit that the two part release isn't just to keep it from opening if not shut all the way it is also to keep it from accidentally being opened while driving. - - That we likely have drivers out on the road that would pull the lever twice while moving is a sad statement on the mental abilities of drivers. And if they pull it twice while parked for whatever reason and don't notice that the hood has popped up then they probably shouldn't be driving.

  • shindig4 shindig4 Posts:

    I liked the hood latch on my old 1988 Mercedes 300E -- pull the inside latch, and then an exterior release popped out of the front grille. It kept your hands clean and safe, and there was no guesswork about where the secondary release was located. It also had hood hinges that could be released to allow the hood to stand up vertically, which made DIY maintenance much easier.

  • notfast notfast Posts:

    Is that an M logo on the dead pedal? I can remember the day when people would badge their own cars with fake badges... now, BMW does it at the factory. Posers.

  • nomercy346 nomercy346 Posts:

    I was surprised as well when I popped the hood on my folks F30, what happens if you pull it twice and forget about it, though? Pretty sure it's gonna fly open next time you hit hwy speeds... Maybe there is some built in feature that closes the secondary latch as soon as you put it back in drive but I seriously doubt it, it's all mechanical. Or just lowering the hood to the point where it's still ajar? Does it catch the latch like a normal car in that case, at least?

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    I have never owned a car that didn't have the secondary release lever physically under the hood. But of course, no two secondary releases have been identical. The lack of standardization is frustrating.

  • nomercy346 nomercy346 Posts:

    @notfast yeah, m badges on a non m car are a huge fail IMO @zimtheinvader happened to me a couple times that I drove off with the hood not fully latched after working on the car... You don't really notice it until you get to around 50mph (on my car)

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Come on guys, I see all kinds of comments about the system not being 100% dummy proof: What happens if I forget that I opened it and then get on the highway? What happens if someone who is not used to my car randomly pulls at all the levers without looking at what they do? So on, and so forth. This is going to come across as a little strong, I apologize, but it seems rather asinine. We're not children, we should be able to think about what we're doing and the possible consequences. When we screw up, like opening our hood, forgetting about it, and then having it fly open on the highway; we should realize that we made a really stupid mistake. Blaming BMW for not having a system that makes you open the hood multiple ways before you can access your engine seems, well, childish. Why don't most automakers trust us to work on our own cars anymore? Why do we have unbeatable TC systems? Has no one else noticed that when our entire world is soft and safe, that it also becomes smothered and boring...

  • bimmerjay bimmerjay Posts:

    If the hood is not fully latched and you drive away you get a very obvious gonging and "Hood open!" warning on the instrument panel, heads-up display and center infotainment screen. These "Hood open" messages also gong and display in the instrument panel when the car is off and you open the driver's door. If someone is indeed stupid enough to reach down under the dash *while driving* and give this fairly stiff lever - which is located where hood pulls usually are - TWO distinct pulls, after which the first one will surely sound the audible and visual warnings, then they probably deserve to win a Darwin award after the hood flies up. I haven't tried it of course, but there may even be a lockout protection that prevents the first or second pull when the car is moving.

  • Good point Bimmerjay. I think it's a great idea. However it shows one of the differences between companies. BMW engineered a much better way to get to the engine for repairs (really, everybody should do this). Lexus, on the other hand, covered the entire engine compartment in plastic except for fluid fills. Guess they figured the hood would only be opened a couple of times a year at most.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    Funny how the debate turns into whether or not cars should have safety features. The issue here is the hood latch release which, even BMW, believes requires measures to prevent accidental release. To me it just doesn't seem like a very good one. The same way a driver might accidentally pull the release once, they could do the same thing twice. ("What does this thing do? Oh, nothing? Let me try it again.") @bimmerjay: That is interesting about the alarms and warnings but can't you see someone thinking, "pulling that lever set off all these alarms, I better pull it again to turn off the alarms"? It is annoying to need to pull the release and then walk around the front of the car and find the latch. But it is safe. The system on this BMW seems to acknowledge that the lever can be mistakenly pulled once but not twice. Maybe these would be mistakes made by a driver who really didn't know what they were doing. Maybe they're not hanging around the Edmunds comments section but I can assure you that there are many BMW drivers who don't know what they're doing.

  • ocramidajzj ocramidajzj Posts:

    Compared to my previous Mazdas, which used a vertical hook that needed to be actuated horizontally, My VW R has a simple flap that is right where you would expect it to be- dead center of the hood- which releases the safety latch. Unlike my Mazda which requires a little hortizontal fumbling and transfer of dirt from the edge of the hood to my hand, the VW is a quick and clean motion. Yet another "intangible" just like the gas charged struts that raise and support the hood, that enhances the pride of ownership. I used to be pro Japanese, now I'm finding the German way of over-engineering, isn't really over-engineering- simply doing it right the first time without cutting corners. FWIW I also like the inside latch release of my VW, which is similar to the BMW. Again compared to the cheap-feeling flap on my Japanese cars, this lever is easier to feel for. IMO

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Thanks, bimmerjay...but it sounds to me as though that information should have been in the original post. When writing an informative post such as this one about a vehicle, before hitting "publish," it's a good idea to stop and think...what is the absolute next question 90% of readers are going to have as a followup...and provide the answer in the same post.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    quadricycle & bimmerjay - Shame on you two. Safety ALWAYS comes first. Where I work someone recently got injured because he was looking for a quicker way of doing things. He disabled machine interlocks and rigged a two-hand control to be operated with just one hand. Then his thumb got torn off. The point is that people do ridiculously unsafe things, intentionally or unintentionally, that they think are going to make their lives easier. Even BMW drivers.

  • ocramidajzj ocramidajzj Posts:

    greenpony: I understand what you're saying but I strongly believe social Darwinism applies after a certain point. This sort of thinking is what drives manufacturers to create nanny-ridden cars that leave no thinking to the driver and therefore removes any accountability. Safety is important but where do we draw the line. I for one want my kids to understand that they ARE responsible for their actions. Effectively giving drivers plausible deniability because the car's nannies didn't do the right thing is ridiculous and only dumbs down society further. I would say shame on you for having such a unaccountable view. :-)

  • boff_ boff_ Posts:

    I can't believe a few Edmunds commenters think something is a hazard that a phalanx of BMW lawyers have signed off on. Please.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    So I would say that these comments have converged into two distinct thoughts: One, that BMW designed a poor system because a driver is going to look down at a lever with a picture of a car bonnet on it and pull it twice, decisively, reasonably thinking that this will turn the headlights on. Or, two, that this driver needs to develop some critical thinking skills/graduate from the third grade, and that BMW cannot be expected to cater to the errors of this kind of driver. I think that greenpony's anecdote is a good one. No matter how many safety systems are implemented, some markedly foolish individual decided to bypass safety systems and ignore the correct operating procedures. This will always happen. We're human, and we make bad decisions consistently. Here's the only that can be controlled at greenpony's workplace (metaphorically, a BMW 3 Series): They can decide where on the safety vs productivity spectrum they want to, or can, reasonably operate. Safety is extremely important but like everything, results diminish, at the cost of productivity. This is the part where we have the different opinions. Here's mine: At that workplace, oversight could have been better, but the guy clearly went out of his way to bypass safety. There's only so much you can do to stop that. I'd cover his medical bills (at least in part), but terminate him. On this BMW, the manufacturer went far enough to make sure the hood wouldn't open at speed, the owner assumes the rest of the burden (we are, after all, legally mandated to be able to operate and maintain our vehicles such that they are compliant with the law). Your opinion may vary.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    This doesn't have to be a debate about personal responsibility. It would seem that BMW agrees that a safety latch is required and it should take two steps to open the hood. Where they differ is in their belief that having those two steps be pulls of the same lever while the more typical approach is to have one step be the lever pull inside the car and the other step be releasing the latch at the front of the hood. To me this BMW system doesn't really offer much greater safety than having a single pull. Yes, it is safer but not that much. And does it offer that much more convenience? Really? Unless you're working with someone else and are really lazy, you're going to have to get out of the car and walk around to the front eventually anyway. You're also going to have touch the underside of the hood to open it and probably touch some other dirty bits soon thereafter. So all they're saving is the time to find that latch release under the hood. To me that savings isn't all that great and not worth the increase possibility having the hood unsecured at speed. The question isn't whether or not carmakers should care about safety or whether hoods should require dual release. The question is whether BMW's dual release system makes sense and I don't think it does.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    If some idiot double-pulls the hood release lever while driving, say, a Ford Focus, the secondary catch will prevent the hood from fying back into his windshield. If that same idiot double-pulls the hood release while driving this BMW, there is nothing to prevent the hood from slamming into his windshield. That reduction in visibility may cause a collision with an innocent motorist or pedestrian, potentially causing them harm. All because BMW didn't consider that idiots might (and actually do) drive their cars. . . . . . . . . . . . . I'm with legacygt when he writes "you're going to have to get out of the car and walk around to the front eventually anyway". Right? If you're a rreasonable person, the only circumstance you would intentionally pull the hood release is to open the hood. While means you're going to have to get out of the car and lift up the hood anyway. Having the secondary release inside the car only allows idiots a way to circumvent the whole purpose of a secondary release.

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