2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: A Better Hood Latch
March 21, 2014
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.
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