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Archive for the ‘BMW’ Category

Surprisingly different – BMW 218D GT

In BMW on November 8, 2017 at 12:17 am

M4 2 GTThree hundred miles today in an Auto BMW 218D M Sport Grand Tourer.

Firstly well done Chandlers who were top notch when selling me my smaller 225xe Active Tourer, and equally good at 22,000 miles for my first service.

Today in heavy traffic, then heavy rain I had a 300 mile round trip to Bristol and Gloucestershire.

I’m not sure what my expectations were, but this is a remarkably different proposition to my 2 series.

Let’s run through the differences.

The most obvious? The size. My Active Tourer seats 5, the Grand Tourer seats 7.

What’s more the guys in the middle row have more legroom. My car and this both have the sports seats, with plenty of adjustment.  Mine seem harder, although there should be no difference.

Sat navAlthough both vehicles are of a virtually identical age this has no sat nav within the instrument binnacle, so a phone call wipes out any graphic indicator of one’s route.

The controls on the chunkier steering wheel are less easy to use. Today’s loan car came with a flappy paddles gearbox.

I tried them briefly, but this is more Monster Truck than sports car, and not what I’d consider useful.

Mine’s a “Luxury” and this is an M Sport.  What does that mean?

The blue car here has wider profile tyres, and a at slower speeds a less settled ride.

My 225xe is 4WD, petrol power up front (136 bhp) and up to 82 bhp battery power to the rear, the 218d has a 4 cylinder 2 litre 150 bhp diesel unit powering the front wheels alone.

You’d imagine this big blue machine would be lethargic, but in practice there’s plenty of shove.  Once on the move it’s more relaxing than my daily driver.

Which brings out another difference. Occasionally my rear wheels scrabble on our gravel track when I pull onto a busy road, but other than that it’s always well behaved.

The 2GT is nowhere near as refined on wet greasy road surfaces if you stamp on the loud pedal.  Attempt a quick get away in the wet and there are severe knocking sensations from the front end.

Once at 70 mph on the motorway the bigger car generally feels more secure, but once the roads were saturated the wide tyres seemed to aquaplane too easily.

Economy? Over 46 mpg on my hybrid, and only 41 mpg for the oil burning 218D auto, I was really surprised.

Bottom line.  Is the 218D Grand Tourer any good?

Absolutely. Although I’d rather have a sun roof than half the fancy M Sport features.  The screen on this one kept misting up.

One other unexpected bonus for the diesel, it was even quieter than my 3 cylinder petrol Active Tourer.  The only time the hybrid is less vocal being when the Active Tourer is in battery mode.

 

 

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Stick or Twist?

In BMW, Renault on July 22, 2017 at 5:42 pm

BMW 125 JULY 17In the last 9 years we’ve had six BMW’s. Four have been very good, one indifferent, and one hugely disappointing.

The 125 M Sport has been with us for 4 years now, and it might be time to change.  There’s 43,000 miles on the clock, and thus far it’s been reliable.

Chopping it in may not seem logical, but we’re at the stage where it has started to cost money.   A new tyre recently set us back more than £200.

Both the front and rear bumpers have suffered buffs and bashes whilst the car has been parked. If we want to “stay together” we’d probably need an expensive warranty.

Do we stick with it for another year? Buy another new shape 1 series, or try something completely different?

The former would be quite costly, but a trade in and a moderate cash outlay could see us in something with a lengthy warranty.

I’ve ruled out the Yaris, but today we were pleasantly surprised by a Twingo GT.

There are only 10 available on Autotrader, most are bright orange.

 

 

Orange

But we drove the white demonstrator.

White

Which features orange detailing.

FLANK

We arrived at Masters Beckenham with fairly low expectations, but the proof would be in the pudding.

Perhaps we might be surprised?

So we each took took a turn behind the wheel.

Dash

Travelling with the salesman meant that one of us ended up in the claustrophobic rear.

ClaustrophobiaThe seats remind me of those in our old Renault 12 TS, which also look like giant tomb stones.

Roz found them quite comfortable, but I’d say the seats in the seventies saloon were more supportive.

So how did it go?

Surprisingly well!  There is no auto option on this Twingo, despite the fact it’s cousin the Brabus Smart has no manual option.

Neither of us have had a manual car for years, but it wasn’t an issue.  Indeed the tactile metal gear knob, with a  very direct shift was a joy to “stir”.

In the back the turbocharged three cylinder gave off a delightful throbbing hum, encouraging upshifts.

When it was my turn I acclimatised myself with the radio (pretty good), Sat Nav (adequate) and rear parking camera (such fun).

Then I was off.

I liked it!

It felt like I was stepping back into an analogue world, my own hybrid car feels “remote” by comparison.

The cost to change is virtually nothing.

Should we stick or twist?

5 seats and a prestige badge v 4 seats in a French Box

We’ll sleep on it!

A tight turning circle, better economy, cheaper insurance v more of the same?

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

Supercharged

In BMW on April 25, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Supercharged

Fifty three days ago I picked up a new car.

I’ve had turbocharged, and twin turbocharged cars, but never thought I’d be the custodian of a hybrid.

My little BMW 225xe Luxury Active Tourer has revolutionised my motoring, and it just keeps getting better.

Studio 16

From enquiry to installation it has taken over 2 months to get a fast charger installed in our garage.

I’m no longer playing with a 3 pin plug, and waiting 4 or 5 hours to get 18 miles of renewable energy.

roof

I’ve also beginning to understand the best driving techniques for optimum range.  Initially I conserved battery life “just in case I needed full power”.

My policy of saving electric charge until the end of each day with the intention of exhausting it on the final 13-18 miles of my journey home proved ineffective.

I’d often exceed the projected range and “miss out” on up to 8 miles of whisper quiet motoring.

Using all my powers of observation, and anticipation, and keeping off motorways has seen me harvest several extra miles onto my range.

Once I delighted in high speed dashes across the west country, but now I get my kicks at a more modest pace, and feel pity for the raucous sounds made by “boy racers”.

The diminutive petrol/electric vehicle is averaging 46.2 mpg and my average speed has dropped to 34 mph.

Over 107,000 miles my 320D did 53.1 mpg (using diesel) whilst averaging over 37 mph.

Filling up with motion lotion every 600 + miles was great, but the new outfit has “maxed out” at 372 miles in the early weeks of our acquaintance.

I’m sure I’ll top 400 miles on one fill up soon, as I adopt a more subtle approach with the pedals.

It’s seems strange, but after more than 4600 miles I feel I’ve barely unlocked the secrets of this machine.

Two new discoveries were made today.  Stuck in traffic on the M25 I was able to use the iDrive to look up a potential customer on the internet!

A sign written was in the outside lane, and now have a good lead to follow up when I’m back in the office.

Then on my way back from a trip to Worthing I thought I’d check out the “fuel app”.

IMG_3728

The iDrive app gave me a list of the fuel stations within  20 mile range, putting the cheapest at the top of my search.

AWESOME!

The Joy of Specs

In BMW on March 13, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Brand Spanking NEW

Just over a week ago I picked up a remarkable vehicle.

Okay, so you might say “It’s remarkably ugly”and you’d be right, but wait a minute.

Underneath the ugly duckling there’s a swan!

Thanks to the naughty boys at VW the tide has turned against smelly diesels, and the company has kindly let me buy a petrol engined car.

That tiny engine would normal nestle under the nose of a Mini, and pump out 136 bhp.  Surely that’s enough for someone clocking up 36,000 miles a year?

Mini Engine

No it isn’t! What I really wanted was a car with a spacious boot, and a bit of get up and go.

This particular BMW 2 Series Active Tourer has a raft of batteries under the back seat. Once charged these power the rear wheels leaving the diminutive engine to power the front axle.FRONT Ambient

If you like fiddling with switches the BMW 225xe Luxury Active Tourer will serve up 4WD, sprint faster than Linford Christie, or sparingly sip fuel from the 6 gallon tank.

Yes, this is our first Hybrid, and only the second long-term 4WD machine on the Biggs fleet.

You’d imagine I’ve ended up with a leaden people carrier more suited to a busty Mum than a busy executive.

Actually despite only the briefest of test drives several months back I’m delighted with what’s perhaps the most “niche” car within the BMW range.

Why are less than 300 of these are registered onto the UK roads in a typical year? Presumably because the 3 Series Hybrid looks the bees knees.

My particular example is a “mid-range” model, but has a raft of extras, as I specced it up with a host of extras.

Namely, Mineral Grey Metallic paint, Oyster Leather interior, Comfort Access, LED Headlights, Heated Steering Wheel, panoramic glass sunroof, upgraded Stereo, Sports Seats, and a few other things I can’t remember.

And a few aftermarket bits which have yet to arrive.

After 10 full days and over 1000 miles I’m loving it.

Good Bits.

Excellent Ride

Good Turning Circle

Silent Running for at least 20 miles each day

Comfy Seats

Fresh Air option

Weather on my Sat Nav maps!

Incredibly efficient re-routing when the “LIVE” Sat Nav spots hold ups

Plenty of oddments cubby holes

Restful Ambient Lighting

Transition between power sources is smooth and virtually undetectable

I’ll soon see my company car/fuel tax liability is about to drop by two thirds

Extraordinary how quickly a full charge can be re-generated on “SAVE” mode

It’s a joy to “manage” the harvesting of kinetic energy

Using the electric motor to power the machine beyond the predicted range.

Disappointing Stuff

“Wavy Foot” opening/closing tailgate feature (it tried to decapitate me occasionally)

Hazard warning device is not a patch on the equivalent Volvo systems – Missing real hazards whilst beeping if I’m stuck behind a bus in rush hour traffic

Battery weight makes the car ponderous on tight bends

Standard home charge cable is barely long enough

Total range on a full tank/charge half that of a 320D

Numb steering feel

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Driving Machine?

In BMW on March 10, 2017 at 8:36 am

BMW 3 Series.

The definitive small executive car?

Take it from me, the 3 series is not necessarily the Ultimate Driving Machine.

Even the legendary 2 litre diesel doth not guarantee your 320 will be fun to drive.

In the last 6 weeks I’ve said goodbye to my plodding 320 D Efficient Dynamics Touring Auto.

I don’t miss it one bit.

The lack of driver involvement was simply shocking.In over 107,000 miles it never once felt happy going around a bend.

Over 53 mpg through the life of the car with a nigh on 700 mile range was good, but speccing my 3 series to achieve a low tax bill?  That was a big mistake.

Whilst it was satisfying driving to some far flung spot like Swindon and getting 66 mpg on an empty motorway, it was never fun.

Change the alloys, add a manual gearbox and then your 320 ED should be fun?  Er, no. Sombre black leather and a clutch pedal transformed a dull car into a horrid one!

Six hours after I was given the keys a nice man from BMW came and took it away.  What a relief.

Instead I was given a 7000 mile 320d M Sport saloon.  It was so good I even considered how I might juggle our finances, with the 125 M Sport and hang onto it after my new Hybrid company car arrived.

We all know that M Sport cars crash through all the potholes with all the subtly of a bull in a china shop.  Except the old cliches no longer apply.

This eager beaver (beemer) was quite capable on the winter ravaged roads of Sussex.

The professional Sat Nav was way better than a Business version in my 2014 car. The extra 25 horse power made forward progress a pleasure.

Sports Seats felt more comfortable, and playing with the throttle/suspension set up heightened the driving experience.

Eventually my new company car arrived, but in the interim I’d covered 4000 miles in this bright red M Sport Auto.

A rear view parking camera, flappy paddles gear box, and go faster red made it a true BMW.

Can my next BMW get anywhere near the age old BMW strap line?

Watch this space to find out.

2016 BMW 320D Touring E D Sport

In BMW, Uncategorized on January 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm

dunelm

Here it is, the 2016 BMW 320 D Efficient Dynamics, which was given to me on a  one month loan yesterday morning.

It certainly looks prettier than my dowdy 2014 320 Touring which has left my stable with over 107,000 miles on the clock.

The diamond cut alloys look the bees knees, and inside the car featured the Sports Seats that I skipped on my last company car.

inside

So what has two and a half years of development done to the venerable rep mobile?

The back end now has a different auto boot release switch (I never did discover why mine had two buttons and only one function), and the inside sported  slightly more detailed “Business” sat nav read-out.

Theoretically I should have thought the manual gearbox would serve up a greater sense of driver involvement, but in truth I found the stick shift better than the “launch edition” I tried several years back.

The old 320 notchiness has gone, but in truth any high mileage driver like me isn’t going to enjoy tooling around the South East with an extra pedal to push every few minutes.

Having settled into the “new” car I was surprised to get an urgent phone call.

My one month tenure was curtailed before the end of the day, BMW Head Office wanted this particular machine back.

I wondered what I’d get instead.

surprisingly good hybrid

In BMW on October 2, 2016 at 9:28 am

2-series-frontIn a few months time my 3 Series lease will be over, and I’ve started looking for an alternative.

One of my customers has pointed out that there are massive tax advantages for those of us who can choose a hybrid BMW.

So right I toying with a car that looks ugly next to a Zafira, but sweet against a diesel 3 series Touring.

Okay, it looks darned ugly but I’d be saving around £250 a month in tax with something like this so in my eyes it’s started to look quite sweet!

inside

Here’s the inside, which is pretty much the same colour scheme as as my current car.  However the inside benefits from a raft of improvements introduced in the last few years.

The best of these is a VAG style direction indicator between the rev counter and the speedo. Those of you used to seeing the central screen blank out when the phone rings will appreciate the fact your not left guessing which way to go at the next junction.

This “luxury version” here had lovely sculpted seas which seemed much better than ones I’m used to. Other than that the other fancy gadget is a controller which gives three options with the hybrid’s electric motor.

I’m intrigued by the various on line reports on this car, which either commend it as a “driver’s car’ or suggest it’s rather numb.  To me it seemed surprisingly good for a vehicle weighing in at over 1700kg.

The best bit though is the surreal experience of whizzing along in virtual silence as the 1500cc petrol engine makes no contribution to forward movement.

Then as your speed increases, or an incline gets in the way there’s a seamless integration as the little Mini engine chimes in.  I honestly wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been watching the rev counter hit 2000 revs.

Later on my test drive as the battery depleted a heavy right foot brought out a lovely three cylinder thrum, and a gentle chime from the dashboard as the 70 mph speed warning reminded me to slow down.

That’s a nice touch, as modern cars are so quiet it’s easy to be running a bit quicker than planned.

side-on

Looking at this side view it’s pretty clear this particular BMW takes up less space than the rather long 3 series. It also seemed a tad narrower, which makes the boot a better shape, but some 20% smaller than I’m used to.

cable

In addition there’s that thick recharging lead getting in the way of your work clobber.

There are few questions hanging before I choose this car.

  1. How economical is this alleged 148 mpg in the real world?
  2. Can I replicate the 60 mpg I got on Friday?
  3. Will the boss really let me walk away from the default diesel power unit?
  4. Can I readjust my work strategy to cope with less space in the back?

I’ll let you know when I’ve decided?

 

Surreal Tesla

In BMW on April 20, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Sleek TeslaAfter several months waiting my CEO has finally ditched his BMW.

Here’s his new “baby”.

The all American Tesla Model S.

My experience of American cars has been severely limited.

The old home brew mass market machine I’ve sampled was a gutless 2007 Pontiac G6.  It looked great, but most of the 240 horses allegedly under the bonnet seemed strangely absent.

So what about this new “Start Up” company’s first mainstream model?

Well let’s look at the company credentials.

They started with a subtly re-egineered uglified Lotus Elise based electric roadster.

That’s the one which kept failing on the Top Gear test track.

The one that hardly sold at all.

Around about the same time the drop dead gorgeous Fisker Karma was appearing on European roads.

Was the world ready for a milk float inspired Norfolk spin off?

No, it wasn’t.

The Tesla Roadster was quite good, but only suited show offs who needed an open topped two seater for the city.

So the omens are good for today’s road test.

Let’s start with the understated exterior.

Unlike the latest 3 and 4 series BMWs there are no unnecessary frills.

TBH it looks quite attractive.

And how about the interior?

Dashing Tesla

The giant i-Pad style console immediately grabs your attention, and a moment later you notice the seventies style formica woo-effect dash inlay.

The former looks great, the latter is incredibly out of place in this Guzzillion £ car.

So two seats didn’t cut the mustard, and Tesla have learnt their lesson.

The model S is a full 5 seater, with the option of two rearward facing kids seats in the boot.

Lift the hatch, and their’s plenty of room for a lanky dog, and a coiled up blue lead.

Tesla BIG BOOT

Presumably the “motor’s” up front?

Let’s check.

Tesla - under the bonnet

Wrong?

It looks like an oversize Porsche Boxster boot.

Somewhere there must be an engine?

Well, not really.  Just an electric motor, that gives this 2 wheel drive version a range of 400 kilometres.

How does it compare with a Renault Zoe?

I knew you weren’t thinking that, but that was my one and only EV experience.

That gave adequate performance in a Clio sized package.

The Tesla is (presumably) hindered by a huge 5 series sized body shell, and must make pretty slow progress.

Er, no.

It has monumental performance even in this base model.

This particular model hits 0-60 mph (or 0-100kph) in under 5 seconds.

That’s BMW 135 M Sport territory.

Whilst my ! series sounded awesome when I buried my right foot to the floor this machine emits nothing more than a little tyre roar.

Okay it tops out at 130 mph, but how often can you go that fast anyway?

Er, never.  Unless you live in Germany, or own your own race track.

This car is so good i came away wanting to jack in my job, and start up a new business.

The shove in the back when the throttle is depressed, the iPad controls and good looks really sucked me in.

There are issues, my CEO doesn’t like the task of plugging in every time he roles up for work,

However he does enjoy the low running costs and fabulous tech features.

My turn behind the wheel next time, I can’t wait!

Orac no plate

Snap

In BMW on March 16, 2015 at 10:14 pm

120 D M sport 5 DoorHere’s my latest steer.

It’s a 120D M Sport auto in Estoril Blue.

If I were to open the garage door you’d find an almost identical BMW inside.

2 Series

Ours is a 2013 BMW 125i M Sport with a petrol engine.

What’s particularly fascinating about these two cars is that despite the outward appearance they drive totally differently.

Whilst we have a flash set of alloys just like these they’re our Summer tyres, and not currently in use.

Thus logic would suggest our 125 should have the smoother ride, as the wheels are inch smaller and there’s a lot more rubber in the sidewalls.

WRONG.

Even on these rubber band Pirellis the 120D is far more cosseting over bumps and potholes.

Then there’s the power delivery.

With ample torque this thing just gets up and goes without any histrionics.  Our petrol posts better figures than this oil burner, but sounds far more frantic in the process.

Seats? Ours has heated leather. This one has unheated cloth.

The cloth ones look smarter.

Other differences concern the iDrive controls, the DAB radio has prettier graphics (but loses a signal far more frequently than our 320 or 125).

The steering wheel is a new design, better than my 3 Series standard issue, but not as sweet to hold as our 2013 M Sport.

I still love the Estoril Blue, but neither this nor our 125 has Xenon lights.  The cross country blast tonight would have been better if I could have seen more clearly.

All things considered the 2014 model year 120 D M Sport is a much better car than our 2013 125 M Sport, but the loan car makes do without flappy paddles, which is one option I’d miss if this was mine.

My verdict – 120D M Sport 5 Door – 9 out of 10

Blue two

Toodle Pip, happy motoring to you all.

ending in blue

Sport? Pull the other one!

In BMW on February 23, 2015 at 10:36 pm

116i sportIt’s a while since I got to drive anything interesting, but today’s loan car certainly ticked that box.

My 3 series still isn’t feeling that well after it was rear-ended last year, so I’ve been loaned a BMW 116 “Sport” for two days.

It’s curious that word “Sport”.

What does it mean?

As I drove away from East Surrey Hospital (picking up a carer) I watched an injured 20 something hobble into casualty.

I guess Sport is something healthy people do en route to various injuries.

In an automotive context “Sport” it translates to “sedate, but with subtle ornamentation”.

My particular chariot looks splendid in metallic Black, and my wife really liked the wheels.

“Easy to clean” was the view of a girl who drive an “M Sport” on a daily basis.

But how much sport does a bog standard “Sport” deliver?

Not much.

The 1.6 litre pumps out a rumoured 136 horses, though they aren’t easily roused.

On paper this car is level pegging with my old 2005 Honda Civic Type S.  The 0-60 mph and top speed are virtually identical at 8.5 seconds, and 130 mph tops.

In truth the unit doesn’t sing like a V-Tec, and simply doesn’t seem to spin into life.

On a positive note this one is turning in 34 mpg (my Honda used get 30-32 mpg) and the controls feedback plenty of info.

This one seems to “Sport” a faux leather steering wheel, which twists and turns over uneven camber. However I have enjoyed swapping cogs manually, whilst observing the gear shift indicators that promote economy.

In our home we have leather clad sports seats in the 125, and leather clad “normal” seats in my 3 series.

The red striped black cloth Sports seats seem better than the above.  I also like the piano black glossy trims, and red detailing in the dashboard.

cockpit 116Sitting outside the hospital I was amazed at how much kit a standard car has bolted on.  The drivers manual can be viewed on the information screen (see pic), and the keys are “Smart” so Mr & mrs can have their own heating and radio settings automatically.

Nifty!

Checking out all the salient facts I see this example would set you back about £21,000, but I’ve no doubt a bit of haggling would see this drop by about £2000, either that or you’d be able to scrounge a “Business Class” sat nav.

My Verdict: 8 out of 10.

In many ways this machine offers more than the mid range 125 M Sport.  It isn’t really trying to be a Focus RS, but it is a smart, desirable hatch that I’d be happy to live with for a year.

What I want, what I really, really want though is a 135 M Sport 5 door with active suspension, and Xenon lights.

Now that one’s worth 10 out of 10.

One day?

I hope so.