I mention in my profile that I get to travel around the country for work a fair bit, and I often hire a car to do it. These days, I don’t have a company vehicle, but it’s swings and roundabouts; I don’t get taxed on a company car, and hiring one I sometimes get a gem of a car that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to drive.
This week, I needed a car, and as usual ordered the standard Vauxhall/Opel Insignia from the company’s preferred supplier Enterprise. I ordered in the morning, and by lunchtime a car was delivered. Seemed I had an upgrade, as I was presented with a new, white BMW 330d M Sport Touring.
I’ve always had a certain view of BMW drivers and Beemers have never really floated my boat, although I have driven a few on short runs and thought they were nice to drive. Anyway, a couple of weeks back, I was told my hire car would be upgraded to a ‘premium’ model, and was delivered a BMW 320d. I actually found it lovely to drive, and with a fantastic in car system for Sat Nav, Bluetooth devices and nice easy iPod connections with excellent integration.
So on Wednesday I was quite pleased to see another BMW on the drive. On closer inspection I saw it was the 330d M Sport model, which was a surprise. I’ve never driven a car with such a large engine for any length of time, and the first thing I did was start it up and listen to the motor. Nothing like a 6 cylinder motor rumbling away (unless you hear an Audi RS 4‘s 4.2L V8 roaring away in the lane next to you!).
The 330d though looked amazing, and was really well equipped, and was the automatic model, complete with flappy paddles on the steering wheel. The interia was dark, with black leather upholstery, black trim with silver flashes and a black roof liner. I would have preferred a lighter more airy interia, but once I was on the road I didn’t think about that at all.
The 3 series is a low car, and for me (with a dodgy right leg) was bit of struggle to get out of. But once in, I found the seats extremely comfortable and very adjustable, and plenty of available adjustment on the steering wheel too. There was also a lot of space for anyone in the back seats even with my seat as far back I usually need it
To drive, the 330d was a delight. I was concerned that after the two days I was going to use it, I would no longer have a licence as I thought the temptation to drive fast all the time would be too great, but I found that the engine was happy cruising along at legal speeds (and was equally happy just over the limit too – allegedly), and it just ate up the miles.
The 8 speed auto gearbox was superb. Smooth, and quick on the changes. The ride was very smooth I thought, and the 330 happily rode any bumps in the road, and was quiet too. There was some road noise obviously, but I thought it was pretty good. The steering was nice and sure and being rear wheel drive, the car had a nice small turning circle.
The in car systems were excellent with great A/C (although I’d like to have had a way to work it as one instead of driver/passenger settings – if it was there I didn’t find it!).The Sat Nav system is excellent, with a nice big screen (not the top of the range system either), clear and easy to see. The sound system is also really good, and the integration for the iPod couldn’t have been simpler. I particularly liked the iDrive controller, which for me is the best such input device for an in car entertainment/Sat Nav system I’ve come across.
For me a car needs to be a pleasure to drive, comfortable, have enough power to get one out of a situation, and all the in car entertainment and information systems need to be intuitive to use. The BMW systems are fantastic, easy to use and set up, and in the 330, I could connect two Bluetooth phones simultaneously and receive and make calls whilst both were connected. A real help to me.
So, I was hugely impressed with this car; it’s looks, quality, equipment, ride etc., but perhaps mostly with its fuel consumption. BMW drivers I’ve known have told me how good they are on fuel economy, and to be honest, I never really believed them, particularly when compared to one of my previous cars, a Toyota Prius, which I loved and from which I could get about 55-62 MPG from (depending how heavy my right foot was).
The BMW was a complete revelation! When I went to fill up the Beemer before it was picked up, I’d done 415 miles. It cost me £55. The trip computer said that I had averaged 49.5MPG, which I find staggering from a fairly big car with a 3.0 litre (albeit diesel) engine and this performance is largely down to BMW’s Efficient Dynamics system, which reclaims energy from the braking system.
I filled up my own car, a Ford Grand C-Max (2.0L diesel/auto) for about the same amount and with 115 less miles driven!
© Richard Debonnaire