3-Series grows up
IHAVE this vague memory from childhood of my mother working as a bookkeeper at a Total garage in Strand Road, Stikland, in Bellville, where the owner of the garage had set up one of the earliest BMW dealerships in the area.
And my mother fell in love with these cars right away. My father, however, who drove a big Citroen DS at that time, was not so sure. And when my mother actually bought one (a second-hand 1950s air-cooled model with a two-cylinder boxer motor) the old man was not all that impressed.
He tended to break the car. Not on purpose of course. After all, that was only going to cost him money, a commodity not so common in the household in those days.
But, for instance, the DS had a column shift gear lever. The BMW did not. The tiny stalk on the BMW’s steering column was for the indicator lights. It failed to work like a gear lever. Hence, it broke.
Now, when Senior thinks back to that car, he wishes he had never sold it. Back then, he could not sell it quickly enough.
Senior would be very slow to sell a current model BMW today.
Despite being 87, he is still a very good, attentive driver. And a driver’s car still excites him and gives him pleasure, even when he is in the passenger’s seat, as he always is when he goes with me in a test car. His big old E- Class Merc cannot exactly be described as a driver’s car, but he loves it.
So, when I recently had a BMW 330d on test, it was a good opportunity for me to hear his opinion of the car.
Now I’ve always experienced a BMW as a very good driver’s car. I don’t really care which BMW is involved, my experience is that the mere act of sliding in behind the steering wheel puts one in a place of automotive serenity. It is a place where a person with a heart for driving almost immediately feels at home.
I have driven some of the craziest BMWs recently brought to market (and, let us be honest, there have been a few!) and my experience is the same every time. Whether it was the X6, the first 1-Series, the X1 or that GT thing.
Even the BMW 320, which cannot remotely be considered a performance car, is nice to drive because of the character of the car. In many respects, Audi still has the prettiest interior. In many respects, Mercedes Benz still boasts solid quality, but with the BMW you have the right feel, the right ambience.
So, one day, I went to pick Senior up with the 330d. He was a bit preoccupied with a few relatively minor issues and did not do his usual walk-around, tyre-kicking routine. He sat down in the front passenger seat, clicked in his safety belt and off we went, he chatting away about those things foremost in his mind.
The 2993cc, six-cylinder turbo diesel engine is no slouch and we were up to speed in no time. The long list of standard equipment and the even longer list of options made that car look like a tech lab. The Dakota Black leather of the sporty seats was beautifully subdued. With 190kW and a mighty 560Nm of torque on tap, this softly snarling car spoke volumes about its potential.
The Harman/Kardon Surround Sound system of the test was richly pouring forth some Mark Knopfler.
The quality of the car’s transportation was such that had Scottie come to beam us up to wherever, we could not have been more comfortable.
Among all the optional extras in the car were safety efforts such as lane change warning, lane departure warning and active protection. The stop and go function would neatly cut the engine at stops and then start them again as you released the brake pedal.
When driven carefully, the 330d can be fairly frugal on petrol. I had it at 7.9 litres over 100km once, according to the computer. I can’t say how accurate that is.
With a base price of R511 000, this car was a serious bit of kit. With the optional extras, the price had gone to R732 319.50. I would love to know where the 50c came from. But whatever.
Finally, as we got out of the car at our destination, Senior piped up.
“What car is this? A Mercedes Benz? Oh, I see, it is a BMW. Lovely hey? It feels just like a Mercedes Benz.”
Serious kit indeed. Gone is the somewhat harsh sporty suspension. Gone, the tight, hugging sport seats. My decidedly middle-aged carcass fits in snugly all over.
But is that what BMW wants to achieve with the 3-Series? A more serious bit of kit? Probably. After all, the 1-Series is out there looking for matching boy racers.
SERIOUS KIT: The BMW 3-Series is no longer that sedan with a seriously sporty character – because it, and the person who buys it, has grown up.