Archive for the ‘ Cars ’ Category

Brigitte is making progress

Today I took Brigitte out for a long drive around Munich, eliciting smiles and waves everywhere I went even on a grey and cold morning. Driving an old-timer is a public service as we make people happy!

I had downloaded a GPS speed checker app to my iPhone so that I could verify the accuracy of the speedometer in the DS. I suspected that it was wildly inaccurate but it turns out I should have more faith. Even at 100kph it was accurate within a couple of kilometres! Not bad.

The other thing I have been interested to find out, is how much petrol she is using. So as the tank was getting low I filled her up today and input the details into another app that I use for all my cars, Road Trip. Surprisingly, given her age, and the fact that she is not actually running terribly well, the fuel economy figure is currently 9.14l/100km!

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Not bad for a big heavy luxury car, albeit a rather slow one. I will be interested to see if this improves after I have some more work done on the engine to get it running better.

Also surprising was the fact that I have apparently done 503km in her in a month.

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It is a well known fact that old cars do not like to sit for long periods of time without being used because seals dry out and they generally deteriorate. The flip side of this is that driving them frequently seems to make them run better and better and I am seeing this with Brigitte. I wouldn’t say that she is running “well” yet but she no longer stalls at intersections and the hydraulic steering is getting smoother, as is the hydraulic gear change. My plan is to just keep driving her for a few more months and then take her back to the mechanic for a check up and a tune up.

Meanwhile, fingers crossed that we don’t have an early winter as I still want some time to drive her around before the snow and salt set in.

Brigitte meets some other Citroëns!

Finally, after about 7 years of false starts, Brigitte was well enough for an outing with the Citroën club where I had a chance to start socialising her with other Citroëns! I am a member of the Citroën Veteranen Club Deutschland, Bavarian chapter and on 4 October 2015 they had organised a drive day down towards Chiemsee, southeast of Munich. It was a little bit of a foggy drizzly morning but undeterred we motored down the B304 (landstraße or B road), once I had worked out how to operate the windscreen wipers… If you are not keeping to a tight schedule then the landstraße in Bavaria are a much nicer way to travel than the autobahns, particularly in an old-timer. Curving smooth roads through rolling hills and picturesque scenery are much nicer in a slow car than joining the hectic and intense autobahns.

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Brigitte

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Citroën SM

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1970’s Citroën DS’s.

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Convoy!

Once I had joined the rest of the club members at our lunch meeting place in Pelham (with a lovely view of Pelhamer See) we had a typical Bavarian lunch before heading off again towards Seebruck at the northern tip of Chiemsee. This is an ancient Roman location and we visited a museum about the Roman history of the area.

Then, with the sun coming out, we all drove off in convoy again towards our final stop at Seeoner Seen, for coffee and photos. You get even more smiles and waves when driving in a convoy of old Citroëns than you do when driving alone!

Enjoy the photos from Seeoner Seen below.

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Three old ladies staring out to sea.

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Handbrake well on…

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Oldest car of the day.

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Citroën Traction Avant Familiale

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New BMW 430d coupé

Recently I swapped my BMW M135i hatch for a new BMW 430d coupé. I wanted to try something with a bit more luxury and a bit more style without giving up too much performance. The 430d has a turbo-charged 3 litre 6 cylinder diesel engine with 258 hp (190kW) and 560Nm of torque. The important number is the torque. At any speed you have an endless surge of acceleration. This car is slightly slower than the M135i but it is still a very fast car. Whilst the M135i was frenetic and loud (which I loved), the 430d is smooth and calm but still blisteringly fast. If you floor the 430d in Sport mode from a standing start there is a millisecond of hesitation while the 8 speed automatic engages and the engine overcomes it’s initial inertia, and then it just blasts off the line and surges to illegal speeds before you know what is happening. On damp roads you need a very gentle right foot and quick reactions if you have turned off the traction control.

Here are a couple of photos from my recent holiday around Germany and Austria. The 4er coupé with the M-Sport pack in Estoril Blue and 19″ 442M double-spoke wheels really stands out in a sea of black and grey cars in Germany. I wonder how many different BMWs I can order in Estoril Blue…

Despite a significant amount of high speed autobahn driving and city driving which are not the best environments for fuel economy, the 430d returned an amazing 6.6l/100km average over the 2300km trip. It’s safe to say the M135i would not have achieved this… So I used less than 3 tanks of diesel to drive from Munich to Berlin to Prague to Vienna and back to Munich with many side-trips along the way. Don’t believe me? See photo below.

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Here are a couple of links to a walk-around video and an engine video:

BMW M135i Autobahn driving

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Yesterday I decided to try my hand at making a video review. As you will see, I still need some practice… and better equipment… and talent. But never mind. The thing I really wanted to capture was the noise of my BMW M135i and that came across rather well.

So, please excuse the quality and the camera mount which I didn’t realise was in the frame. It was filmed on an iPhone 4S because of course my new iPhone 6 doesn’t fit in my camera mount. New adapter ordered…

Enjoy.

Long overdue update

Hi All,

Well after a (very) long time without blogging anything here I am again. The last time I wrote was back in 2012 and I have moved countries 3 times since then! I wrote that my DS was “fixed” and in storage in the Netherlands waiting for a lucky buyer to come along and take her away. Needless to say, that never happened. I’m now living in Munich, Germany and I have had the DS “Brigitte” shipped here where she is currently at the doctor being “fixed” again… The Citröen specialist has the instructions to keep fixing her until she passes the registration test which was maybe a bit of a rash instruction to give on my part… I’m told I will have her back next week so let’s see how that goes.

Anyway, a quick update on how I came to be in Munich. I was working for BMW in Italy for a year in 2012. When that contract ended I moved back to Australia intending to get a job there and “settle down”. That lasted three months before I was offered another job at BMW in Tokyo so off I went with less than a weeks notice. I spent 14 months in Tokyo which is my favourite city in the world. Always something happening and many amazing experiences including a cocktail party on a British warship parked (moored? docked?) in Tokyo Bay. I also had the opportunity to drive many high-end BMWs that I had not gotten my hands on before including a 750i, 650i GranCoupé, 640i Coupé, 335i Convertible, ActiveHybrid3, and ‘funnest’ of all, an i3. I will do some individual reviews on some of these shortly.

As my contract in Japan came to an end I was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position back at the BMW Mothership in Munich which I duly accepted. So I’m now planning to be here for the foreseeable future. Best of all I now have even more access to the cars! I’m currently driving a BMW M135i hatch (video review will be posted next) and I have a BMW 430d Coupé on order which I will receive in July.

So that’s enough update. More car reviews and musings will follow soon.

Cheers,

Andrew

DS progress

Well it has been a while since I updated progress on my Citroën. It is all fixed and running now although still unregistered and stored in a garage in the Netherlands. I would like to sell it as I am moving back to Australia next year and transporting it just feels like it will overcomplicate my life. However, if it doesn’t sell then I will take it with me. In the meantime I am planning to spend my summer holiday fixing a few cosmetic things and getting it running sweetly. I’d also like to register it in the Netherlands so I can drive it around a bit but I’m guessing that will require me to register myself as resident there. Not the end of the world I guess.

Here is a link to the car for sale anyway: http://nl.autoscout24.be/Details.aspx?smid=Ins-SM-TL&id=212063761

BMW 123d for sale / te koop

BMW 123d

Due to the fact that I now live in Madrid, Spain and that I will be moving next year to Milan, Italy I have decided to sell my BMW. These cities are a nightmare for driving and parking, Milan in particular, so the car has become more of a liability than an asset. Therefore, sadly it is for sale in Belgium. Het staat te koop in België.

 

SOLD!

Meilenwerk Berlin – a classic car museum with a difference

During the recent summer holidays I decided to escape the heat of Madrid and head north where I spent among other places, a week in Berlin. My rationale was that all the Germans will have gone to Spain for their summer holidays so it should be nice and quiet. I’d been to Berlin before so there was no great pressure to rush around seeing all the tourist sites. But one thing I did want to see was Meilenwerk Berlin. I had read about this place on the TopGear website and it sounded amazing. I was not disappointed.

Jaguar XK

Meilenwerk is essentially a storage warehouse for classic cars. One pays 130€ per month (extremely reasonable in my opinion) and one is then able to store one’s Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Ferrari etc in a climate controlled glass box. In addition there are specialist garages attached to the facility for Jaguar, Mercedes, Citroën and other marks. Meilenwerk also have a large number of cars for sale, some such as the Mercedes SL’s with astronomical price tags. But the best bit is that this whole facility is open to the public and completely free to enter.

Mercedes SL convertibles

I spent a few happy hours wandering around admiring all the cars on display. There were not just super-expensive exotica but also some more ordinary classics such as Citroën DS and Mercedes E-klasse but they were all in excellent condition. I’m not sure if there is a requirement that your classic be in mint condition to store it there or not but they certainly were. And the restoration facilities seemed to be very busy with some beautiful examples as well.

In addition to the couple of photos I have published here you can view the full collection on my photo site. Check them out here: https://picasaweb.google.com/111758461119985213903/MeilenwerkBerlin

Meilenwerk also have facilities in Stuttgart, Düsseldorf & Zürich which look equally impressive. The address in Berlin is Wiebestrasse 36 – 37, 10553 Berlin. I highly recommend a visit.

DS progress

Following the thwarted attempt to collect my DS myself on a trailer some time ago I enlisted the help of a professional car transporter who picked up the car and took it to a new, more reputable garage (Herman Janssen) in Bennekom in the Netherlands. Finally I can report I have found a garage that is not only honest but fast and exacting and really seems to know what he is doing.

Rather than the 4000€ quoted by the thief in Middelburg he fixed my broken axle and electrical problems for around 700€. Finally I was able to take my car for a test drive without it breaking down!

It still had a problem with not selecting reverse on the hydraulic semi-automatic so I left the car there with instructions to fix this also. Unfortunately this was quite complicated and took Herman three days to fix. To his credit he only charged me for 16 hours work and also fixed a number of other things to make the car ready for the road such as lights and the horn. This is all done now and apparently the car is ready for collection.

Unfortunately since my last post I have moved to Madrid, Spain which makes popping to Bennekom slightly more problematic. I am thinking now of what I should do with the car but in the meantime I guess I will have it transported to a storage garage while I think about it.

All in all, having finally dealt with someone honest, I am feeling a lot better about the whole experience even though it has cost me more money. I think I will head to the Netherlands in a few weeks to check it out.

I will keep you posted on whether I decide to sell it or keep it. I am moving to Milan, Italy in February which is also not such a suitable place to drive a classic Citroën but I will think about it.

Fuel Economy Run

Today I had to drive from my home in Antwerp, Belgium up to Bennekom in the Netherlands to visit my Citroën which is being repaired there. This is a round trip of 315kms and I thought, just for fun, that I might try an economy run to see what figures I could achieve in the BMW 123d. Those of you that know me or have read my previous posts about driving round the Nürburgring and on German autobahns might think it strange that I would want to drive slowly and economically. But I like a challenge and I’m also a little bit cheap so saving some fuel money is never a bad thing.

My goal was to beat the manufacturer’s claim of 5.2litres/100km (54MPG Imperial/45MPG US). This is a combined cycle claim so beating it on a trip consisting of 95% motorway should be easy but these claims are generally wildly optimistic and recorded under optimal conditions in a lab and therefore I wasn’t sure it would be possible. My average combined fuel consumption before I set off was 7.9litres/100km, a far cry from 5.2litres, and an indication that I had my work cut out for me. However it is worth noting that I drive everywhere at warp 5 with little or no regard for fuel consumption and, as this blog post will show, the most important factor in fuel economy is driving style.

I initially planned to brim my fuel tank with diesel so I could do a more accurate calculation but the service station near my house had a queue and I don’t queue. So instead I just zeroed the trip computer and headed off with less than half a tank of diesel and the trip computer showing a remaining range of just 220kms, a figure based on recent driving history. It looked like I would need to fill up enroute pending a miracle. As it was after 10am traffic on the Antwerp Ring was light and I eased out into the middle lane trying to resist the urge to mash the accelerator into the floor. Initially things weren’t looking good with a figure of around 5.5l/100km showing on the display. However, once I settled down to a comfortable 110kph that figure started to drop slowly but surely until it dropped under 5.0l/100km. Maybe it was going to be possible after all.

The thing about driving super-economically is that it requires a lot of concentration. The thing you absolutely want to avoid is braking as this just wastes your kinetic energy away in the form of heat (in most cars anyway) and this means that you need to plan far ahead, watching for trucks that might pull into your path, watching for slowing traffic up ahead, and trying to avoid having to stop quickly for a red light. It is much better to take your foot off the accelerator and coast in gear if you notice slowing traffic up ahead than it is to brake at the last second. Modern petrol and diesel engines use precisely zero fuel when they are in overrun i.e. when you are coasting in gear and using the engine resistance to decelerate. It is much better to let the engine slow you down than to put your foot on the clutch and use the brakes.

The other enemy of the economical driver is the hill. Fuel consumption when climbing a hill is understandably much higher than driving on the flat. Happily for me, I was driving in the Netherlands which is completely and utterly flat. So flat that the altimeter in my car showed 0 metres above sea level for almost the entire trip. The highest we got was 10 metres above sea level and that was while crossing a huge bridge over a canal. Methinks that real estate purchases in the Netherlands won’t be such a great investment in the event of sea level rises. Although there were no hills on my journey, there were a lot of bridges so I would gradually build up some extra speed before the bridge then allow the speed to decrease slightly as I went up the incline. Trying to maintain a constant speed up an incline will double your fuel consumption. And any speed that you have lost on the way up can be regained on the way down without penalty.

After an hour or so I had worked out that around 110kph was the sweet spot for economy. I could maintain that speed with an instantaneous fuel consumption figure of 3.5l/100km. Going even 10kph faster would push that figure above 4.5l/100km and going slower would start to hold up traffic and that is not practical. My combined figure after an hour was 4.6l/100km and I really wasn’t doing anything special other than driving with a very sensitive foot on the accelerator. I experimented with using the cruise control but found I could get the figures lower myself. Cruise control can’t anticipate traffic conditions or changes in elevation and is a bit of a blunt instrument. I should note that I did make one concession to fuel economy. As it was not a particularly hot day I turned off the A/C and just left the vents open to fresh air. This can make a big difference.

When it comes to economy, the BMW has a few tricks up its sleeve. It has a gear change indicator which shows the optimal point to change up and down and tells you which gear you should be in. It also has an alternator which disconnects from the engine except when you are decelerating so that it never uses fuel to charge the battery. It uses regenerative braking as well to capture some of that kinetic energy which would normally be lost as heat when braking. When you are driving in town it also automatically stops and starts the engine at traffic lights. The standard tyres are low rolling resistance tyres which also aids in fuel economy but I actually replaced mine with regular performance tyres as I didn’t like them so I might have reduced my fuel economy chances there slightly. And instead of using hydraulic power steering which uses a pump running off the engine it has electric power steering which is powered by the battery. All these things, plus the fact that it is an incredibly efficient diesel, add up to a noticeable improvement in fuel economy. Bravo.

I arrived at my destination with the display showing 4.5l/100km and feeling relaxed on account of the fact that I had been taking it easy just cruising along and I didn’t need to be constantly on the lookout for speed cameras. Maybe I don’t always need to drive like my hair’s on fire…

4.4l/100km

My trip home was similarly uneventful although traffic was a little heavier resulting in a few annoying stops and the resulting increase in consumption as I accelerate again. However, by the time I arrived back in Antwerp, the trip computer was proudly displaying a combined figure of 4.4litres/100km (64MPG Imperial/53MPG US). This is not bad for a car that has 204 horsepower and 400Nm of torque, can accelerate to 100kph in 7 seconds and will hit 250kph on the nearest available autobahn. In my opinion it could be a lot better too were it not for the fact that it is a relatively heavy car for its size. My biggest hope for the next generation 1 series is that BMW will invest in weight-saving.

I achieved these figures simply by driving conservatively and turning off the A/C. I imagine it would be possible to drastically slash the consumption even more if one employed hardcore hypermiling techniques like slipstreaming trucks but I’m more interested in the practical everyday possibilities.