Archive for the ‘ BMW ’ Category

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.


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

BMW M135i Autobahn driving


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…


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.



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.



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:

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.

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…


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.

BMW X6 Testdrive

X6 xDrive 40d

Today I had a little bit of a treat. I had the opportunity to test-drive two different flavours of a very exciting car, the BMW X6. Derided by many for being a pointless example of a niche too far, an SUV with a headroom-compromising coupé roof line and only two seats in the back or Sports Activity Coupé (SAC) in BMW-speak, it is nonetheless a handsome, muscular looking vehicle in my opinion. And it drives like no 2+ tonne vehicle has any right to do – fantastically.

Controversial rear end

I apologise in advance for the ridiculous BMW naming-convention… First up was a black X6 xDrive 40d. In the past the numbering on a BMW would indicate the capacity of the engine e.g. a 740i would have a 4 litre engine, but in this case the 40d is actually a 3 litre diesel with twin sequential turbo chargers. It’s the most powerful diesel engine currently offered by BMW and has 225kW (306hp) and, more importantly, 600Nm of torque. This X6 was fully loaded with every imaginable option to the extent that I was a little scared to ask the price. The base price in Belgium is 68k€ and I would eat my Trilby if this one had a price that began with anything less than a 9. Here’s a small sample of the options on the car: Lane Departure Warning, Head Up Display, Active Cruise Control, Dynamic Damper Control, electric tailgate, soft-close doors, rear-view camera, front-view camera, side-view camera (I’m not kidding), electric memory seats, TV function, rear DVD player, ventilated & heated seats, sunroof… I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture.

Gorgeous interior

I had a very quick explanation from the staff at the BMW Driving Centre before setting off because I hadn’t used the fancy new joystick-style automatic shifter before. It’s quite intuitive but a little instruction never goes amiss and I might not have noticed some of the features during my short drive such as the frankly excellent Auto Hold function. When activated, this function allows you to bring the car to a complete stop and then remove your foot from the brake. Despite being a traditional automatic it won’t creep forward as the electronic handbrake is now activated. Then when your traffic light turns green you simply press the accelerator and the handbrake automatically disengages. Seamless and simple. Excellent feature. I was also asked if I would go a little easy on the car during my test-drive as it had less than 100kms on the clock and was not run in yet. Not a problem for me – I’m nothing if not mechanically sympathetic – and this engine has so much torque you really don’t need to rev it hard to go fast anyway.

Coupé-like shape compromises space in the rear

Setting off I was immediately impressed with the gruff rumble from the diesel engine and the eagerness with which it surged forward when requested. In this model the automatic is an 8-speed unit which gives almost imperceptible shifts and allows the engine to spend more time in its optimum torque band. I was also very impressed with the combination of the compliant ride and it’s ability to corner without any body-roll. This is down to the trick Adaptive Suspension Control which obsessively monitors and controls every tiny movement of the suspension. I had turned on all the nanny functions in the car so the cruise control would automatically slow when there was another car in front (all the way to a complete stop if necessary) and the steering wheel would vibrate in my hands if I wandered out of my lane without indicating first. My favourite feature though was the Head Up Display which projects an image on the windscreen so that it appears to be just in front of the car and can be easily focussed on without having to take your eyes off the road. It displays the speed limit for the road you are currently on and next to that, the amount you are exceeding it by… It also displays cruise control information, lane departure graphics and basic navigation information when you are using those functions. I found it to be extremely clear and not at all distracting. The only downside is that you can’t see it at all if you are wearing polarised sunglasses. I would buy new sunglasses…

X6 ActiveHybrid

After an hour or so I returned back to BMW to swap the 40d for my next flavour, a Vermillion Red X6 ActiveHybrid. First off, may I just say that that is a fantastic colour. A slightly deeper red than the Sedona Red on my 123d coupé, it really suits the X6 and attracted a lot more attention from the adoring public than the black one. The special 20″ aerodynamic wheels also make it stand out a little more. The hybrid version required slightly more explanation from the staff than the diesel even though you can just get in and drive it in the same way. It is a full hybrid like the Toyota Prius which means it can drive up to 60kph for a short distance entirely on electric power after which the petrol engine will automatically start and take over. However, whilst the Prius makes do with a yawn-inducing 1.5litre petrol engine and a 67hp electric motor the X6 has a 4.4litre V8 with twin turbo chargers and 2 electric motors, a 91hp one and an 86hp one, which, when combined with the V8, give it 357kW (485hp) and 780Nm of torque. Methinks the hybrid system isn’t really about saving fuel… they just wanted to make it even faster!

V8 drive

Electric drive

Anyway, my instructor showed me the graphical interface you can bring up on the iDrive screen which shows where the power is coming from at any given moment. It is just like the system on the Prius and shows energy flowing to and from the batteries. When the lines go red you are consuming petrol, warming the Earth, and hastening the extinction of low-lying nations (I expect) but when the lines go blue (blue is the new green apparently) you are either capturing braking energy to recharge the batteries or running on electric power. This is accompanied by cooling of the atmosphere, frolicking polar bears and a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Well that’s what the salesman said anyway…

Battery health

The part-electric set-up gives the X6 four operating modes: eDrive, eBoost, Charge and Drive. eDrive is the most efficient and uses nothing but electrons to attain up to 60kph for up to 2kms. For the X6 to run solely on electric power you have to be extremely gentle with the accelerator. The slightest imprudent prod and the V8 will instantly surge into life. It took a little practice but actually works very well for meandering around towns and villages although the battery doesn’t last very long before the V8 is called into action to charge it up again. The most reliable way to keep it running on electric power is to just flick the cruise control on at about 50kph and it will happily cruise along consuming electrons rather than hydrocarbons. I drove the X6 through a small village near work and got a few curious stares as this giant red SUV glided silently past emitting nothing more than a faint whine from the electric motors. But really, as much of a novelty as this was, the V8 was more to my liking. eBoost uses the two electric motors to boost the V8 engine’s performance when needed and is the reason this beast never feels sluggish. ‘Charge’ mode means the regenerative brakes are capturing energy that would normally be lost from the discs, and finally, ‘Drive’ just means the X6 is using nothing but the V8 to move forward.

Once I was out on the highway I had an opportunity to unleash said beast and, Mother of God, does it go! I was lined up at the lights next to a sporty looking BMW 3 series, nothing but silence emanating from under the X6’s bonnet, with the occupants of the other car giving me a challenging look (in my mind anyway). The light turned green and I simply pressed the accelerator to the floor, the auto parking brake disengaged, the V8 sprang into life and 5.4 seconds later I was doing 100kph with a small 3 series-shaped object receding into the distance through the frankly ridiculously small rear window. Given that the X6 ActiveHybrid weighs 2,580kg this is a very impressive turn of speed although this acceleration potential is unfortunately reflected in the fuel consumption. It may be a hybrid but it’s certainly not a fuel miser. Still 13l/100km (18mpg) average probably isn’t that bad for such a heavy high-performance vehicle and it is 20% better than the non-hybrid V8 X6 xDrive 50i with similar performance. So let’s chalk that up as a win then.

Out of my way peasants!

I don’t believe that saving the planet was quite the point BMW was trying to make when they designed this vehicle. Instead it exists to show the motoring public that hybrids need not all be boring and self-righteous but can be dynamic, exciting and well, in-your-face. With it’s specially designed aerodynamic wheels (not available on any other X6) it intends to stand out as a beacon for BMW hybrid technology which will then flow down through the other models. It is already available in a slightly different form on the Hybrid7 and will soon be in the new 5 series and the up-coming 3 series. In any case, I found the X6 an amazing machine to drive, not least because of the intoxicating rumble from that big V8 and for that reason I would love to have one, but not the overly-complicated hybrid version. I would take the X6 xDrive 50i with the same V8 but no batteries or electric motors. Sure it doesn’t have quite the same power output but it weighs nearly 200kgs less and, unlike the hybrid, it doesn’t cost 120,000€! It does however fulfil all of my plutocratic fantasies. I’ll take it in red.