Monthly Archives: December 2009

Christmas with a BMW

Christmas has been and gone, leaving in its expensive wake a raft of shattered and mauled parents with drained and red bank accounts.

As I get older Christmas gets less like a Dickensian Post card and more like a Dickensian Workhouse. Months before the fateful day we squirrel money away, and still find on the 26th the account is more than empty. Just so the evil putrid slugs that run the banks can afford a better set of golf clubs for next year, yeah I’m talking to YOU Abbey National or Santander or whatever you are called, give me my bank charges back!

But surely this time of year can bring great joy to the motorist? He has all sorts of humorous gifts that distant relatives can shower on him. Homer Simpson Ice scrapers come to mind, or a nice AA book of the road. One of those car care kits, with an air freshener and a sponge you wouldn’t use on your dishes, let alone near the paintwork of your car. No one thinks to get him a new set of shocks, a service or even a tank of fuel, all things that would be greeted with sage nods and deep thanks. Or if you are feeling like splashing out, how about getting his chassis and suspension set up? buy him tickets to a track day, new set of decent tyres anything but another pair of driving gloves.

Well, Christmas aside, lets plunge into the red meat of this entry, yes I know its been a while coming and I realise that in order to keep you readers happy I need to be fresh and throw out new material all the time, but have you ever considered just how hard it is to write about the act of motoring? Let me tell you it’s not easy finding new things to talk about, so I spend a lot of time thinking about other things and relating them to motoring. This is mainly because what I really want to do is write about cars. The only one I can talk to you about is mine, because thats the only car I have access to. No one has been crazy enough to let me drive off with their brand new set of wheels and not make a squeak about it. Even Honda told me to ‘bugger off’ when they discovered the real reason I wanted to test drive the new Civic. Yup no one has been nuts enough to hand me the keys to anything… until now!

This is not a review, as I didn’t have the car long enough so it’s a rambling impression of it

BMW make reasonably good cars, thats a well-known fact. For a while they made terrible cars and relied on the badge to sell it, they created a compact and dropped the price and the quality until BMW almost had the exclusivity of a branch of Tescos. That said, most people will be impressed when the blue and white propeller pulls up outside and you step out (even if it has a comedy bodykit on it) The badge still screams ‘German’ and that means ‘well built’ and ‘solid’ and ‘reliable’ and ‘boring’.

A crazy man let me loose in his nearly new BMW 1 series 2008 model with a 2.0 Diesel engine. I wont tell you who he is as he uses his car for his business, and it would terrify his clients to know that the car he was teaching in could tailslide like that… oops did I say too much? Anyway, I was given a chance to play with this on what could only be described as the wettest day in history, it was as if God himself was bailing out his cellar with a bucket, but undeterred, I fired it up and headed out.
Being a man, the first thing I did was turn off the traction control, its runflat tyres gripped the road as we pootled around in urban mode, not going over 40, no sharp turns and no sudden drama, the only thing that threw me was the ecomentalist computer that turned the engine off every time I stopped at a set of lights, but you get used to it and it can be turned off. Soon we left the town behind and hit the A roads. Because it was raining a bit, every other driver was panicking and driving at 3mph down the center of the road, eyes bulging, knuckles white on the wheel. eventually, after about three seconds of this I decided I had had enough so dropped it into third and went for it, only to find the engine totally out of puff and lights on the dash demanding what the bloody hell I was playing at.

This was a big shock to me, this car is full of clever electronics, designed to help you along. It has lights to suggest what gear you really should be in, it has automatic wipers, lights and what not, all things that blokes would, like me ignore or turn off. I know what is best not some German technician in castle BMW so I found I was fighting the car and not driving it. The gent that had given me the keys had foolishly (or sensibly) decided to come along for the ride, and so far he had not said a word (probably out of fear or loathing) but he suggested, as we struggled to over take that I should let the car help out, and do as it suggests. So, at the next nice twisty bit of road, traction control on, I went for it.
The car handles well for what it is. It’s forgiving and responsive, it tells you through your backside what it’s doing, you can ‘feel’ it. I was expecting the electronics to be brutal with me as the road was wet and I was pushing, but help from the abs and the traction control came in a gentle curve,only stamping its foot when I got a bit too lairy. I think this is the point of the car, it’s not designed to be a race car out of the box, its not designed to be belted round every corner, but if you ask it to it will. No, it’s designed for a family to pootle about in comfort and safety. Have a crash in this and if all its airbags go off you can use it as a raft. Leave the kids behind and you can have a little fun with it but being a little BMW and a diesel, it’s going to be  wholesome, sensible fun.

This is all far to nice for me, the car feels like it will be as reliable as a sunrise, and as safe as mothers arms. The only time this car will get out of hand is if you blind it by turning all the safety devices off and weld your foot to the floor. It’s like that nice girl, you know the one, who wears big pants to keep the cold out and always has a pen. Personally I prefer it to break now and again and threaten to throw us both into a ditch if I get it a tiny bit wrong, like that girl that doesn’t bother with underwear and has an emotional meltdown every time it rains.

Also known as an Alfa Romeo.

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