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2006 BMW 320dSE

Mar 2009 - First Report (45,000 miles)...PART ONE

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2006 BMW 320dSE 2006 BMW 320dSE 2006 BMW 320dSE 2006 BMW 320dSE

Towards the back end of 2008 we upped sticks and moved across the Pennines to Yorkshire and this meant that my daily commute increased from 55 to 110 miles a day. So, that’s twice the distance to work and back...which means twice the fuel cost, twice the service cost, twice the amount of time spent travelling...what the hell was I thinking? A very wise friend of mine once said "live where you play, not where you work". And that’s what I was in the countryside near to our closest family and friends, and be in the heartland of some of the best driving roads in the country, if not the world, to boot. Smart move then.

My daily driver at that time was the Kia Sorento and it quickly became evident that it was not up to the task. Firstly, at an average 30mpg and 110 miles a day, even with an 80 litre fuel tank, I was filling up every four to five days and at £70-£80 a pop, that hurt. Secondly, and more importantly, about half of my journey is now on some fantastically twisty, hilly, national-speed-limit A and B roads and, as much as I love the Sorento, it’s not the sharpest tool for hustling along in maximum attack mode.

So, something had to change and there were two obvious choices...get a more economical but sharper car, or get a job closer to home. I made my choice and was in the process of sorting it when a third option came out of the blue, and it was a no-brainer. My circumstances at work have changed and I am now the keeper of a fully expensed company car. So, my new motor, for the time being at least, is a pre-kept 55 reg BMW 320d SE in metallic black. I will be the custodian until it goes back to the lease company in July.

On collecting the car initial impressions are not good. Firstly, the looks. I have never really been sure about this latest 3-series and I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. I guess it looks OK but to my eye there are plenty of other more stylish saloons out there such as the latest Mondeo, Mazda 6, Alfa 159, Vauxhall Insignia (yes, really). The interior is not at the cutting edge of design either. It certainly looks chunky and solid and the materials feel great but it doesn’t look like a £25k executive car should, or even a £15k family saloon. Put simply, it’s nothing special. So not a good start then.

I get in and shut the door...with a nice "thunk". I slide the keyfob into the slot on the dash which switches on the ignition and instrumentation and I’m greeted with a "bong" and the service indicator display telling me that the car is 110 miles overdue for service. Great. Thanks for that. Seat adjusted, mirrors adjusted, wheel adjusted, ready to go. Foot on the clutch pedal, press the Start/Stop button to the left of the steering wheel and fire up the engine. It’s obviously a diesel but the usual clatteryness is relatively subdued. I select first gear and pull away.

After the first few miles my initial impressions of the 3 are not improved. The steering is heavy, really heavy, and doesn’t centre itself quickly enough for my liking. It also lacks feel, which surprises me. The gearchange is unpleasantly notchy, bordering on obstructive. The ride is hard, transmitting every bump, ridge and other imperfection into the cabin. The driver’s seat does not have anywhere near enough lumbar support for me and there is also insufficient lateral support around the upper body.

What does impress though, is the engine’s pulling power. Anywhere above 1,800 rpm, with only the briefest pause while the turbo winds up, there’s a surge of forward momentum which doesn’t let up until just before the 4,750 redline. The first chance to exploit this is down the motorway sliproad. Off the roundabout in 3rd, bury the throttle and I’m up to cruising speed within about 50 metres. This thing is quick. There’s loads of grunt which means that joining the faster moving traffic in the third lane is quick and safe. The gearing is quite tall in 6th though so a drop to 5th or 4th is often required in busier sections. My mood is starting to improve now, despite the omnipresent road noise.

Now I’m off the motorway and ambling through a village. That heavy steering and obtrusive gearchange dampening my mood again. But the sight of the national speed limit sign ahead brings a degree of optimism. A fast, very twisty, alpine-like uphill section approaches. Ultimate driving machine? We’ll see...


Goto Part Two

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