With lots of new models to choose from, TOM SCANLAN takes his pick of the latest BMW range.
ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: The BMW range
BMW’s newest and cheapest car is the 114 (with a 1.6 engine) available from £17,300. Multiply that by five and you get the Munich marque’s fastest-ever production car – the M6 Coupe, capable of hitting 62mph in just 4.2 seconds. £93,820 for this car.
This year, BMW has introduced a raft of new models that fill niches, challenge the opposition and, to this mere man-in-the-street, makes his mouth water. They all improve on outgoing performance in terms of both acceleration and, in all but a single engine, emissions. There’s now also BMW’s Driver Assistance/Connectivity package. This introduces a range of the latest safety, convenience, information and entertainment options.
With so much choice, it’s now a bit of a challenge trying to work out exactly what model is what! BMW’s ‘M’, for example, ranges from the full-on, original, no-holds-barred, out-and-out road racer to slightly watered-down ‘M Performance’ and add-on M options. Don’t mind too much about the nomenclature, just look at the specifications to see where you’re at as a potential buyer. Of course, for some, it has to be the top end and that’s that.
So, what’s been going on? The 116d, from £20,885, is the first sub-100g/km BMW, therefore with no VED to pay; 74.3 mpg is the official combined cycle and a potential range of more than 800 miles between fill-ups. Between the cheapest and the most expensive, there is for example, the 125D hatchback. This has compact practicality with good performance from its sizeable diesel engine… my £33,400 M Sport test car was a really nice drive. The same engine is also now available in the X1; at first, with quite some audibility from under the bonnet, you might think that there could be greater refinement here and the steering feels heavy. Once under way, though, and especially on the open road at cruising speeds, neither is a problem.
New, too, is the 320 bhp M135i, from £29,995, and one of the new range of 3-door 1 series cars; now here is a car that really impressed me. The biggest BMWs with huge horse power are fabulous, but the M135i is of course much more affordable, cheaper to run and just as much fun. It goes beautifully, with that super-smooth BMW 6-cylinder engine allied to the auto box, which can change gear faster than the human hand. This car is a sub-5 seconds to 62mph performer. The steering is excellent and the steering can be the first thing that makes us think, ‘wow, I like this car!’, even if we don’t perhaps consciously realise it.
Having said that, I had to say’ Wow!’ even more loudly when it came to sampling the M3 500 Limited Edition Coupe. Fantastic performance, but easy to handle if you’re sensible; try it on a track day, it’ll be better than the world’s best fairground ride, even if costs a lot more – £63,080 for the particular car I tried. The 500 offers a higher level of exclusivity and individuality, including stitching in the leather that matches the car’s body colour; there’s also £4000 worth of extras for an outlay within the purchase price of only £1000. My drive in the 500 was at a cost of 14 mpg – ouch!
Like all manufacturers, however, BMW must offer highly-efficient cars when it comes to the environment. Their answer is ‘Efficient Dynamics’. This is characterised by the 320d Efficient Dynamics saloon. This 163 bhp car provides a really pleasant drive, with perfectly brisk-enough acceleration when needed (0-62 mph in 8.0 seconds), yet, with exhaust emissions at only 109g/km, costing only £20 in vehicle excise duty. It’s like an SE version, but on 16” wheels. However, you can spend more on it by opting for the 8-speed automatic gearbox, but without increasing emissions. Its official combined cycle consumption is a heady 60.3mpg. The version I drove cost £36,775. Incidentally, BMW cars have, taking the range as a whole, been judged to have the lowest CO2 emissions per BHP, by 8-10% compared with their German rivals.
Launched at the same time earlier in the year was the M6 Convertible. A very quick car, of course (with a quick hood, too)…so you’d expect with 560 bhp available from its new V8 engine. BMW says this engine is no less than 30% more-efficient on performance and economy (I got 20 mpg, according to the trip computer) than its predecessor. Hugely entertaining, but not without its little annoyances, such as the fiddling it took to get the car into ‘P’ for park. £99,020 gets you the basic car, but nobody will do that, will they? The test car came out at £114,000, but that did at least include ceramic discs for anyone who has to drive fast all day down steep hills.
No less impressive is the X6 M50d. This big lump (test model £73,845) now has an awesome 3.0 litre engine that is triple turbocharged. Indiscernible are the points at which exhaust-driven turbo number 2 comes in (at 1500rpm) and turbo number three (at 2600rpm). Totally discernible is the surging performance, with full torque at 2000 rpm and full power at 4000 rpm. In practice, there’s little need to use full power, except when you become addicted to it, which is all too easy to be. All of these M BMWs, petrol and diesel, make intoxicating noises, I’m pleased to report.
Most recent BMW additions include the latest 3 series Tourings. These estate cars offer class-leading luggage carrying capacity alongside a pleasing driving experience. The automatic opening tailgate is standard. Sampling the 330d certainly underlined that BMW continues to focus on keeping entertained whoever is behind the wheel. The cars are fun. Not that the passengers are in any way discomforted; on the contrary, riding in the other front seat, or in the back, is still as pleasant as ever, with smart and well-designed seats and space.
5 series BMWs now come in Grand Turismo form; the 520d GT is the new entry level in this mid-range sector. It starts at £35,705. Recognise it by its new coupe-look rear quarters.
Last but not least, following on from the 5 series version, BMW have introduced ActiveHybrid3. Buyers keen on travelling the eco route should examine the possibilities that this car offers, that is if electric power appeals as a partner to the standard 335i engine. In this case 55 bhp can be added to the 306bhp, making the car faster than the 335i by 0.2 of a second to 62mph. Pure electric power is good for 2.4 miles. For some, it may be a step too far at the moment and the extra cost over the 335i is significant.
The prices quoted are either the basic start-point or the actual cost of the particular cars driven. Options are bound to add on a few or many thousands of pounds.