Date Weekend with a BMW 320i

April 15th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

By David’s Flatmate

People ask me where are you living these days. Well, due to Heidi Klum not returning any of my many emails, txt’s or skype calls I’ve ended up with David Farrar as my flatmate. Shoot for the ground and you can’t miss I say.

Now, evidently he has a little known/read blog which I think is called “Kiwioil Meathead Captured Cooked”…I’m not too sure as I tend to engross myself in the IRD’s Blog titled “How much do I owe in Child-support to my numerous ex -wives”.

Anyway, I digress. So David’s my flatmate, and flatting with him is like living with a born again Richard Simmons. I’ve known him for well over 20 years and seeing him turn into a Health food zealot often borders on Monty Python-esque humour.

In fact, a typical evening’s conversation from David goes along the lines of….”Hey did you know I ran 673 kms at the Gym, came home, devoured a brussel-sprout and am thinking now I’m thin and skinny I’ll get married”.

Too funny right! I know, but pretend I’m laughing at Southpark which is the only television programme we watch…..he’s none the wiser…… poor man.

So, last Friday night he actually surprised me, I was expecting the normal… “G’day, today I ran 49 billion kms, ate a single uncooked grain of brown rice and am thinking of walking to Antarctica this weekend”…Instead he said “Come look at this I need you to write up a Car Report for me…..BMW have given me this white car and you know a bit about cars, so take it for a drive and write the report.

I said…. “Dave, I’m a good looking guy, I’m single and it’s Friday night…I have options”……He pointed out that I’m an Orang-utan with many ex-wives and that a white BMW was about as lucky as I was going to get on any night.

So, like the cool young hip things we are, we jumped into the latest BMW 320i and went Friday night cruising in Wellington.

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Dave’s driving, and it seems an opportune time to begin the review.

Ok, so this is where we review of the bad stuff first. Like any good motoring journalist you have to put the ‘boot’ (cleverly hidden car pun right there) in somewhere. And as we are both nowhere near ever becoming motoring journalists I think it’s best to get the negatives out the way first.

The first major drawback of the car is that it’s a 320i. And this was compounded by the fact that it had the 320i badge on the back. Sure, it’s true, Dave and I have no shame, but seriously Mr BMW person, you could have saved our dignity and given us something with a big donkey in it. The one saving grace is that it has tinted windows, so we didn’t lose our cool.

Then there is the English lady who was on the Sat Nav. It was like listening to my English mother…she kept mispronouncing Wellington Place Names. So that was worth a laugh. However I don’t blame BMW about that, because after all this really is a Remuera car, and I’m sure the English voice settings are perfect in its natural environment……probably something like…..“Benson Road Cafe, 20 metres, and you have reached your gorgeous trophy wife”. I sooooo miss Auckland.

The next major drawback was that the stereo immediately picked up David’s iPhone song list……. Turn on the car and being accosted by Sonny and Cher’s – You got me Babe was a low moment. BMW, there are apps to jam both Sonny and Cher and the Carpenters.

It gets worse…..seriously.

So Dave’s driving the car right, and he’s trying to sound like he knows what he is talking about.

This is a verbatim record of his observations about BMW’s most popular car; “Fuck, it’s got bright indicators”. “The Brakes work”. “It turns tight“. “It goes fast”. “I like this car”.

So, those were the low points of the drive.

Now for the good bits of the 320i. We know Mr BMW is hanging on our every word so as to use one of our quotes in their next NBR advert.

I take over the driving from David. NB: I will declare my interest in BMW’s…I love them, having owned three in the past.

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This 320i really is a great car to drive. I it just feels at home on the road and nothing phased it at all. We didn’t even bother looking at the instruction manual – mainly because we know that Whale’s a big follower of this blog and would take our man cards off us if we even knew where the instruction manual was.

On the Sunday, we headed off to Petone foreshore to kayak over to Soames Island. However, we get there and it’s cutting up rough…southerly, rain, freezing…a typical Wellington summer day…and we were trash talking how we will make it to the Island.

In between the trash talking I was playing with the entertainment system, audio and sat nav etc. It is easy to use and very intuitive! We even changed the clock settings due to Daylight savings giving me an extra hour in bed. So, all the crap that Jeremy Clarkson goes on about not being able to work BMW’s thingamabob icontrol button system, seems to be nothing more than that of a man clinging tightly to his iPhone 4s and not embracing new technology.

Ok, so it’s blowing a Southerly, the trash talk is getting up there, then Mr Kayak man turns up.

We get out of the snug Beeeemer and are ready to go!

“Ah…sorry, it’s too rough for you to go out there”. Said the Kayak delivery man. Farrar sold out and was back in the car ready to go home. I pushed a little harder and explored the options. The response from the kayak man was soul destroying and a salutatory lesson in listening to the experts…..”Listen, I would go out there but I’m a pro, you aren’t and I kinda like my kayaks”.

So, back into the car and off to Days Bay in Eastbourne in atrocious weather.

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Driving round to Eastbourne in a Southerly is a real test of any driver’s mettle, the car feels solid on the road, and the pounding rain doesn’t phase the car.

After a quick café stop, where David said to the waitress…”Hold the ice, I don’t eat solids” …seriously, I don’t make this stuff up….. we went off driving.

And the driving part is actually fun in this car. The 320i doesn’t feel like its underpowered or lacking in get up and go -I was genuinely surprised. We headed up into the twisting hills of Khannndaaalaaaah….as our Sat Nav woman pronounced it and this car just felt a delight to drive.

Another thing, when driving was that everything felt familiar in the car. As I said, I’ve owned 3 BMW’s and when I jumped in it seemed so easy to know where things are. So anyone who has owned a BMW in the past will quite happily feel at ease in this cockpit. Can I say cockpit? Oh, yeah I can, because I’m not a real journalist and this is a little read blog.

Now, I know that all 2 readers of this blog want to know the more ‘grunty’ stuff about the car…or techy bits. So, for all you detail nerds out there, here are some of the more technical aspects:

  • Engine stuff…have no idea, we didn’t bother lifting the bonnet, but it goes well and sounds quiet.
  • Fuel consumption was care of BMW’s fuel card, so it was fucking fantastic!
  • Co2 emissions ….not sure as we never ever looked in the rear-view mirror.
  • The boot looks like a boot. Dark, uninteresting and no doubt can hold 400 litres of whatever they measure boot space with.
  • Full or space saver spare tyre? LOL, like who cares.  The last time I got a flat tyre was when I was rally driving dad’s Mark 5 Ford Cortina Sport on Waikato Roads.
  • Reverse camera with guidelines and even radar……shows just how close you really are.
  • Lots of leg room behind David when he’s driving.
  • And of course the most important thing that us motoring journalists focus on “Is the car value for money”. I’m of the opinion that if you can afford this car brand-new, then you have a sound grasp of the value of money.

So, Mr BMW, thank you for lending us the latest BMW 320i to test drive.

And judging from the feedback, all 2 out of 2 Kiwioil Blog readers agree this is a great car.

Anyone who wants to read more about the 320i, and I have no idea why, because I’ve said it all and more…here is the link to the official website:

http://www.bmw.co.nz/com/en/newvehicles/3series/sedan/2011/showroom/introduction.html

No doubt will be full of boring advertising speak like…”So you’ve finally made it, why not go the extra step and really finally make it by driving a BMW, you deserve the best, no seriously you do, because you have finally made it…now punch the air”.

So that’s the review, and while having to hand back a cool car, I begin to doubt myself and think I haven’t finally made it, but my melancholy is rapidly replaced as I walk back into the flat and see the child-like delight on David’s face as he beams proudly;

“Hey, did you know that each individual pea is less than a calorie?”

I think how can life not be great!

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BMW Ladies’ Day at Boomrock

December 3rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Charlotte Kieft, as I have a Y chromosome.

As BMW New Zealand has just appointed a female CEO – Nina Englert – it seems only appropriate (though I am assured it is just coincidence) that BMW recently held a BMW Ladies’ Day at Boomrock near Wellington. And, seeing as Dave lacked the necessary prerequisites (and quite frankly even in a dress and wig would convince no-one), I volunteered to be the lady in question – tough job, huh?

I would be the first to admit, I’m not the natural choice for a day designed to wow motoring enthusiasts. To me, a car has always been a practical machine, designed to get you from point A to B in the shortest space of time, or to serve as a motorised shopping cart. In fact, my last two cars have been Toyotas – a Corolla and then an Echo. Good solid reliable 1.3 litre machines. Sure, they struggle on the hills in Wellington, but who needs to go higher than second gear up hill, right? Wrong! As I was soon to find out…

As we headed over the hills of Wellington, steadily north, it seemed even the weather conspired to give myself and the other ladies a great day out. After a week of strong winds and sporadic rain we were treated to a light breeze, a few fluffy wisps of cloud in the sky, and full on sun. You can’t beat Wellington on a good day, eh?

And when we reach our destination – wow. Boomrock is spectacular – a working farm turned event centre, better known for hosting weddings and parties, but which also boasts a purpose built ‘race track’ on the very top its lush green hills, complete with distracting views of the Mana and the South Island.

Once we had settled in, the Ladies were divided up into groups – Red Team and Black Team – sorry Dave, no Blue Team J.

We began the day with a quick lap of the course to orientate ourselves with one of the two fantastic instructors (Mike Eady and Martin Collins) 

 

Next we got to have a go driving both the 1 Series Hatch and the 3 Series – or ‘the white one’ and ‘the blue one’ (I warned you I wasn’t a car person.)

Both were fantastic cars to drive – as smooth as silk on the road, even in the ‘wet spot’ and like drinking cream after the diet of slightly sour skim milk served by my trusty old Echo.

The instructors’ tips of how to sit in car correctly (who knew it was so easy to get wrong!), cornering, looking ahead and correct use of ABS brakes were real eye openers and definitely provided something worthwhile to take away.

Being a bit of a geek, I also fell in love with the great tech that comes with the cars: hands free Blue tooth (including voice activated calling with soothing BBC English responses), reversing cameras complete with lock lines, GPS, and the ‘heads up’ visual display which made you feel like you were in some futuristic version of Kit.  I was so taken by the tech, I forgot to even check out the cup holder (usually my first priority!) and heated seats.

I felt a sense of almost grief when I left the lovely 1 Series (my favourite – and I later learned 2011 NZ Herald Car of the Year, Overall Car of the Year) behind but was soon consoled by my next adventure: off-roading in a 4WD, BMW style (the X5 if you are interested in models), complete with the obligatory whoosh through mud puddles, crazy up hill and down dales, and mud slinging donuts.

This time the features of the car could be shown off with daredevil hijinks – the impressive DSC (dynamic stability control) where the car brakes by itself gently as it rolls down the hill is of course best demonstrated by the driver having his feet poking out the door – look no pedals!  Who’s driving now?

After a brief interlude of skeet shooting, archery and knife throwing, we arrived at the adrenaline-filled highlight of the day – the ‘hot lap’.  Surely the most fun you can have on four wheels!  The impressive Mike Eady took his bevy of lovely ladies around the track at breakneck, scream-inspiring speed just to show us how it is really done in the M Series Sports.

Afterwards, we were taken down to the lodge for bubbles on the lawn (Deutz – absolutely delicious) followed by a three-course lunch –I had worked up quite an appetite after all that excitement.

As I drank my second glass of bubbles and gazed over the ocean, I realised I finally understood what all the fuss was about – cars are fun.  And a day out with the BWM team is more than just fun – it’s a great experience that I would recommend to anyone, young or old, man or lady.

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The BMW X5 M50d

October 19th, 2012 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

I blogged in August how I ended up driving BMWs on snow for a day. It all came about from BMW NZ asking me if I’d like to review one of their cars. In the nano-second it took to me say yes, I mentioned a ski trip planned for September, and so resisted the temptation to grab a 7 series, going for a BMW X5 M50d.

Above is the promo shot. The one we got through Jeff Gray BMW in Wellington is below.

Five of us travelled up from Wellington in it, meeting four more friends travelling down from Auckland. The X5 fitted in five people easily, and the boot area is actually pretty huge. It fitted in five suitcases plus some extra gear. The roof rack was for the three pairs of skies, two snowboards, ten boots, six poles etc!

So how was the car overall? I’ll get into details down below, but I have to say that far and away it was the safest car I have ever driven. X5s are not cheap, but I now understand why people will pay that much for a car, if safety is a concern for them.

Stats

I’m not someone too fussed on the stats of a car, as I prefer to go on how it actually feels to me. But for those who do like the numbers the X5 is a 3 litre V6 triple-turbo diesel with automatic 8-speed transmission. It has 380 horsepower and 740 Nm torque.

Safety

First thing I noticed in the car was that the speedo wasn’t just on the dashboard but a digital display of your speed is reflected onto the windscreen in front of the driver. This is actually massively helpful as it means you can see your speed, without ever taking you eyes off the road ahead. In a powerful car where you can accidentally exceed the speed limit by cruising, this means you won’t. Any speeding will be quite deliberate.

Also when the GPS is switched on, the instructions for the next turn are also displayed on your windscreen. I love GPS navigators but having to look at them from time to time can be a bit dangerous. When the instructions are directly in your line of sight, it means you never take your eyes off the road ahead.

In terms of actual driving, it handles magnificently. You know how sometimes you may go around a corner a bit too fast and feel the car just struggling for control a bit. The stabilizing technology in the X5s meant that not once did the car feel like it could even potentially be out of control.

Speed

I need to be careful here. When talking about speeds I will say we did 1×9 kms an hour. For the purposes of the NZ Police, the Ministry of Transport, the NZ Transport Agency and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee x = 0, so we never did  over the tolerance of 109 kms an hour.

Others may insert their own value for x and find they may not be wrong.

One of the best things about the X5 is how safe and easy it makes overtaking. It accelerates from 100 kms per hour to 1×9 kms per hours in barely a second. You fly past the car you wanted to overtake and are back on the correct side of the road so promptly the ongoing traffic is still hundreds of metres away. I’m not suggesting we did any over-taking which we would have not done in other cars – you never want to be on the wrong side of a miscalculation.  What I’m saying, is that the just makes over-taking less of a stress – you just decide it is safe to go, floor it (not literally as otherwise you will take off), and bingo you’re back on your side of the road.

As previously mentioned, it handles corners very well.

Computer

The X5 is not so much a car, as a computer with wheels. In a couple of years with the help of Google, it will probably drive itself. A lot of cars now have cruise control and the like – a very good way to avoid speeding tickets also. They’ve designed it so you can do most of what you want to from the steering wheel, so no fiddling with the dashboard. Also as everything is via the one computer, they play together nicely. If you are playing music from your iPhone, and the GPS has instructions for you it pauses the song while it tells you of the next turn.

The rear view camera that shows you the angle you need to reverse into a tight area is bloody handy. Also it has sensors to warn you if you are both going to reverse or move forward into an object.

Oh yeah, most of the computer commands can be done by voice also. Don’t need that so much when travelling with others, but definitely useful if by yourself. All part of just having that safety focus.

Other features

The heated front seats were bliss after a day’s skiing.

Driving up both Whakapapa and Turoa was a cinch. I’d previously tried an X5 (with snow tyres) on actual snow and ice, so on an actual road (albeit one with some snow) was very unstressful.

After Turoa closed early on the Sunday, we decided to head back via a very scenic route – the Whanganui River Road. Was beautifully scenic, and a few of us are talking about canoeing it over summer. The photo above shows us stopping to enjoy a view. The road was a good one to test the X5 out on – not always sealed, wet and windy.

So was there anything bad about the car? Well the person in the rear centre seat said it was a bit uncomfortable (as that seat often is), and working out how to open the glovebox actually required an engineering degree (or a phone call to BMW – there is a not so obvious button for it). But as you expect with a car in this range, it is hard to find a lot of faults.

Would I personally pay $170,000 for an X5? Don’t be crazy – I’d pay off my mortgage first.

But if in a few years I was earning enough money to afford a car in that price range – my answer would be hell yeah. As I said, I’ve never felt safer in a car – even when driving at 1×9 kms an hour :-)

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A superb day

August 27th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail, which after reading I instantly forwarded onto a few friends with the comment “Best e-mail ever”. It was from BMW NZ asking if I’d be interested in trying out some of their new BMWs and reviewing them on the blog.

I replied a few micro-seconds later saying that yes I don’t think I’d find that too unpleasant. In further e-mail conversation I suggested that it would be a waste to have a BMW and just use it in central Wellington, and asked if they would have anything suitable to take on a ski trip up to Ruapehu. BMW NZ came back with an X5 and .suffice to say I am looking forward to my ski trip.

But an even better e-mail followed. BMW said that as I like to go up in the snow, would I be interested in being part of the media group taking part in their BMW Alpine xDrive challenge. This involves flying to Queenstown, staying at Millbrook and spending a day up in the snow having top instructors teaching you to drive on snow, and then some slalom and drag challenges. My reply to that e-mail was more measured in nanoseconds than milliseconds.

So on Wednesday last week I flew down to Queenstown. Never flown there before (driven many times) and was surprised how large the airport is.

Millbrook is a very tranquil and lovely place to stay. First class service. This is the view from the porch area of my villa. My only regret is not paying to stay on an extra day at my own expense so I could have a round of golf there.

This is just the living room area – the bedroom is almost as large.

An external shot.

On Tuesday night we had a get to know you function and dinner. There were 17 media there in total – most of them driving or motoring drivers.

Had a 5 am wake up call the next morning as we had breakfast at 6 am and departed at 7 am. A bus took us over the crown range and then up the Waiorau Snow Farm Road in Cardrona Valley. On the way up we saw the statue of Possume Bourne whose fatal crash was on this road, which used to also be the road for the Race to the Sky.

Photo from Mark Price/ODT.

A great location for his statue. We then got up to the Snow Farm, which is home to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds. This is the only facility in the world in the southern hemisphere where car manufacturers and the like can test their products in winter conditions. They spread out over a large number of tracks and areas, mostly behind fences so people can’t see the future models not yet released.

We were very lucky with the weather. It was a perfect day up there. Sun was out all day, and amazing views the whole day. They say we had the best day all month.

The high quality photos are from Simon Darby of Wanaka Photography.

These are the BMWs our group had. We had X1s, X3s, X5s and an X6.

I can not over-state how amazingly they handle the conditions. Their engineering allows the torque power to shift from front to back or even to one side only (if one side is one ice). At one point we drove at 60 km/hr and slammed on the brakes, and did a perfect stop with no sliding. The BMW Xs on snow brake basically as well as other cars on road. You’d actually have to try really hard to crash one (or turn off the stabilisation controls, as we did :-).

We had four driving instructors. Three who work for BMW NZ and Dieter (above) who is an international driving instructor for BMW, from Germany. Dieter trains security professionals up around the world and we were very fortunate to have him, on his first visit to NZ. He is also the most German German you could meet – as you found out when you stuffed up :-)

One of the many highlights of the day was when we did some hotlaps in the cars, driven by the professional instructors – with us as passengers. I’ve driven before on snow, and have driven before around tight corners and driven before at 150 kms/hr – but never all three at the same time. Semi-terrifying but great fun – and you actually always felt safe – they really know how to handle these cars.

Going down the slope. The cruise control is so good that you just putter down at 5 km/hr.

One amusing story from the day. One of the journalists was asked to try driving up the slope, and to get as far as they could before they start sliding backwards – the idea being the cruise control will then hit in.

However the journo managed to do what no one previously had managed and with a big lead up had enough momentum to make it all the way. Now imagine scenes of everyone at the top looking down suddenly diving out of the way and then the BMW jumping many feet into the air at the top in the best Dukes of Hazzard style. Some of the other BMWs were parked at the top (as no one had ever made it up) and it was a bit of a close call than there wasn’t a squashed car or two! :-)

After we all had a go driving down the slope, a couple got to try reversing down.

Hayley Holt from The Crowd Goes Wild. She’s just as cool in real life, as she is on the screen. Highlights of Hayley’s driving were on TCGW on Friday night. You can see it on iSky here.

We got to do loops around a circle. You basically spend most of your time sliding and turning to correct over-steer and under-steer. Is actually pretty tiring stuff!

We spent a lot of time doing slalom courses. In the morning session I was amazed to discover I actually got the fastest lap time in my group. Was pretty pleased with that. Sadly I spun out just before the finish line in the afternoon slalom.

If I look a bit intense in this photo, it is because it was taken during the slalom course.

We had lots of fun doing drag races between crews, swapping cars every few rounds so you got to try all four models there.

How better to end the day than with Speights at the Cardrona Hotel. Actually the day did not end up there, but with an awards dinner back at Millbrook.

The team photo. Was a great bunch of people, and enjoyed meeting them all. Special ups to Dave L, my co-driver for the day.

It was an amazing experience, and big thanks to BMW NZ for the experience. Their cars were just amazing to drive and handle.

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In Queenstown

August 21st, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m in Queenstown for a couple of days. BMW NZ must have seen the photo Whale took of my almost backing a car down a bank, and decided I need some upskilling.

So they have kindly put me on their BMW Alpine XDrive, which in their own words:

Put your driving skills to the test in the most challenging driving conditions the Southern Alps have on offer, behind the wheel of our latest BMW X Range vehicles.  Guided by professional BMW Instructors, you will discover first-hand the class-leading, road-holding capabilities of BMW’s xDrive technology – the world’s most intelligent All-Wheel Drive system.

Having acquired the skills you need to drive in these extreme snow and ice alpine conditions, you will then experience power-slides in the skid circle and compete in timed challenges on the ice slalom. High-speed hot laps with a professional driver, on snow-covered roads are the only way to finish the day.

There is a more than reasonable chance that you’ll get to see a photo of me driving off a cliff and landing a few hundred metres down. If I manage to avoid driving into an icewall, it should be a bloody fun experience.

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Another day, another smear

May 12th, 2011 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Sigh, they just have not learnt from the H-Fee. This latest smear is, in my opinion, actually worse than the H-Fee smear. You see with the H-Fee I do credit that Mike Williams did at least have an honest belief that John Key was the evil mastermind of the H-Fee transaction as he got Key’s signature confused with someone else. So it was a clumsy incompetent smear – but at least one they thought was true.

The BMW smear is worse than that, Because Mallard and Hipkins know it is not true. The most simple of checks would establish the two companies named are totally seperate companies with no common share-holding.

Labour have basically alleged that a $50,000 donation to National from Team McMillan Limited was linked to the Government taking up the option (in the contract Labour negotiated) to upgrade the VIP fleet of BMW cars from BMW New Zealand.

I am amazed some media have focused on who signed off on what, rather than the far more important point that the two companies are totally seperate.

The company that did a deal with DIA is BMW New Zealand Ltd. Their sole shareholder is BMWHoldings B V in The Netherlands. The two directors are Guenther Seeman of Germany and Mark Gilbert of Auckland – the mananging director.

 The company that donated to National is Team McMillan BMW. Their two shareholders are MacFam  Ltd and Collins Asset Management Investments Ltd. MacFam Ltd is owned by Bob McMillan, Kerry McMillan, Ronald Jamieson and James Syme. Collins is owned by Cottisloe Holdings which is owned by Timothy Cook and Beverly Collins.

Team McMillan BMW did not benefit by one cent from the DIA decision. In fact they say they were unaware of it.

So the story is an absolute nonsense. But I suspect we will see lots more of these to come – Labour seem determined to run the same style campaign as they did in 2008.

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