UK Car Road Test

BMW 320ci 2001

 Movie Clips of this Car

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A BMW coupe the yuppies favorite, the dream car for legions of key swapping suburbanites. A name that has become synonymous with quality excitement and driving experience. A car with which all others are compared.

BMW is the King of Coupes, Every manufacture worth mentioning try's to knock BMW  off the top of its perch. Many have come in a blaze of glory like the 406 coupe and sank again, many continue to come. 

So is it the class act of the sector, or is the reality much less exciting. Is the BMW still the King, is the most aspirational coupe of the 90's  still inspirational in the new millennium.  

Sweet Curved Looks Retro Alloys, very modern , 
looks like a 30s Bugatti

Corporate grill make badge redundant

Hooded lamp give menacing appearance

Well BMWs have never really been dramatic looking now have they.  Restraint has always been the watch word and judging by some of the latest monstrosities, it was a good call. This is one of the curved but still sweet looking models and a subtle improvement over the very square older models. It is a car which never seems to be overly paint sensitive, but the black overcoat does suit its brooding looks.

Add in just a few restrained subtle chrome and alloy  highlights and the effect is highly attractive. Even the wing mounted flashers use small clear glass rather than big amber items to add to the effect. 

No Electric on Seats but plenty of adjustment Excellent door pad

The whole exterior of the car seems to be devoid of extraneous detail bar the strange flutes of the clear wing mirrors but we can forgive that little extravagance. 

Interior very restrained by modern standards.
Busy wheel slightly confusing 50mpg yeah right

Inside the normally somber grey and black BMW experience has been mildly updated with the ultra modern alloy look parts. They have not gone overboard though. The only area which seems to have attracted little attention is the dash, which stays resolutely simple black and white themed, having just stepped out of the stunning new 407 with its chromed ringed white dials and mock carbon effect it looks a little dated.

BMW do not do eye popping jazzy seat patterns, so this sort of semi herringbone must be cutting edge for them. Despite its dour looks the seats are comfortable and body hugging, the driving position nigh on perfect and the wheel a joy to hold if rather busy to look at. 

Special mention must go to the arm rests with hollow elbow pads that must be just about the most comfy place to rest my tender elbow joint yet put in a car.

 

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Front
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Time Clock
Time Clock
Velour Trim
Velour Trim
General Features
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows front
Electric Windows front
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Illuminated Passenger Vanity Mirror
Illuminated Passenger Vanity Mirror
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Steering Wheel
Radio CD Player
Radio CD Player
Trip Counter
Trip Counter

Gone are the days of skimpily equipped German cars with odd Duetchmark deducting missing items. BMWs are pretty much comparable on the spec front to all other cars, and like most modern cars are pretty well loaded. You wont find any daft alien design mines better than yours cupholders though, and anyway you will be to busy enjoying the "Ultimate Driving Machine" to have time for coffee 

 

Clear concise but rather complex. Just how many controls do you need for lights.
The obligatory passenger Air Bag Two electric motors, rams a switch and metres of wire achieve this. 
All the things that matter are in place though, decent stereo, Quality aircon and heating controls, powerful head and fog lights, electric windows. All the stuff you really need and little that you don't.

 

 

320 ci does sound better than 321.7 ci I guess but calling it a 322 ci would not have brought many quibbles from people feeling robbed of 29 cc would it ?

Perhaps we are fooled into thinking the hidden 171 cc is not there and it has stellar performance output for a 2 litre. Its quoted 170bhp output suggests a specific output of around 85bhp/litre from its six cylinders where as the reality being 78.3bhp/litre are we fooled ? does it matter when Honda are getting  120bhp/litre from their four cylinder motors.

In the end its just numbers, but on the posing score board bigger number means more points to the un-initiated.

Still 170bhp is not to be sniffed at and its a perfect 170 of easily accessible and understandable linear power curve, with no dips flat spot, or decidedly dodgy poor bottom end response.

Engine a handsome unit and ....

Silky smooth

BMW's six cylinder work of  arts is and always has been a fantastic, reliable, sturdy and perfectly developed motoring Icon. Its Vanosed DOHC motor even in small bore configuration remains the perfect companion for a life of happy motoring.

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
15000 16 Not Available Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
6 Cylinder DOHC 170 2171 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
6 Double 2 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
138mph 8seconds 119
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
22mpg 38.2mpg 30.1mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1450kg 1875kg 449cm 176cm 137cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
260 Litres 0 Litres 5

Pushing the little coupe to sixty in a respectable 8 seconds and pushing on ever harder to close on 140mph is no mean feat for a conventionally aspirated 2.2 litre motor. And to do so with no odd quirks in the power delivery is even better.

Now normally you would hope to have a slick shifting 5 or wishfully thinking 6 speed manual to stir the thing along to best effect. But in this case a five speed auto box is in place. I thought this may ruin the response and drivability of the little coupe, I could not have been more wrong.

Slipping around town in drive you get all the usual Automatic lazy boy advantages. It slurs between shifts almost unnoticed almost holding the revs steady in a single quiet drone of steady engine noise. If you are still struggling through traffic with a manual box, you really do not know what you are missing.

This one has a nice straight gait so has none of that serpentine hand movement required to move from Neutral to Drive.

Normally that's where the Automatic advantage ends, but thanks to the nature of modern electronics the BMW has a few other tricks left up its cuff linked sleeves. 

Push it left from drive and it enters automatic sports mode, tightening up the response, holding gears a little longer and changing down with less prompting. 

Allied to that is a sequential shift mode that allows you to tap up and down the box like a rally car, cutting off the torque convertor, though it will cut back in when you fail to change or ask it to do idiotic things.

Best of both worlds , pretty much so.

As always the brakes are excellent full of feel and sharp, though not so light as to provoke unwarranted locking from the unwary or heavy footed.  ABS cuts in only under very heavy panic braking, leaving the pedal thankfully free from sensor pulsing.

The Car also has traction control though it seems a little over the top for a 170bhp auto. It does mean you can generate almost computer controlled perfect launches and sprints. Just stick it in sports mode. Nail the gas to the floor and hold on as the traction control generates the maximum forward motion for you.  Its easy and reliable, even if it does take a little of the skill and entertainment away.

 

Every man and his dog knows why BMWs handle so well, its because they are rear wheel drive is it not. 

Well I once had Morris Marina and that was the worst driving car I have ever known with both under and over steer, often at the same time and every front driver I have ever sat in out handled it easily. So that kills that theory.

Its not just simply a case of which wheels you drive, its about balance, stability of suspension geometry and a host of other things.

That BMW's invariably handle well in comparison to pretty much all the opposition is a function of its carefully balanced weight distribution, complex and refined suspension and its stiff chassis.

This Coupe restored a little of my lost faith in BMW's steering powers by coming with steering that was  beautifully weighted, direct and responsive. I criticized the saloon for having a dull spot to aid stability, but that centre spot was not noticeable on the coupe and its stability was still spot on.

Grip is excellent aided no doubt by the very low profile rubber that the car wears. In the dry at least  it held its line at like it was glued down, even ignoring bumps and dips mid corner, which can throw many a car offline. It did not really feel like it would under steer, with just a feeling the back end was creeping around to help you out in fast bends. In slower tighter bend heavy on the gas and harsh on the steering a little under steer was felt from the howling rubber, which is good and much better than the rear end snapping around.

BMW have worked hard to engineer the safety factor of a little under steer in to the car, and yet keep the sporty feeling of little over steer, without either ever getting the better of the chassis.

 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Active Roll Control System
Active Roll Control System
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Automatic Stability Control
Automatic Stability Control
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Traction Control
Traction Control

 

Neat door treatment

 Minor styling effort reason unknown

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Deadlocks
Deadlocks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection

Personally I am always more impressed by security than safety feature, but then I have only crashed one car but had 4 stolen. So the Alarm, deadlocks and immobilsor  mean more to me than  4 air bags and side impact protection. Especially in a desirable Coupe.

Still the car its always nice to have those features. Check out the upside down dalek under the mirror, I think thats the electro chromatic rear view mirror thing,  or  auto anti dazzle to us less educated mortals. Nice touch though a bit ugly in execution.  

 

Cost New 22890    Residual @ 3 years N/A
Produced from  Oct 1 2000 to Jun 1 2002

Okay its not cheap, get over it. Its always been the way it will always be the way.

On the upside many independent garages now have the ability to reset the service light so you no longer need to be held to ransom by the main dealers and their sky high pricing. 

Boot fair considering.

Economy is not something normally lauded with BMW coupes, though they are often far from the worst offenders 38mpg is claimed to be on offer to the religiously stingy but 25-30 is probably more realistic with just a little restraint. Keep the sweet six singing though and low twenties is on the cards, 170bhp does not come from burning fresh air alone.  

Auto box truly excellent

As Coupes go the BMW like its ancestors, is quite practical as long as you do not have a large or growing family. Rear room is reasonable and the seats usable if a little restricted on head room.

The boot also does a passable impersonation of  cargo carrying hole, and is helped by the hatch style split fold rear seats. Though you are still restricted to loading through a high silled  small boot.

In summation the BMW 320ci still offers what the BMW coupe always has practical style. With more than enough gusto and sporty handling to keep most of the worlds keen drivers happy.
It is a good looking car, which is not always a thought aimed at previous BMW models

As yet no other Coupe manages to balance all of the BMW's attributes and match them.

It still retains that quality build factor, which only the Germans every seem to be able to nail, and that still remains the deciding factor for many buyers.

All in all a nice, enjoyable if slightly expensive car but one which is a pleasure to drive both in the nose to tail rat run and for those days out on empty winding roads.

As yet despite the many contenders tilting at BMWs crown the King is still the King.

Long live the King

 

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UK Car Road Test BMW 320ci 2001

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Sports Auto320ci