SWEET DREAMS BABY #BMW-E9 #1975
Eight grand. A lot of money, right ? Just think what you could spend it on, assuming you had it going spare. What’s that? It’s still possible to pick up a house, flat or cottage for that kind of money? Not where I live, baby. Besides, if that’s the way you think we’re not speaking the same language. I said ‘spare’.
How about a whole fleet of 2CVs? Silly person, you can’t drive more than one at once. A modest little yacht, maybe? Schmuck. You really want everyone to know you’ve got maritime tendencies? A fragile Italian car with the vroomiest engine and the most tasteless interior in the whole world? Count me out, moonbeam.
You know what I’d buy if I had eight grand to play with? I’d buy me one of the sharpest cars in the world. It would be immaculately designed, tastefully finished, beautifully engineered. It would be ridiculously comfortable, it would be fast, smooth and would handle impeccably. Above all, it would be civilised. It would probably be a #BMW-3.0CSi-E9
You heard. A three-litre petrol-injected coupe, fresh off the Bayerische Motoren Werke shelves. It’d be long and blue, preferably a nice metallic turquoise. I’ve got it all figured out. Just the right proportions of glass to steel and enough ‘options’ in the straight package to leave me happy, just playing with the electric windows all day long. Forget the lightweight CSL, with or without the ‘Special’ (stripes and wings) pack. What do you think I am, flash?
Mind you, I’m luckier than most. Most people can only daydream. Just occasionally, though, some of us get the chance to put it into reality. And I’ve just had a #BMW-3.0CSi
for ten days. Yeah, surprise.
Stroll nonchalantly out to the carpark, a new set of keys clasped in the cleanest hands this side of ‘The Lancet.’ Paranoia begins with a 3.0CSi. Why, people are actually staring at me. Is it that obvious?
Open the door. Big door, lip till now I’d been asking myself if it really looks like eight grand. Open up that driver’s door and it even smells like eight grand. Sit in, but gingerly. Adjust the seat, bouncing a little in the process. Feels a little hard after countless cheaper makes, but it inspires the feeling that I could drive a million miles (for one of your smiles?) and climb out feeling as relaxed as when I started.
And relaxed is the only way to describe it. It starts easily, the automatic choke sensing itself into operation. The clutch is light enough to require effortless operation, heavy enough to let you know it’s there. Into gear — slightly notchy, but nothing to worry about — and the clutch comes in as smoothly as an encyclopaedia salesman’s patter. A squeeze on the accelerator, the merest touch on the power-assisted steering and I’m moving. Can it really be that easy? You mean some people actually drive like this all the time?
Ridiculous. It feels as if I’ve been driving it all my life. Snick, snick, difficult to stay cool about a car that feels this good. I must remove the smug look, I’ll be spotted as a masquerading upstart easy as pie. Snick, snick, I don’t even need to overtake people properly. They are actually moving out of the way. Ridiculouser and ridiculouser. There’s got to be a good reason for flooring the throttle — hell, who needs one. And guess what ? It's got to be one of the smoothest engines I’ve ever whizzed round the rev band. Easy, solid power, all the way round. Next time out I’m going to need a neck brace.
Journey’s end before I’ve even realised I’ve started. This is getting serious. I thought motoring was supposed to be fun. This is a whole new ball game. No sweat, just complete relaxation. I figure I’m as comfortable as I’m ever likely to be, in a car as close to perfect as I’d ever want it to be.
The interior’s just fine. Cloth upholstered seats, nice drop of quality carpet. Not a great deal of legroom in the back, but sit an ordinary mortal in the hot seat and by the law of averages he’d have to move it forward a good six inches.
You’ll never find a fascia like this on, say, a Japanese car. It’s not overdone, there’s nothing flashy about it, it's just all there and in the right place. Steering column's adjustable for length, and the trimming can’t be faulted — even all that wood's real. The four big instruments — speedometer, rev counter, clock and I multipurpose gauge — tell me all I want to know. Quickly, easily, and without distracting me. I have all the controls I need at my fingertips, and incidental switches are never far away.
The electric window rocker switches, for instance, are set on either side of the gearstick. Two each side, one each for back and front windows. Slow the windows may be, but strong enough to crack a walnut; should you feel the need.
They seem to sum the whole thing up, really. They didn't have to be that good — a perhaps cheaper installation would have been perfectly adequate. But BMW have left nothing to chance, and everything is just that bit beefier than it need be, just to make sure.
(One good reason for the strength is that in a true pillarles coupe such as this, sealing and wind noise could be something of a problem. They aren’t. But I do wish there wasn’t a duplicate pair of switches for the rear seat passengers to play with. Sod it, they’ve got seatbelts already.)
I’m simply not interested in finding fault. I could criticize the speaker grille for flimsiness, but then you don’t normally let Dron loose in a car, hellbent on seeing which bits come off. Besides, the VHF radio more than compensates. Slightly less forgivable, though, are the steering wheel vibration and location of ashtrays. The ashtrays, set in the doors, are almost impossible to manage without double joints, certainly without taking your eyes of the road. And invariably the ash is blown off long before it drops in. Ah well, suppose I could always give up smoking.
And back on the road. The complete smoothness. In every respect, of the thing is quite staggering. Driven the apparent gaps between the gears — at certain speeds! I’m aware of a feeling that I’m too fast for the gear I’m in, yet too slow for the next one up. It disappears quickly, the flexibility and torque of the injected straight straight six taking care of any doubts on my part. An automatic box is the real answer, although the change in carburation means losing a few brake horsepower.
And at speed the thing’s equally disquieting. The amazing power-assisted steering is second to none I’ve encountered, with a light but positive feel right the way from a traffic crawl to the 130-odd top speed, wet or dry. I’ll repeat that: wet or dry.
2985cc 222bhp SAE (200bhp DIN) engine ( #M30B30
) pulls smoothly right up to 6400rpm, and a top speed of 136mph. Accelerating up to the limit, speeds through the gears are truly astonishing. First gear will see 38mph, second’s good for 65 (0-60mph in 7 ½ secs), and third runs out at 102mph. So much for the once-magic ton. All this, and the fuel consumption between 20 and 25mpg. Or even better, driven carefully.
And you know the real turn on? That tremendous feeling of absolute confidence. Of knowing that those great big discs all round will haul it to a stop with no apparent effort. With the redesigned suspension (‘for ride comfort’) and stronger torsion bars front and rear, the handling’s as neutral as you’ll find anywhere, the minimal understeer turned into power oversteer at a touch of the throttle.
It’s all too easy to break the law in a car like this. Safety at speed is one thing, but when there’s virtually no sensation of speed it really does make a nonsense of a 30mph limit.
I could carry on eulogising for hours, but I keep coming back to that price tag. Assuming that a #BMW
2002 is worth close on three grand (and it is, every penny), is there really five thousand’s difference ? Mixed feelings here on the staff. Some say yes, others an emphatic no. All depends on your social standing, aspiration and means. And since none of us figures anywhere in those terms of reference, we’d all have difficulty justifying a £7,870 cheque for the sheer pleasure the car gives.
The specifications are interesting, but largely academic here. Anyone buying the car doesn’t need to know the grubby bits, and anyone merely daydreaming has got the pix to drool over. If you really want to know, check them out with your local dealer. We’ve a few more photographs we’d like to use, on the assumption that they tell a whole lot more about the car than a few thousand more hysterical words.
One thing’s for sure, though. I now have a whole new set of standards to measure other, less outstanding cars against. Things will never be the same again.