Five seats #E3
; 127 mph; 0 to 60 mph in 8 sec. At a Glance: Latest version of #BMW-E3
six-cylinder saloon with larger engine and more performance. Excellent refinement bestowed by superbly sweet power unit and light manual gearbox. Much improved brakes, better handling, but slightly more choppy ride. Same remarkable fuel consumption as before. Well finished throughout. Very satisfying car at all times.
Above: The six-cylinder engine is inclined to the fight and accessibility once the air cleaner is removed is excellent. The bonnet lid is self-supporting.
It was at the Geneva Show this year, after a successful racing programme using a prototype 3-litre engine, that BMW introduced the first of their new models using an enlarged six-cylinder power unit. That was the #BMW-3.0CS
and we published a full test of the right-hand-drive version on 15 July last.
This week the saloon powered by the same engine is launched in the UK, so once again our Autotest is very topical. As well as an additional 10 bhp and 15 lb. ft. more torque, the 3.0S has ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels (with duplicated hydraulic lines to the front callipers), improved front suspension geometry, intermit-tent as well or two-speed wiper action, revised seats with rear headrests in addition to those in front and some detail changes to the ventilation system and exterior trim. The limited-slip differential and self-levelling roar suspension have been deleted from the specification and the price goes up by USD 191 (1971 in USA for #BMW-3.3Li
) compared with the 2800 saloon which is discontinued.
Changes to the engine comprise little more than a 3mm increase in bore size, the same camshaft and twin progressive-choke Solex carburettors being retained. This is enough to push the DIN output up from 170 to 180 mph and peak torque up from 173 to 188 lb. ft.
Top speed therefore goes up from 124 to 127 mph (the overall gearing remains the same) and acceleration is improved by similar substantial margins. From 0 to 60 mph, for example, comes down from 8.9sec to 8 sec dead, and the 0 to 100 mph time is down from 27.8 to 23.9sec. The standing quarter-mile time is now just under 16sec.
Compared with other high performance cars in the same class, like the #Jaguar-XJ6
4.2, the BMW is substantially quicker. In general terms the XJ6 we tested in May this year worked out very close on performance with the #BMW-2800
. So the differences ore about the same as those already quoted. In making comparisons though it is all too easy to forget that the BMW has only a 3-litre engine, and despite its five-seater bulk and 27cwt kerb weight. Its acceleration is not much slower than that of the E-type 2+2 4.2 (0 to 60 mph 7.4sec, 0 to 100 mph 19.4sec) and from rest to 30 mph it is the equal.
To be truly fair this remarkable BMW performance should be compared with that of cars with a similar engine size. It is only when we look at the figures for the Broadspeed Bullit (0 to 60 mph 8.1 sec. 0 to 100 mph 24.5sec, top speed 124 mph) and the Uren Comanche (0 to 60 mph 8.4sec, 0 to 100 mph 24.6sec, top speed 132 mph), both cars being based on the Ford Capri 3000 with power output increased to 185-190 bhp, that the true mettle of the BMW starts to show up.
It is exactly true to the BMW tradition that the figures we measured on a car imported new and run-in here with no special preparation came precisely within the factory performance specification with very little effort on our part and virtually no recourse to special techniques other than two practice starts.
Getting the #BMW-3.0S
away from rest quickly was easy. With about 4.000 rpm showing on the dead accurate rev counter, we dropped the clutch and shot away with several yards of wheelspin, reaching 30 mph in only 2.7sec. The tyres yelped with the snatch change into second, but not into third and top. There is a red warning on the rev counter from about 6,200 to 8,000 rpm but the engine rowed up to it so freely that we ran slightly over to about 6,500 before changing up.
The gearbox has the same ratios as on the 2800 but a change to stronger synchromesh makes the action slightly more notchy and a trifle rubbery when going into bottom at rest. It is still an ultra-light and tremendously precise shift, one which must surely be the envy of all other manufacturers.
The clutch is both light and progressive with plenty of bite, a truly remarkable achievement for a car this heavy svith so much torque. To be honest we did not notice the effect of not having a limited-slip differential (it had only a 50 per cent locking action in any case) and on decent tyres there is no shortage of traction even in the wet. Unfortunately the test car was shod with German made Veith-Pirelli radials which wore miserably lacking in wet road grip and seemed very prone to squeal in the dry. We know from our experience with the 3.0 CS coupe that #Michelin-XVR
radials transform the car in this respect and it seems a pity that all #BMW
3-litres delivered to this country cannot come with thorn fitted.
If any aspect of the 2800 could be criticized, it was the brakes which did not seem to take kindly to hard use and became rather rough and rumbly when used hard from high speed. This characteristic has now been completely eliminated by changing to ventilated discs all round, backed up twin vacuum servos and duplicated hydraulic lines to the front callipers. Thus, if one circuit fails 75 per cent of the braking effect remains acting on all four wheels and if the other circuit fails. 60 per cent remains on the front wheels only. There is also the mechanical handbrake which recorded 0.33g from 30 mph with ease.
The brakes on the test car were a little lacking in initial bite (like many dual systems), and it took as much as 120lb effort to record an ultimate of 0.98g, which was the best possible on the ##Veith-Pirolli
tyres. When checked out for fade, there was some initial fluctuation before the system settled down to give repeated stabilized readings which decreased as the car's speed dropped. This speed sensitivity was reversed with the brakes cold. 0.5g from 30 mph requiring as much as 50lb effort compared with only 30lb from 70 mph. The net result is that the brakes feel better the faster you travel, which is a nice way to have things in a car with this kind of performance.
Power steering is still an optional extra and it was fitted to the test car. It seems to have more feel than on the 2800. Slight front-end geometry changes give more negative camber to the outside wheel on a bend and the whole car feels better balanced as a result. Before there was initial understeer which gradually gave way to slight roll oversteer, but now the characteristic is virtually neutral, with immediate steering response at all times. It is probably because of this change that self-levelling rear suspension is now felt to be unnecessary.
Most of the time the ride is the same smooth and very refined affair it was on the 2800, but occasionally there seems to be some conflict between front and rear spring rates which sets up rather too much pitching on roads like French chaussee deformee, especially when the car is well laden. As well as the 1,600 miles we drove the 3.0S in this country we drove a similar model through France for another 200 miles or so mostly on lesser grade roads. It was here that we spent several hours in the back and tried the optional cloth seat trim.
Fittings and furniture
The driver sits quite high in the 3.0S with a commanding view over the large flat-deck bonnet and through the low-silled side windows. Pedal angles and operating arcs are good, provided you sit veil up to them, but the throttle is a bit awkward in the latter part of its travel. The short stubby gearlever is exactly whore it should be and the long-handled handbrake is well-placed between the seats. The 16.8in. dio. steering wheel feels too large and it is set just a shade too high.
Upholstery on the test car shown here was a kind of plaited pvc which despite its breathing capabilities was hot and sticky to sit on in warm weather. We much preferred the optional cloth which had the added advantage of softening the padding, or so it seemed, and giving a much more suitable air of luxury to the interior.
Front scats have redining backrests and detachable headrests (as on the 2800) and similar headrests arc now mounted also on the rear shelf for those in the back. They tended to get slightly in the way, of vision through the rear view mirror, even when folded as for down as possible.
There is at least 40in. of total rear legroom even with the front seats right back, and enough headroom for 6ft passengers. In the middle of the back seat is a folding armrest which tucks away to give ample three-abreast seating (56in. of hip room). Front seats feel slightly short in the cushion and much too firm for real comfort when covered in pvc.
Directly in front of the driver is just about the best integrated instrument panel we have ever seen. Under a single glass are sot a huge matching speedometer and rev counter, with the fuel gauge and a temperature gauge between them. Below in the centre is a strip containing all the warning lamps for ignition, oil pressure, main beam, low fuel level, handbrake on and low brake fluid level.
Under the right-hand side of the wheel rim is a stalk for the indicators (and left or right hand parking lamps with the ignition off), screen washers and vipers. The washers squirt when this lever is pulled up towards the wheel and at the same time the wipers start up and continue for several wipes after the water stops. Pushing in the end starts and slops the wipers alternately, their speed selector switch being right across the car in its original position to the left of the ashtray. As well at two continuous speeds there is an intermittent action with 5 sec. delay between double sweeps.
A similar stalk under the left of the wheel is the dipswitch and headlamp flasher. Side and headlamps are operated by a push-pull knob on the facia to the right of the instrument cluster. Headlamps extinguish automatically when the ignition is switched off.
Under the facia are three coloured push-buttons which light up when in use. One (amber) is for the heated back window, another (red) for the four-way hazard-warning flashers and the third (green) for fog lamps when fitted. The horn is sounded by push bars in each of the three steering wheel spokes.
The main interior mirror can be dipped at night and the standard outside one on the driver's door is fitted with smoked glass.
Heater controls are grouped in the centre of the facia, with a progressive air-blending temperature selector, an air intake lever which also operates the three speed booster fan, a distribution control and an air-flow regulator for the very effective ventilation system. Extractors in the rear quarters are now hidden under flush panels which replace the 2800s painted grilles.
In front of the passenger seat is a deep drop down glove box behind which is concealed the bonnet release and fuse box. In the centre ahead of the gearlever is a big hollow console, ideal for maps, guide books, camera or handbag. In each front door there is a pocket and two more in the backs of the front seats.
It is hard to think of a car less likely to need Spanners, but with every BMW 3-litre there comes the kind of tool-kit most mechanics would guard with their life. It is almost hidden in a padded compartment in the boot lid and contains spare bulbs, fuses. spanners, three new spark plugs. Allen keys, feeler gauges and even a spare wheel nut. Unfortunately the ring spanners do not have cranked ends, which makes them much loss useful.
The spare wheel is under the floor of the boot, so virtually all the luggage must come out in the event of a puncture. On the right inside the boot is a very useful stowage box where odds and ends can be packed away to prevent thorn rattling.
The BMW six cylinder cars were the first to use flat smooth sided "computer" keys which operate the lock tumblers by means of recesses drilled to different depths. The keys are therefore smooth in the pocket and much stronger. Two are provided in the form of a master key for all locks and a sub key for the doors and ignition only.
Accessibility under the bonnet is good, especially after the large flat air cleaner has been removed. The lid is self-supporting and it has a positive lock.
Four tungsten halogen headlamps give a tremendous blaze of light on main beam, but not much spread in contrast when dipped. Adjustment is critical but easily taken care of by means of plastic knurled screws under the bonnet on the backs of the light units.
It is very hard indeed to think of any car which makes even a fair showing against the BMW 3.0S when all its considerable appeal, m terms of performance, economy, refinement and carrying power, is taken into account. Some models arc more luxuriously trimmed inside (especially in the opinion of those who put great score by such things as real wood veneer and genuine leather), some are a little quieter to ride in and others perhaps more comfortable over undulating roads. But when it comes down to the real crux of how much fun there is in driving, how much verve the car naturally wants to display and how much satisfaction it gives the driver, the BMW 3.0S in our opinion is unmatched in the saloon car class.