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    (NOT) GROWING UP Beautiful blue bagged E92 320d

    Deciding it’s time to grow up and stop modifying a car is easy, but actually doing it is much harder… Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Simon Ward

    There comes a time, we suppose, in all our lives when we will start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop modifying cars and start putting money away, sensibly, for the inevitable arrival of The Future and spending what spare money we have left on more grown-up interests, such as old whisky and expensive wax jackets or hand-crafted ethnic fair trade furniture. Perhaps that’s already happened, perhaps you’re sipping an 18-year-old single malt while wearing an expensive jacket, sitting on a chair made from Sheesham hardwood. What’s Sheesham? Exactly…

    Or perhaps it’s already crossed your mind while you were out shopping for your new car, or when you decided to spend three months’ wages on a new set of wheels, but you’ve not managed to commit yet. You can’t quit the grip of modding and you keep telling yourself that you’ll start being sensible any day now, but there’s just time for one last big score…

    That’s where Will Drayson found himself about four years ago, but we’ll let him tell his tale: “I’ve dreamed of owning a BMW since I first passed my test – something has always drawn me towards them. This was my first BMW; at the time I had just been promoted and began working in Sheffield. I had a modified Mk4 Golf and wanted something a bit smarter. I tried to be sensible and choose something with good economy as I was commuting about 300 miles a week. I went for the E92 320d as I loved how it looked and knew the running costs wouldn’t be an issue. It seemed like the perfect car for me.

    “I travelled to Leicester to get it. I’ve always been a bit OCD with my cars and paintwork and I’d spoken to the seller on the phone and told him that if it wasn’t perfect then not to waste my time, but if it was as good as he’d said I’d pay the full asking price. True to his word it was immaculate and when I pulled up to view it, before I even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy when I bought it, I’ll never forget that day.

    “I originally told myself it was time to grow up, save money and take a break from the modifying scene… and then within four days had already painted the wheels a dark anthracite and ordered some coilovers. I couldn’t help myself – to me, modifying my cars is an expression of who I am. I don’t think it’ll ever be anything I can leave alone.”

    Will is most definitely a serial modifier and looking back through his case history it’s clear that nothing short of an intervention will be able to kerb his habit. After leaving school and starting work as a joiner, he modified his Astra work van. This was followed by a modified and financially crippling SEAT Leon Cupra R and then the slightly more sensible Golf GT TDi. This leads us neatly on to the 320d, the car that would not be modified, except is now probably more modified than all of the others put together. If we were mean, we’d go for a slow hand clap, but we’re sympathetic so we’ll opt for a consoling pat on the back instead. Not that Will needs consoling because his decision to go to town on his E92 means he’s ended up with a spectacular machine that turns heads wherever it goes.


    The reason for all that attention is simple: it looks absolutely spectacular. Will’s done a first rate job on the styling but what really sets it all off is that custom paint; it’s a gloriously bold blue, solid and striking and completely custom, conjured up by the mind of Will himself. We happen to know the ingredients that went into this unique blend but if we told you, we’d have to kill you, and then Will would probably come and kill us, so we won’t. All we can tell you is that it was created in a bit of a mad scientist moment of mixing, a Willy Wonka-esque colour mixing adventure with Will having no earthly way of knowing in which direction he was going, and when the smoke had cleared and it was all over, he’d conjured up his perfect shade of blue.

    But a blue E92 alone isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd. It needed to be sprayed over a body that’s deserving of all that love and attention: “I wanted quite an aggressive look while avoiding the M3 bumper/replica route,” he explains. “With it being a 320d the last thing I wanted was to ‘pretend’ it was an M3.” He’s certainly done a grand job of making his E92 look suitably aggressive without following the crowd. Will has smoothed the front bumper, removed the headlight washer jets, smoothed the bonnet, added NEM angel eyes with tinted internals along with tinted rear lights and then he’s gone to town on the carbon. There are carbon kidney grilles, front splitter, mirror covers that he skinned himself, Ericsson bootlid and a rear diffuser, which has been embellished with a pair of 335i tailpipes.

    Naturally, all that visual drama needed the right wheels and this too was an area where Will was keen not to blend in with everyone else and he wasn’t afraid of going off-piste in order to give his E92 a unique look: “The first set of wheels I put on were some Bentley Continental 19s,” he says. “I’d seen them a lot in the VAG scene and wanted to break the mould with the BMW scene. I’ve always liked how the VAG scene is about thinking outside-the-box, while on all the BMW forums everyone was just buying CSL replicas and it was bland in honesty. All modified Threes looked similar. I wanted to take a different route. Everyone told me it wouldn’t work and would look terrible but I hit up G23 Engineering for some adapters and put the Bentley wheels on and people’s minds were soon changed!

    “The car looked great – I miss that look to be fair. I ran them for a couple of years until I fancied a change and that’s when I spotted these concave Rotiform BLQs for sale with the exact same width and offsets as the Bentley wheels. They would be a straight fit onto my existing adaptors without any extra work so I thought it was a no brainer really!” Indeed, no brain was required for this decision as the BLQ is a great looking wheel, the concave profile really suiting the E92 styling and the black centres are the perfect match for the carbon elements scattered across the exterior.

    The perfect wheels need the perfect suspension setup and while Will’s first efforts were static, air was always an inevitability. “Originally I bought some D2 coilovers but they lasted about a year until they collapsed and went to an oily grave,” he says. “I then went with BC Racing coilovers, which were brilliant. I’d wanted air during that time but couldn’t afford it. I ran the BCs for about a year until I finally caved and went with the new #Air-Lift 3H kit. A friend of mine, Vick Nagi, mentioned I could be a guinea pig for the new kit through his company, Lowpro, so I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a kit as a test vehicle before the official release!” The 3H has been treated to a sexy floating boot install, comprising a single tank and twin compressors, complete with lighting and finished in satin grey to match his wheel lips.

    With the 320d having been purchased for its economy, Will has decided to leave the engine alone, bar the addition of a K&N panel filter and covering the air intake panel in carbon himself. “Even when I got to the point that I decided it was a show car and no longer a daily commuter I didn’t think it was worth spending money trying to squeeze more power from the engine. I’ve considered a 335i engine swap but it’s never really interested me; I love driving the car as it is and I’ve got nothing to prove, I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it!” he smiles and that might be the most sensible thing we’ve heard him say all day!

    The engine might be stock, but the interior most definitely is not and Will’s made it a very nice place to spend time in.

    Gone are the stock M Sport front seats and in their place have been fitted a very sexy pair of leather-wrapped Recaro CS seats. “I’d seen an orange M3 on the internet with the BMW M Performance seats; they looked amazing and I was instantly hunting the web and eBay for a set,” grins Will. “They were like hens teeth to get hold of and at crazy prices whenever I found any. In the end I found a guy who stripped out Lotuses and made them into track cars who had taken a brand-new set of CSs out of an Exige. I bit his hand off when he mentioned selling them! I dismantled the original runners on the M Sport seats and fabricated some adaptors to put them onto the base of the CSs. I fitted the seats myself in about ten hours, doing the wiring and runners etc which I didn’t think was bad seeing I’m pretty much self-taught with vehicles!” With a pair of gorgeous leather seats up front the cloth rear bench really wouldn’t do, so this has now been trimmed in black leather to match. The trims have been painted in Land Rover Lago grey while after the shoot Will replaced the M Sport steering wheel with a flat-bottomed one complete with carbon trim panel. Finally, the audio has been uprated with a set of Focal speaker, tweeters and under-seat subs.

    While it may not have ended up being quite as sensible as Will might have initially wanted, his E92 remains a grown up car that’s the perfect blend of diesel frugality and jaw-dropping show car looks meaning he is both having his cake and eating it, which is about as much as you could ever ask for. Any future plans for the E92 that may have been brewing have currently been put on hold as Will has just bought a house, arguably the most sensible and grown up thing you can purchase, but that’s no big deal because at the moment he says he’s really happy with how the car looks and we’re with him on that one.

    “I love driving the car as it is. I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it”

    “Before I’d even started the engine, I knew I wanted it. I was so happy”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE Air-ride #BMW-E92 / #BMW-320d / #BMW-320d-E92 / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride / #BMW-320d-Air-Ride-E92 / #BMW-E92-Air-Ride / #Rotiform-BLQ / #Rotiform / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe / #BMW-3-Series-Coupe-E92

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel #N47D20 / #BMW-N47 / #N47 , #K&N panel filter, carbon air intake cover, 335i tailpipes, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” ET41 (front and rear) three-piece forged super concave #Rotiform BLQs with gloss black faces and satin gunmetal lips on G23 adapters with 215/35 (front and rear) tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance-3H air-ride with performance struts, chassis modified for greater front end drop, grooved discs and pads (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Full respray in custom mixed bright blue, smoothed front bumper with washer jets removed, smoothed bonnet with #BMW roundel removed, carbon fibre kidney grilles, #Ericsson bootlid, diffuser, splitter and wing mirror covers, #NEM-angel-eye headlights with blacked-out internals, tinted rear lights

    INTERIOR #Recaro-CS seats, flat bottom steering wheel with carbon fibre trim added after the shoot, internal trims painted in Land Rover Lago grey, rear seats retrimmed in black leather, Focal speakers, tweeters and under-seat subs, full floating boot install with single tank, twin Viair compressors, lighting and satin grey tank

    THANKS Adi Camm and Dave Shaw at A&D Autos for all your help and support over many years and allowing me to spend hundreds of hours generally getting in the way at your unit! Vick Nagi at Lowpro for all his encouragement and helping me achieve my goals. Phil James at The Install Company for the wicked install and hard work on getting that front end drop so low. My mum and dad for supporting me throughout all of this and letting me dismantle cars on the drive at 1am on multiple occasions! All my close friends for the constant wind-ups about my car – it spurred me on to do better

    “I love driving the car as it is. I don’t need 400 horses to enjoy it”
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    / #BMW-N47 / #BMW swirl flaps / #N47 /

    Just when you thought the diesel swirl flap issue had gone away, it looks like it’s returning again. It’s not as bad as last time when steel swirl flaps could fall into the cylinders and cause a major catastrophe, but it’s a new problem nonetheless, albeit a rare one. The issue is happening on older higher mileage N47 diesels from 2007 onwards. On the previous M47, the swirl flaps had their own pivot and an operating rod, but on the N47 they have utilised the idea Ford used on the 2000-onwards Mk3 Mondeo petrols where the flaps are all operated with one common shaft that goes through the manifold a bit like a skewer in a shish kebab.

    That’s all very well but as Ford found out, the metal rod can wear into the plastic manifold body and even break, resulting in swirl flaps being ingested. BMW has used a brass shaft, but it still has wear issues. I first saw this problem when Parkside Autos in Worksop (01909 506555) had a 2008 #BMW-E90 BMW-320d in with a recurring EGR fault and a loss of boost. After doing the usual jobs of cleaning everything up, repairing a few other bits and resetting fault codes it was noticed that under boost, exhaust gas was appearing from behind the actuator for the swirl flaps.

    Basically, the brass shaft had worn the manifold holes oval and pressurised exhaust EGR gas was leaking. The team removed the manifold, took the swirl flaps out, blocked the hole with a suitably hard resin and reassembled it – result, no more EGR faults and much better performance. Give them a ring if you want to get yours deflapped because another possible scenario is that the brass shaft breaks and one of the swirl flaps jams shut – that will result in diesel going into a cylinder without any air and that won’t end well.
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    F10 520d SE

    A fairly quiet month for the 520d, although I did at least manage to put the sat nav to the test on the run back home from the Surrey Hills. We’d been down there for the day on a feature you can read about in a future issue, and the iDrive traffic updates looked rather sombre as we drove through Guildford, the ETA back to the house near Burford first extending to 45 minutes later than anticipated, then to over 90… I’ve learnt through the years to trust this system though, so instead of ignoring the alternative route suggestions I obediently followed the screen’s bidding and left Guildford by heading west, then towards Reading and onwards up to Newbury, as opposed to simply whistling up the A3 then around the M25.
    We succeeded in joining the M4 around Reading with no hold-ups, then exited at Newbury just as the traffic was building beyond the junction (my heart goes out to you if you have to do this run every day of the week). It then became clear that the sat nav was regularly snipping at the route and calculating where we needed to be, because no sooner had we joined the A34 than the re-route option popped up again. Twirl, click and we’re departing the A34, heading west once again, out towards Wantage. The nav was constantly keeping south and west of the M25, then south of Oxford, first from the perspective of approaching from the east and hence the spectre of getting jammed up in the Wolvercote roundabout road works (which are necessary, but infuriating) and then from the west for pretty much the same reason. We eventually popped up in Witney, and arrived home around 30 minutes later than would be expected, but well over an hour earlier than we would have done had we followed my normal route. Impressive stuff.

    Another impressive aspect of that day in Surrey was during the trip down there, OU16 succeeding in returning a scarcely credibly 52.8mpg at a little under an indicted 80mph.

    I’ve opined before on this apparent witchcraft, but quite how a big saloon with all the kit this thing has on it, but which is rowed along by ‘only’ a 2.0-litre four-pot, can then return over 50mpg is mind-boggling.

    I’m thinking of running a book on when the washer bottle will need topping up. Four months in and over 5000 miles covered, and there’s still no warning message appearing on the screen, despite regular squirts… I can only assume that when it does finally request replenishment, I’ll be stood there for an age whilst it feeds. Talking of which, one of the diesel fillups this month was a tank of Super Plus from Esso, and I have to say I didn’t notice any difference to the regular stuff, so I’ve reverted to the cheaper option. Not sure it’s worth paying extra for posh diesel, whereas super unleaded always seemed to bring tangible benefits, whether the car in question was new or old.

    Oh and finally this month, I had been intending to talk about the GoPro camera connectivity which is apparently offered up by the iDrive system, depending of course on the options fitted to your car. I’ve mentioned previously that we should be able to achieve this with OU16, so I thought I would give it a go. Alas I could not for the life of me either remember the wireless password for the camera (to enable it to connect to the iPhone) nor figure out how to reset said password. So I’ll have to work that out, give it another go then confirm in a future report as to whether it actually does as suggested.

    Car: F10 520d SE
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1064
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 5583
    MPG THIS MONTH: 41.7
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil

    DATA #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW / #N47 /
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    F10 520d SE

    We’ve been doing the tourist thing around Florida this month, and the rented #Cadillac-Escalade-ESV was an interesting contrast to life with the Five Series. And not necessarily for the right reasons, either. But we’ll get to that. Incidentally, we had the usual polite and efficient Virgin Atlantic crew, whose efforts were partially undone by the brusque and cavalier attitude of the check-in staff at Orlando’s Disney Springs on the way home. You can’t have everything I suppose. The trip itself was good, featuring an hilarious airboat ride (8.0-litre #V8 , walls of noise), lovely, relaxed Disney resorts set against the frenzied Universal parks (I doubt we’ll go back to those as they’ve changed little since our last visit and the people are bleetin’ miserable), and a guided tour around Daytona International Speedway (where the people were lovely, even though when they showed us last season’s winning car, I clearly had no idea what I was looking at). Garnished with some great weather. Although, of course, there was some very disturbing news items during our visit. But let’s talk cars…

    1200 miles in the #Cadillac provided sufficient time to form an opinion. And my opinion is this – consider the context. In the US, this car works. Elsewhere in the world, it’d be akin to Eddie Murphy speaking at the Klan’s AGM. In the US, its over 17-foot length and 7-foot girth blends in with the other road furniture, and the 6.2- litre V8 knocking out 420hp and 460lb ft blends old-school pushrod tech with new-fangled direct injection and cylinder deactivation. Physics won’t be dissuaded though and shifting 2.6 tonnes with even this powerplant results in merely brisk acceleration and just enough of a V8 rumble to confirm you’ve not succumbed to the new twin-blower V6 in the rival Lincoln Navigator.

    Want more mass? Opt for the AWD version (not all SUVs in the US are allwheel drive by default) and bludgeon down the highway with 2.75 tonnes of prime American iron. Want more noise? Fit a ruder exhaust, which some people do. Want more, full stop? Then buy a pick-up truck where 6.7 litres of blown V8 diesel are available from Ford along with stumppulling torque to the tune of 860lb ft.

    But I digress, what was the Cadillac really like? Well, to storm down I-4, east towards Daytona and the coast, it was a pleasure. I’ve never driven anything which exhibited that much kinetic energy once up and running at speed but other than needing frequent and subtle steering tweaks in order to keep this leviathan thundering along in a straight line, driving the 90 miles to the International Speedway was relaxing. Slowing to 60mph when traffic intervened was no hardship, as a meaningful boot on the throttle dropped the transmission a cog or two and the V8 would spin past 4k as speed was regained, along with a roar from upfront. And overall, it returned 17.7 US mpg (or just under 15mpg in imperial), which was amusing.

    Launching from the lights with gusto would result in a chirrup from the rear (two-wheel drive remember) and once up to speed the eight-speed auto was unobtrusive in its operation, although it did suffer from that unfortunate ‘surging’ effect which seems to afflict all American SUVs if they’re run on anything other than premium gasoline. Wind noise was pretty well suppressed, despite the jumbo door mirrors, the brakes demonstrated an amusing effort-to-effect multiplication ratio (Lord only knows how big the servo is) and road noise was also kept to a minimum. The only dynamic flaw (as one could never really expect a vehicle like this to handle) was the steering which could best be described as vague and felt as if it was connected to the wheels via several hundred strands of gluedtogether pasta. The interior was a lovely place to spend time in terms of comfort levels and materials though and overall, one could see why this is the premier American SUV.


    Time was when the best from the European manufactures flaunted its technology in the face of embarrassingly basic American offerings. Not anymore. Equipped with HUD (although I prefer the BMW system), blind-spot monitoring, 360 degree cameras, active cruise (which I still don’t really like) and active lane keeping assist (which drove me mad on the curved interstate exit ramps as it was far too pessimistic), this most modern of Cadillacs offered up all the tech one could possibly want.

    Augmenting this list were other (standard) niceties such as ventilated seats, an electric glass sunroof, LED active headlights, a Bose stereo system of quite astounding quality, a powered tailgate, powered third row seats (in this, the extended version) and more USB ports and memory card reader slots than in your typical desktop support department. Not even the presence of the bizarre manual gearshift control button on the ancient column shifter detracted from the general air of sophistication.

    So why the negative vibes? Well the scuttle shake came as bit of a shock, considering the great expanse of metal above our heads. But sure enough, catch a pot hole and the steering column vibrated like a tuning fork. I’ve genuinely driven convertibles which felt better screwed together.

    And not modern ones, either. My biggest gripe though, concerned the Cadillac User Experience system, or CUE. This refers to the satellite navigation and infotainment system, plus by extension, the HVAC panel below, and combined they conspired to really sour our time together.

    CUE is touch-screen, which I’m already not fond of in cars. But worse than this, there is no controller option à la iDrive in your BMW. So you have to dangle your hands in mid-air in order to control the system. The first problem with this is that with the seat set low for my six foot frame, and combined with the screen’s square-on orientation (i.e, it’s not angled towards the driver) arm fatigue soon sets in.

    Next, you have to suffer fingerprints all over the screen which, when combined with the sun hitting the glass through the side windows (and this is Florida remember) renders the display nigh-on unreadable, especially when also combined with the ‘helpful’ proximity sensor, which changes the lower portion of the screen when it detects your approaching hand and in doing so, completely removes whatever you were seeing previously (such as the sat-nav map). Oh and the front passenger is forced to use the screen too, as there are no buttons for the audio system, other than those offered up by the touchscreen (which also removes the satnav view, but completely this time, which is bloody annoying when you’re confronted with an interstate junction the size of Cirencester).

    Get the idea? There’s more. The HVAC panel consists of another of these haptic feedback panels, but worse than the BMW offerings, the Cadillac approach is to affix slivers of aloominum to the dashboard in an attempt to locate your finger. This fails in its aim as you end up pressing that and not the actual ‘button’. ARGH! In short, as I’ve rambled enough, the whole thing feels like a solution which is two-thirds developed and needs to go back into the lab. Alas though I fear this is the future.

    So how does the Five Series feel upon our return, save for the fact that beyond having four doors, four wheels and a front-engined, rear-drive configuration, the two don’t really compare? Put simply, ignoring the sheer size difference for a moment, the BMW demonstrates a more resolved approach, more thorough thinking and a more cohesive drive as a result. Nowhere is this more visible than in the iDrive, nav, and audio system of course, where the presence of actual buttons make me again question the wisdom of BMW itself moving in the direction of touchsensitive panels on the new Seven.

    Aside from that though, the design of the BMW system is such that various functions can be operated in parallel, without impacting the prime requirement at that time, such as the satellite navigation map. It just seems much more thoroughly engineered overall and the product of a development team who have already done all their thinking.

    Returning to a 2.0-litre four-pot diesel may have felt like a bit of a comedown, but given the weight difference of around 900kg the truth is that the F10 feels almost as sprightly (although the power-to-weight figures are heavily in the Caddy’s favour, 110hp/ton versus around 160), if not quite offering up that unique feeling of a monumental engine deploying Himalayan torque in order to overcome sheer mass. I note with interest that the habit of left-foot braking I started whilst driving the Cadillac (due mostly to the amount of room in which the pedal box sits) has continued in the BMW, something I’ve not done since my rallying days. It now feels quite natural to keep my right foot hovering continually around the throttle, but time will tell whether I slip back into old habits.

    Overall then it was a pleasure to fall back into OU16 after the nine-hour return flight from the US, even if our daughter then asked why our car is so small (and even if I cannot now start our car remotely, which was one of the features the Cadillac had which I really appreciated). There is a level of intimacy to the drive which is missing in the SUV, and it’s further proof that I don’t think such a vehicle would suit our lifestyle and my approach to driving. It was a nice way to whistle around Florida though. There’ll be a video review on my YouTube channel in due course, but given my woeful record in that area it’s probably best I reactively confirm when it’s up, rather than promise it in advance…

    It seems that the B47 is loosening up a little perhaps, judged on fuel economy alone. But in addition, the power appears more readily accessible with the passing miles. And I made mention previously of a half-decent exhaust sound (one couldn’t really call it a ‘note’ for fear of contradiction), something which I have now nailed down to occurring in traffic situations when the car is warm. It sounds almost like a blowing exhaust, which it clearly isn’t. Whilst not an unpleasant sound, it does seem a tad out of place in a 520d, so it’s something else I’ll ask North Oxford to advise on when the car eventually goes in for a service. Anybody else noticed this?

    When we ordered OU16, friends and family smirked at the stabiliserspec alloys, and I have to now admit that the 17s do appear overwhelmed by the bulk of the body sitting atop them. So in addition to those mud flaps I want to get fitted, I think at some point during our tenure, and early enough to get the benefit from them (probably when the tyres approach replacement), a set of 18s will need to be purchased.

    Recommendations for suitable styles gratefully received, although I won’t be turning this into some ghastly M5 clone from the waist down.


    Further Autoglym leather cleaner is needed on the seats I’m afraid. I had intended to get some better quality denim when in the US, but the combined allure of both the Lego shop (see picture on the left – the Mercedes truck is deeply impressive, if fiendishly complex to put together, and they say it’s suitable for 11 year olds!?) and a cigar shop with humidor conspired to divert my attention. Ten minutes, one Technic set and $200 of smokes later, we’d wandered straight past the Levis shop, never to return. I’ll have to bite the bullet and buy some over here, if only to save on Autoglym costs.

    DATA #BMW-F10 / #BMW-520d-SE / #BMW-520d-SE-F10 / #BMW-520d-F10 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-F10 / #BMW / #N47 /
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1260
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 4519
    MPG THIS MONTH: 41.7
    COST THIS MONTH: nil
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    There’s a new arrival in the form of an #BMW F20 120d M Sport, the track car has some further surgery, Mark Williams has been testing a Cadillac on holiday and there’s a round up from the Everett fleet.

    F21 120d M Sport

    So, one month ago I said goodbye to my trusty 118d of three years and said hello to my new 120d M Sport. It was obviously exciting to see the 120d for the first time as it arrived on the back of a trailer and the thrill of getting a new car, be it new or just new to you, never diminishes. First impressions were very good indeed. I’d never owned a white car before and, despite my hand being forced on the colour front, I have no complaints as white really suits the 1 Series, especially in M Sport trim. This, combined with the face-lift styling, really make a big difference in the looks department; while I had grown to love the chubbycheeked and slightly, um, fishy styling of my 118d, the LCI refresh has given the 1 Series a much more modern, dynamic and appealing face and overall look. The narrow headlights, especially in full-LED form as on my car, combined with the angular elements of the M Sport kit make the car look more aggressive and the three-door bodystyle that, once again, I was forced into due to budget constraints, is miles ahead of the frumpy five-door. Not only do you get frameless windows (always sexy) you also get nicely sculpted flanks which give the car a shapely appearance. Twin pipes and smarter rear light clusters finish off a triumphant face-lift. A lot of people at the office and, I wager, in other offices the world over like to chop and change when it comes to company cars so I was slightly worried that opting for the same model would make me feel like I hadn’t changed cars at all. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth and the interior plays a big part in this, in fact it feels so different to that of the 118d, I sometimes feel I’ve moved up to a different class of car. Being able to afford to tick the M Sport box this time around has arguably made the biggest difference; the steering wheel looks and feels fantastic, the smaller gear knob sits perfectly in the palm (a design so successful it looks identical to that of the E46 Sport models), the silver textured hexagon trim with its blue flashes save the interior from becoming a black abyss and the seats, while no different to those of my 118d in terms of design, look and feel more expensive thanks to their Alcantara side bolsters and thigh support.

    The face-lift has brought with it a number of interior changes, too. For example, climate control has replaced the manual air conditioning I had in the 118d and the fuel economy swingometer has made a welcome return to the bottom of the rev counter and (major geek warning) I noticed that the notches you feel when turning the radio volume knob, which has now gained a power symbol and illustrated volume curve, are softer and smoother than on the 118d’s volume knob. The biggest change is without doubt the addition of sat nav, now standard across the range. While it might only be the Business version, with its small screen, I have yet to find any features that are missing from BMW’s sat navlite that would make it feel inadequate.

    Full postcode search? Yes. Detailed supplementary arrow view? Yup. Weather? That’s a yes. You do have to work hard to get everything set up, though… ‘Crikey,’ I thought to myself whilst driving home in the dark one evening, ‘that display’s a bit bright, best turn it down.’ Of course, the option to change the night time brightness of the display isn’t in any of the sat nav menus, it’s in the control display menu but what is in the sat nav menu is the option to have the night time map display turned on, which gives you a much darker map with less glare. With no right-hand display pane like you’d find on the Professional nav to flip through various additional display options, you have to find the extra options menu, which then lets you add the very useful detailed turn arrows to the map display. You might think that the screen would start getting cluttered at this point but it’s fine; the arrow panel sits on the right and you only need to see the central or bottom central areas of the map, depending on your preferred view, and this area remains unobstructed at all times.

    I know people say that there’s no need for built-in sat nav in cars these days as phone nav is so good, and it is, but it’s still nice to have everything integrated, rather than having a TomTom hanging from your windscreen or your phone strapped to an air vent. It helps that BMW’s HDDbased nav is very good and while I miss being able to simply search for a company or place like I could in Google Maps on my phone and getting directions instantly, the interactive map is great at letting you pinpoint where you want to go when your destination is a little off-piste.

    The rest of the spec on my 120d is equally good and while it’s not what you’d call fully-loaded, it brings a lot more kit to the party then the 118d did. Cruise control was my mostmissed feature, the 118d being the only one of my current three-car stable to not have it, and I’ve already been using it lots in my first month with the 120d. My only complaint with the setup is that when you turn it on, the display between the dials says something like ‘Cruise Control ready’ but that means you can’t see the exact speed you’re setting it to until this message disappears as the digital speed read-out is located on the same display, though you can still use the little green LED that whizzes up the side of the speedo. The work-around is to have it turned on all the time, but then you have to drive around with the red LED showing at a random point on the speedo.

    Parking sensors are a very welcome addition; perhaps you might think that they’d be redundant on a small car like the 1 Series, but it’s not such a small car these days and judging where the back ends, especially when there’s a low object behind you, is actually really difficult. I’d actually say that reversing my 118d was harder than reversing my Camaro, which is massive in comparison but is very low, so you can see what’s behind you, and also has a low level hoop-style spoiler that you can use to judge where the car ends.

    As far as the LED headlights are concerned, the long summer days have meant minimal opportunities to truly appreciate what they are capable of, but first impressions are that they appear to be insanely, almost comically bright and do an incredible job of slicing through the darkness. Another a new feature I love is the auto-blip on downshifts; based on my time spent on Pistonheads, there are plenty of people who hate this function whatever car it may be on, presumably because these people heel and toe all the time everywhere in every single car (school run in the Kia? Heel and toe!), but for the remaining 99.9 per cent of the population it’s an excellent feature. I would try my best to rev match on downshifts when driving the 118d, so the hardest part of driving the 120d initially was remembering that I didn’t need to do that anymore. I have noticed that it doesn’t always work, so I will investigate exactly what parameters are required in order for it to function.

    While the leap from 118d to 120d, and with it a jump for 143hp to 190hp, hasn’t actually felt like a massive increase in performance possibly because, at the time of writing, the 120d hasn’t yet broken the 1000-mile mark and is fresh and tight, the switch to the new #B47D20 engine has brought about a massive increase in refinement. Good as the #N47 that preceded it was, it never sounded like anything other than a diesel and was often very clattery and rough. The #B47 is anything but and, from the inside at least, there is virtually no indication that there’s a diesel lump up front. It’s very quiet, smooth and what little noise it does make is really no worse than what you would experience from one of BMW’s current crop of fourcylinder petrols.


    As far as fuel economy is concerned, the on-paper figures put the 120d only a fraction behind the 118d, so I figured that would mean similar real-world economy too. Obviously it’s very early days and I would expect economy to improve once the 120d has a few more miles beneath its wheels, but from the 47.7mpg that the last tank yielded, I’d say it was off to a pretty good start.


    Incidentally, having covered approximately 12 miles with zero range showing and having squeezed 49-litres of diesel into the tank the next day, the remaining three litres at 47mpg would have given me another 31 miles, which is worth knowing should I find myself playing the fuel light lottery again anytime soon.

    DATA #BMW-F21 / #BMW-120d-M-Sport / #BMW-120d-M-Sport-F21 / #BMW-120d-F21 / #BMW-120d
    YEAR: #2016
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 990
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 990
    MPG THIS MONTH: 47.7
    COST THIS MONTH: Nil


    Standard sat nav gets a big thumb’s up as do revised stero controls and the reappearance of the economy ‘Swingometer’ at the bottom of the rev counter.

    Elizabeth is pleased with her new 120d M Sport and has been delving through iDrive menus and pushing all the buttons to find out what’s changed over her old 118d Sport.
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    SCANDINAVIAN SLAM Air-ride E91 Touring
    Who says diesel Tourings need to be boring? In the land of outrageous turbocharging, one Norwegian cares more about the air-ride stance. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Erik Berg-Johansen.

    Stance is everything, right? Feel free to lust after an M2, M3, M5, whatever, but get the stance right on any run-of-the-mill #BMW and you can turn just as many heads. This fact gives us all hope. We can’t all drop tens of thousands on a new M car, nor employ an expensive specialist to bolt on a giant turbo and associated upgraded parts to create a street weapon. But get a car sitting just right and for comparatively little coin you’re a show favourite.

    Which makes this Norwegian E91 something of a rarity. You see, our Norwegian cousins have not only an enviable quality of life, but most of them have a fair chunk of disposable income too. Sure, it costs a lot to live in this beautiful Scandinavian land, but locals are well paid to compensate. I’ve met plenty of 20- something Norwegian car modifiers who think nothing of owning both a city flat plus a holiday home by the lakes to retreat to each weekend.

    It means many have the money to drive around in new German cars, and often make their mark by adding top-end aftermarket body parts, chassis upgrades and engine mods. Think back to all the 1000hp+ BMWs we’ve featured and many will be from Norway or the equally bountiful Sweden. And just to complete your jealousy, these Scandinavians sure know how to drive too. A thousand horses through the rear treads?

    Wheels spinning in fourth gear? No problem. It’s as if they’re born knowing how to control it. Just check out the names of those who mastered the Too Fast To Race Group B rally cars of the 1980s. Yep, the Scandinavians. Showing there are more strings to their bows than just bonkers turbo beasts, Kim Arild Grindermoen has chosen pure stance over performance with his 3 Series Touring. It’s all about air suspension, something he insists is nothing to be afraid of in terms of ease of fitment and even practicality thanks to the easily adjustable ride height. Yes he’s a tad biased as he set up and runs a company called StanceShop – a dealership for Air Lift Performance suspension and AccuAir air suspension management – but he’s a man worth listening to when he can make a humble estate car look this damn perfect on the stance front.

    The 26-year-old from Otta in rural Norway is a welder by trade, and bought this totally standard 2011 320d Touring with an M Sport pack to make what he says is his “own statement; something I have never done before by taking it all the way with air-ride”.

    It certainly isn’t Kim’s first time at the rodeo. Modifying cars since the age of 16, he cut his teeth on an old Mitsubishi with the usual aftermarket wheels and lowering, before progressing to BMWs a few years later. He’s been very active since then. An E36 was first, then an E30 followed by five more E36s, four more E30s, two E32s and five E34s. Busy boy.

    While Kim is one for big power too – he’s currently at work creating a madman E34 Touring with turbocharged M50B25 turbo engine – the 320d Touring has to serve as a daily driver, so the frugal diesel engine has been left practically untouched. An updated ECU helps the four-cylinder realise 207hp now – up from the standard 184hp – which Kim says is “enough for the street to lose your licence.”


    Visual clout comes from the ride height, and Kim says the kit is “plug and play and fits without modifications”. We all like the sound of that. “It took a couple of days to get it up and running because of the wiring and air lines,” he explains, “but the struts are as easy as coilovers to install.” Kim says it’s all bolt on with no need for further modifications to the chassis or body.

    Slammed on the ground the Touring looks fantastic, and the rear end in particular looks far fatter with the back wheel arches seeming to nicely bulge with the deep-dish 10x19-inch ADV.1 three-piece rims swallowed up by them. But no, those rear arches are completely standard. Up front the 9-inch rims with skinny 225/35 Falken FK453 rubber are ideally placed in the front arches.


    Improving things are the 320d’s front arches making way for M3 items with the side indicators replaced by gunmetal stripes. It’s a subtle addition, but adds some front end sportiness to otherwise plain 320d sides. The exterior stays true to BMW’s original Touring shape with Kim going for subtle enhancements to the black body. Most obvious is smoked tape – from Norwegian company Fantasy Factory – to coat the lights around the car, once again this being most obvious at the rear which now looks very mean-looking in its darkness, complemented by a 335i diffuser. A pair of 335i-look Ragazzon exhaust tips pop out from the diffuser, but other than that the bumpers are just factory M Sport items.

    While owning an estate car means plenty of room for an outrageous air install, this has to serve as Kim’s practical daily, so that wasn’t an option, but what he has done is put together a very smart, simple install while still leaving plenty of useable room in the load area. He’s running a single, black tank, which ties in with the rest of the car’s mean and moody appearance and is running twin Viair compressors plumbed into an AccuAIr VU4 four-corner solenoid valve unit. In the boot’s side compartment Kim’s added a fibreglass eight-inch subwoofer box, backing up Rockford Fosgate speakers and updated head unit in the main cabin. He has also wired in a Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor which works as an OEM integration ‘black box’ for much improved audio control. While the interior has been kept practically standard, the addition of an OEM Alcantara M Performance steering wheel is a rather welcome upgrade.

    The cabin-mounted AccuAir controller offers quick and easy ride height adjustment allowing for seamless transition from slammed show car to practical grocerygetter. Kim also says he’s given the Touring a bash on Norway’s Rudskogen raceway, reporting back that it handles just fine.

    Good modifiers are always looking to move on to the next challenge, and Kim says his air-ride E91 will soon serve as practical family transport as his first child is due by the end of the year. He says as a result he’ll be closing down StanceShop, also partly due to how difficult it is to get air-ride cars approved for Norwegian roads, which makes his creation all the more impressive. “I’ll be focusing more on the family life, but you’ll still see cars being modified in the future by me,” he says, reminding us that his E34 is going to be a boosted show special with plenty of fast road potential. So this airride E91 will soon be the official family wagon. Not only will it be the coolest thing rocking up at kiddie daycare, but just think of the endless hours of fun the kids will have raising and lowering this Touring via that control pad. Who needs babysitters?

    DATA FILE #Air-ride E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring / #BMW-E91 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E91 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E91 / #BMW-320d-Touring-E91 / #N47D20 / #N47 / #BMW-N47 / #BMW-320d-Touring-Air-ride / #BMW-320d

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel N47D20, #Ragazzon exhaust system, uprated ECU, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #ADV.1 three-piece wheels with 225/35 (front and rear) Falken FK453 tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance suspension and #AccuAir management

    EXTERIOR M Sport bumpers, E92 M3 front wings with side indicators replaced by gunmetal strips, Fantasy Factory smoked tape for lights all-round, OEM 335i rear diffuser, M tricolour stripes on kidney grille

    INTERIOR M Performance Alcantara steering wheel, updated head unit, twin Viair compressors, single air tank, AccuAir VU4 valve unit, fibreglass 8” subwoofer box in boot, Rockford Fosgate speakers, Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty.3 eight-channel interactive signal processor

    “[I wanted to make my] own statement; something I’ve never done before”
    Interior has been treated to an M Performance Alcantara steering wheel and the in-car audio has also been upgraded. Boot area houses the smart and simple air-ride install; 19” ADV.1 three-piece wheels look fantastic and really suit the E91 shape.

    2.0d engine may be nothing special to look at but it’s the perfect mill for a daily driver and a remap has resulted in a healthy 207hp.
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    BOLD BMW-123d Slammed and styled Austin yellow stunner

    SHOW GIRL Styled and slammed 123d

    With stunning Austin yellow bodywork and a whole host of dazzling mods, this 123d is a serious show stopper. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Woods. / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-E82 /

    We’re calling it: 2016 is the year of the 1 Series. Okay, the 3 Series remains our most prolific feature car, as it always has done, but this year we’ve seen amazing 1 Series after amazing 1 Series, almost one an issue and there’s no sign of this influx of perfectly modified baby BMs letting up anytime soon. As far as we’re concerned, that’s a very good thing, as this gorgeous 123d Coupé perfectly illustrates.

    Regular show-goers will know this car very well as it can usually be spotted at most events throughout the year and often leaving with some kind of silverware, though owner Dee Barwick deserves at least some of the credit, she did build it after all. It is the latest in a long line of cars that she’s owned, which includes a Sharpie’d MX-5 (more of that sort of thing later…), a classic Mini, a Mk3 Golf GTi (the latter of which was replaced by her first BMW for reasons of child-based practicality) and an E46 320i. Dee bought the car completely standard but, after tinting the windows to keep her kids cool, her partner James, owner of the equally well-known E46 that we featured back in our November ’15 issue, suggested modifying the E46. So she did. The unsuspecting saloon ended up being wrapped in cream, with an M3 front bumper and a set of cross-spokes, and it looked good. Dee was happy, or at least until she saw a 1 Series Coupé at the Santa Pod show and decided that she needed one of those in her life. As luck would have it, James worked at MStyle at the time and regular customer, Jas Bassan, came in one day talking about selling his 123d and that’s what he did, to Dee.

    Judging by how the car looks now, having started off silver and pretty ordinarylooking, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dee had gone into the 1 Series ownership experience with big plans. However the car was intended for daily duties, with James’ M3 serving as the toy but things clearly didn’t work out that way: “Within two days it had been dropped,” she laughs, “and then we fitted the carbon rear diffuser and carbon mirror caps.” And so it began. As with many projects it was necessity caused by problems that let to modifications instead of repairs; for example, soon after its purchase a puncture appeared which James said he would sort out at work: “The car came home on coilovers, with spacers and stretched tyres,” Dee says, laughing. “After two weeks James drove it into the back of a van,” cue more laughter from everyone except James at this point, “which was a good excuse for an M Performance front bumper,” and we’d be inclined to agree. The M Performance bumper is a great choice, blending perfectly with the rest of the car’s styling but its clean, aggressive design is very distinctive and it really makes the car look a lot wider and more purposeful. This was accompanied by a pair of very smart-looking Depo headlights, complete with angel eyes and dipped beam projector lenses, which really help to clean up the front end.

    While a colour change is something that many of us think about, it’s usually something that happens in the latter stages of ownership, once you’ve put in the work to get your car looking just right. Especially if you car’s already a decent colour, like the silver this 123d was to begin with. But while Dee may not have had much in the way of modifying plans when she bought her 1 Series, changing the colour was always on the cards. “The moment I bought it I knew I was going to be changing the colour,” she says and there followed a long period of indecision, with James Photoshopping the two front runners on to the car to help a decision to be reached.

    “It was either going to be Yas Marina blue or Austin yellow,” Dee explains. Both are striking choices and brand-new to the BMW colour palette having been launched on the M3 and M4. “I was struggling to decide between them so I went to see a couple of M4s in both colours and in the end it had to be Austin yellow.” We’re going to say good choice because while Yas Marina is very nice and distinctive, Austin has that wow factor. Its rich yellow blending into gold really makes it stand out and it looks glorious whatever the weather, whatever the light. It’s exactly the sort of colour you want for a show car and one that’s guaranteed to get you noticed.

    While the colour change is a big deal, Dee didn’t rest on her laurels and put in the effort with the additional supporting touches and that’s what really makes the difference here. Black and gold is a classic combo, so that the car’s been fitted with black grilles is a given. The mirrors and roof have also been sprayed black, but it’s not just any black. This is Subaru Java black pearl and what’s special about this colour is that it’s black with a yellow flake; it’s very subtle, you’d barely even notice it if you didn’t know, especially on a dull day but, when the light hits it, all those yellow flakes glow, and the end result is not only a little bit magical, but it’s a brilliant way of seamlessly tying those prominent black elements in with that blindingly bold bodywork.

    Additional exterior tweaks include smoothed boot and bonnet roundels, a Rhinolip front splitter, BMW M Performance rear spoiler and dark smoke window tints. Even the engine bay has been given the black and yellow treatment but it’s the interior where things get really special. The first step was getting rid of the textured M Sport interior trims and replacing them with a set of plain, smooth trims, ripe for modifying which, initially, involved wrapping them in a cityscape design. It looked cool and was definitely different, but once the car went Austin, it wasn’t right. That’s when Dee’s artistic streak kicked in and the legacy of the Sharpie’d MX-5 returned.

    The interior trims were removed, sprayed Austin yellow and then the Sharpies came out and, after going through countless pens and spending hours and hours on each piece, Dee had created a truly unique design for her trims. It looks absolutely fantastic, an incredibly intricate design that someone less talented would have inevitably ruined and someone less patient would have got bored with after five minutes, but Dee’s dedication definitely paid off and you’re not going to find anything like this in any other cars anytime soon.

    The attention to detail with the colour scheme continues in the boot where the warning triangle case, not something a lot of people are ever going to see, has been painted in Austin yellow and most of the capacious boot is taken up by a pair of JL subs mounted in a hefty enclosure. As far as wheels are concerned the 123d is on its third set now and arguably its best.

    “When I bought the car it was on Dare RSs,” says Dee, “so obviously they had to go. I started looking at 3SDMs and initially wanted the six-spoke 0.06s but they were everywhere and that’s when I decided to go for the 0.04s instead.”

    For those unfamiliar with these wheels they are concave directional multi-spokes, and they look good, really quite different to most things out there and they looked great on the 1 Series, finished in silver and running the large centre cap option. “I was really pleased with the wheels but then everyone started buying them,” laughs Dee, “so I decided to change them again. I saw these Ispiri CSR1Ds and liked them immediately. They reminded me of the Corvette sawblades that I had wanted for the car. I knew I was going to buy them, but I couldn’t decide whether to go for silver or gold…”

    As you can see, gold won and we reckon it was definitely the right decision. In fact, the colour match is so good with the Austin bodywork that it almost looks like a custom spray job on the wheels; even the outer edges of the lips are finished in gold from the factory. Dee also says that she reckons the dished design suits the look of the 1 Series better than the concave 3SDMs and we’re in agreement. The wheels sit on 12mm spacers to get the fitment just right.

    With a twin-turbo diesel mill under the bonnet that responds very well to tuning it’s no surprise that Dee has thrown some gofaster mods into the mix. The exhaust looks non-standard and sounds decidedly fruity, a result of the decidedly free-flowing custom system, which starts from the manifold and runs through a DPF and resonator. The latter, says Dee, will go, but the DPF will remain because it helps keep the 123d’s rear end relatively soot-free; important when your car’s such a bright colour and you’re a show regular. Under the bonnet sits a K&N panel filter for improved breathing while a Mosselman remap gives an impressive increase in performance, taking power up to 242hp along with 354lb ft of torque.

    A lot of work has gone into this 123d but, more than just that, there’s a lot of care, attention to detail and planning, none of the modifications you see before you have been added without some degree of prior planning. The end result is one of the most eye-catching Ones we’ve seen and this little BM gets a lot of love wherever it goes.

    Dee’s not done just yet, though, with immediate plans for getting the engine bay looking a bit more special and bigger, and long term plans that include a possible engine swap and seats and a cage once the kids are older and we don’t doubt that all of that will happen because this 1 Series isn’t going anywhere. It has to hang around anyway because, for now, the modifying has been put on hold as Dee and James are engaged and saving for their wedding, so congratulations are in order. As soon as that’s out of the way, though, the 123d will take centre stage in Dee’s life once more and we can’t wait to see where it goes from here…

    “The moment I bought it I knew I was going to be changing the colour”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E82 / #BMW-123d / #BMW-123d-E82 / #N47D20 / #N47 / #BMW-N47 / #Ispiri / #Mosselman /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo N47D20, #K&N panel filter, centre and rear box delete with twin tips, #Mosselman performance remap, #Sprint booster, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #Ispiri-CSR1D wheels in vintage gold with 12mm TPi spacers (front and rear) and 205/40 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Nankang NS20 tyres, fully polybushed, Supersport height and damping adjustable coilovers

    EXTERIOR Full respray in BMW Austin yellow with Subaru Java black roof and mirrors, BMW M Performance front bumper, Rhinolip front splitter, #Depo-V2 headlamps, yellow inner bulbs, BMW M Performance black kidney grilles, carbon fibre rear diffuser, #BMW-M-Performance carbon rear spoiler, smoothed bonnet roundel, smoothed boot roundel, dark smoke window tints

    INTERIOR ‘Sharpie art’ interior trims painted Austin yellow, twin JL Audio sub box and JL Audio amp

    THANKS James Barrett for finding me the car and Jas Bassan for letting her go, Mercury auto refinishing for the paintwork, Barrett Motorwerks for the wheels and mods, PBMW for this feature, but most off all James for the help, guidance and support!
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    LONGTERMERS BMW F30 320d Sport

    It’s turned colder in Oxfordshire of late and dawn reveals roads greased over with a light sheen of rain water or condensation, not to mention several billion leaves. You may think that in a rear-driven #BMW this is an open invitation to go sideways at any given opportunity but sadly the truth is that the #N47 / #BMW-N47 iron lump up front never quite produces enough grunt to allow me to kick the tail sideways with regular abandon.

    So you have to plan ahead. Which basically means storming into a turn, then shoving it sideways with a load of throttle. This normally does the trick, although then the transition from grip to slip is really quite sudden and the rear seems to break away rather rapidly, at least when provoked in the wet. The bottom line is, whilst you can make pretty pictures on the asphalt with a bog-standard 320d, it requires a little animalism and doesn’t seem to flow naturally. I daresay with another 50hp and perhaps an equal amount of twist then things would be different, but in factory tune and minus a limited-slip differential, it’s not quite as playful as I’d like it to be. It’s not the end of the world, of course, although it is another reason why I crave more power in its replacement.

    I’ve been embracing the modern mobile world this month. KP12 needed new rear brake pads, followed shortly thereafter by an oil change and general inspection. It’s out of warranty now, of course, and (as mentioned in previous issues) I’ve been musing over what to do. Cue a recommendation for whocanfixmycar.com, where one enters in car registration details, specifies the nature of the work (i.e, a service, new exhaust etc) then you just sit back and wait. The website, via affiliations with local garages, and some further afield, sends you back quotes from competing businesses and you pick one based on price and distance, conversing with them if necessary, agreeing a date and time and going from there. One needs to be careful when getting quotes for work, though, and ensure the ‘other info’ option is utilised, otherwise the quote received bears no relation to the work requested. In my case, I asked for new rear pads and even though I stipulated this within the wider option for ‘discs and pads’, the initial quote I received made it clear that the price was for both discs and pads fitted, including VAT. To be fair, once I’d made it clear it was just the pads I was after, the price was adjusted immediately and we agreed a price. So make sure you know what you’re agreeing to pay for.

    At the time of writing, KP12 is booked into a local garage who quoted a very reasonable £83 for OE-quality rear pads, fitted, including VAT. No, I don’t know how they can be making much money on that either but that’s their problem I guess. I’ll report back in due course as it’s just occurred to me that this is the first new operation I’ve dealt with since initially making contact with Onkar up at OSC in Rugby all those years ago. Crikey, now I feel old.


    Apparently the garage in question (more details to follow once I’ve had the work done) have the modern diagnostic machines available in order to interrogate the Three’s on-board computer and also reset the service indicators – although as I know this nothing more than a software update on a likely already present testing rig, this is perhaps not as impressive as it otherwise could be. It is important, though, as I want to ensure that the iDrive service history is kept up-to-date and complete as it’s all logged in there, replacing printed service histories. This is something else for which I lament the passing of. Finally this month, I made reference recently to the purchase of a DJI Phantom 3 drone, which I’ve been enjoying whilst I can before somebody in government bans them (in response to these cretins in London who fly them at night and often at altitudes uncomfortably close to passing aircraft, before claiming they didn’t know it wasn’t allowed). I’ve been out and about around Oxfordshire, and the early fruits of this can be seen on www.cotswoldsheights. co.uk which is a basic website I have created myself at this point in order to get the pics into the public domain. The Phantom is an extremely impressive piece of technology, but I do remain concerned that an increase in so-called ‘near misses’ involving drones and aircraft will at some point change the current status quo for the worse. I suppose time will tell.

    DATA FILE #BMW-320d-Sport-F30 / #BMW-320d-Sport / #BMW-320d-F30 / #BMW-F30 / #BMW
    YEAR: #2012
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1555
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 49532
    MPG THIS MONTH: 47.5
    COST THIS MONTH: nil
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    LONGTERMERS F30 320d Sport / #BMW-F30 / #BMW-320d-Sport / #BMW-320d-Sport-F30 / #BMW-320d-F30 / #BMW-320d / #BMW /

    Punctures, MoTs, more sparkly bits and one of the fleet meets its maker… but in a good way!

    The mileage countdown to the next service continues on its merry way, and we’re 3500 miles from someone taking the wheels off and whipping out the rear brake pads for a fresh set. Followed shortly after by an oil change and vehicle check, plus the front pads too I think. I’m still undecided as to whether to go the whole hog and do it all in one go, saving on garage visits. I’m also undecided as to whether to go main dealer or specialist, as there’s a local garage with a good reputation which I could try. I’ll have to give them a call and see if they’re rigged up to accept the F30, but given the number on the roads one assumes this will be the case.

    Vodafone gave me a new iPhone about, oh I dunno, twelve months ago, and ever since then I’ve not been able to use the BMW Remote app as I lost the registration details as a consequence. So I’ve been through the process again this month and finally got it working, just as a new iPhone 6S Plus arrived (which I’ll be using to finally upload a 4K video review of KP12 to my YouTube channel – I know, it’s only taken about a year since I mentioned it…).

    Naturally enough, I again neglected to take all the details off the old 5S (there’s always something which gets missed with events such as these isn’t there) so I poured myself a drink and pondered whether it was worth the aggro. Onto the ‘phone again to a chap at a BMW call centre, and when we finally resolved the mine field which is its SMS and email-based password reset process, I was able to gain access to the app.

    Not sure why I bothered though, to be honest. Does anybody out there actually use these things? The ventilation function merely activates the fan operation, not the airconditioning, hence it makes about as much difference on a hot day as a particularly tired flea furiously flapping its wings on the parcel shelf. The lock/unlock function takes an age to transmit to and from the car (and good luck getting that confidence- inspiring ‘ok’ message if your ‘phone loses the 3G or 4G signal mid-way through the procedure) and besides, who the hell wants to remotely unlock their car anyway? And I can’t really see the point of the remote headlight flash either, because by the time you’ve searched that remote festival or stately home car park where this feature is presumably of any practical benefit and found your car, the time taken to do so roughly correlates to the time taken for the headlight flash signal to actually reach the car. The app’s a good idea, but the tech has some way to go before it works.


    At least the front nearside Bridgestone Potenza has finally been replaced, courtesy of those efficient people at www.blackcircles.com, not to mention my preferred local fitment centre, www.hiqonline.co.uk/hiqcentres/ carterton (01993 843987) who welcomed me on a chilly Saturday morning with a wireless code for the aforementioned 6S Plus (why are mobile ‘phones regressing to the size they were in the 80s?) and a comfy sofa whilst the 224/40 R19 was smeared around the alloy in a scant 20 minutes. Excellent service, highly recommend both outfits.

    Still on the subject of tyres, the morning after we had the front replaced, the dashboard lit up claiming that one of the tyres had a puncture. It took a few seconds for me to register that the tyre fitment not 24 hours earlier probably had something to do with it, and indeed a message then appeared on the iDrive, stating what should happen next but at the same time, opining that perhaps the pressure sensor needed to be reset. Which we duly did and all has been well since. I had this problem last time too, as I recall. I really must make a note of these things…

    Prior to receiving the aforementioned new tyre, KP12 again found itself dumped in North Oxford’s secure parking area this month as I had the use of the new X6 for a weekend, and yet again here is an SUV/SAV which drew a cool response upon first acquaintance, but which I badly wanted by the end of the loan. Tellingly, the length of time it took to talk me around on this occasion was but just a few miles. Heading west down the A40 towards home, left arm again slung out across the transmission tunnel, my mind went back to the E71 version I drove for April 2014’s issue of BMW Car magazine. I said then that the meek may inherit the earth but they won’t be driving X6 BMWs, and I stand by that statement. This is arrogance on wheels, a get-out-of-my-lane device. And I absolutely love it.

    The loan car was a 30d M Sport, complete with tasty options such as the driver assistance package, which drove me mad down the M11 with its constant ‘red alert’ warnings from the instrument cluster. Does an engineer somewhere in BMW assume that stop, start traffic continues forward at a regulation 100 feet? So that soon got turned off. But otherwise, a combination of the new interior architecture (which is utterly gorgeous, locating the driver low down with a high waistline and prominent instrument pod) seriously impressive refinement wedded to push-you-back surge and the amusing sight of the tsunami of spray kicked up by the 315/35 20s out back really found favour with me. Funny how your opinion of something can really change when you spend some serious time with it. Twice. We were again bound for Suffolk, and the X6 repeated its shrinking trick around the lanes. Grunty, grippy, and happy to be hustled. Then swing onto the A120 on the way home, warp to 80mph, ease the throttle and relax.

    Fields and towns slip by the side windows, the elevated driving position subconsciously lowers your heart rate and the excellent eight-speed auto discreetly sorts the ratios. Then you spy the journey computer and it claims this two tonne, two-storey motor is doing 34mpg. Alchemy achieved. And yes, I know, it’ll be crap off road. But it’s utterly pointless to score the X6’s off-road abilities as it totally misses the point. You may as well assume that porn stars make good lovers. Just because something looks like it may be fit for purpose, doesn’t mean it will be.

    BMW doesn’t make a bad car these days (although the hyperactive puppy that is the M135i is probably my least favourite of recent years). They make an awful lot of good cars, and I’ve heaped praise on pretty much all of them. This latest X6 though, crumbs it’s good. Quite what the next one will be like is anybody’s guess but for now, I’ll take an #BMW-X6-40d-M-Sport / #BMW-X6-F16 over them all, including icons such as the M5 and i8.

    So much so that I’ve been looking at used ones as yet another potential replacement option for KP12. They don’t depreciate with quite the same venom as something like an F01 7 Series (another seriously tasty option – how does £18k for a 48k mile 2009 750i with the full options list of night vision, radar, blind spot, lane guidance and HUD sound?) but nevertheless, low 30s seems to soon be the going rate for an X6 M50d, and that’s one incredibly grunty motor. In short, lots to go shopping for when 2016 dawns in January.

    In contrast to all this, a recent trip to Beaulieu motor museum almost seemed like an anti-climax. I hadn’t been in a few years (er…twenty five, actually) and was expecting a significant difference as a consequence, but that feeling never really materialised. The much-lauded Top Gear exhibition was pretty poor in my view and the food in the main canteen area was awful. The main indoor exhibition area was impressive enough, and the sight and (near silent) sound of a Rolls-Royce Ghost running whilst an engineer talked the crowd through its engine servicing and maintenance schedule was impressive, too. But that was pretty much it and more to the point, it’s all they really had twenty-five years ago, too. And never mind that BMW content seemed very thin on the ground. Worse actually, the enormous model railway they had in those days has apparently been repatriated Stateside at the request of its owners, so that’s not there any more either. It was nice to see the place, but we won’t be back.

    F30 320d Sport / #N47D20 / #N47
    YEAR: #2012
    MILEAGE THIS MONTH: 1560
    TOTAL MILEAGE: 47,977
    MPG THIS MONTH: 47.7
    COST THIS MONTH: £187 (tyre)

    A new tyre was required this month and Black Circles and HiQ came up trumps; Mark wishes he’d remembered to reset the TPC though!
    THANKS TO: North Oxford #BMW www.oxfordbmw.co.uk 01865 319000
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    Perfectly Refined

    We take a first drive in the new 518d and 520d models /// #BMW-518d-F10 /// #BMW-520d-F10 /// #BMW-518d-F11 /// #BMW-520d-F11

    The best-selling four-cylinder diesel Fives were pretty good already but now they have been fitted with the new 2.0-litre engine they’re better than ever Words: Kyle Fortune. Photography: BMW.

    “Germans don’t do coffee,” says one of the journalists present. “Great at beer but terrible at coffee.” There’s nothing wrong with mine though; it’s strong, black and hot. It’s needed, too, after a 1.50am start to get to the airport. The occasion? The international launch of BMW’s new #BMW-518d and #BMW-520d , and the coffee discussion is at the lunch stop just outside Munich. No scrappy Moto or Extra service station here, but a proper Dinzler Kaffeerösterei stop, where the coffee is excellent and Germany’s reps and middle management are better catered for than the eye-wateringly expensive Costas and Starbucks that litter our motorway service stations in the UK.

    We’re not here to discuss the merits of crushed beans and hot water, though. We, like the target audience, have just driven here in BMW’s 5 Series fleet specials. The cynic in you could consider #BMW ’s 2002 introduction of EfficientDynamics as being timed a little too perfectly, the firm’s low CO² engines arriving at almost exactly the point in time when CO² -based taxation arrived on company cars. A candid conversation a few years ago with a BMW insider refuted that; BMW’s drive to efficiency was a curious and lucky quirk of timing rather than actually planned. Regardless, it has been at the top of the game since, though inevitably others have caught up. The new 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that brought us here today is the firm’s response.

    In the UK last year the 5 Series took 14,445 sales, of which 11,296 were 520ds. That new engine is significant then, and the 518d is unlikely to make a huge impact on that, as its CO² rating of 114g/km is no different from that of its more powerful 520d relation. Economy is the same, too, at 65.7mpg on the combined cycle. That worsens to 60.1mpg and 124g/km if you opt for a larger wheel and tyre package. Opt for the eight-speed Steptronic automatic, as around 50 per cent of buyers will, and both achieve 109g/km in SE guise only and 65.8mpg – or 114g/km and 119g/km on Luxury and M Sport wheels respectively.

    Whatever way you look at it, those are some fairly incredible numbers. And they’re achieved without any sacrifice in performance; indeed, the 520d gains 6hp and 15lb ft (20Nm) of torque, yet returns around ten per cent better economy. The 520d delivers 190hp at 4000rpm, its peak torque of 295lb ft (400Nm) achieved between 1750-2500rpm, which helps a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox or 7.7 seconds with the automatic. Understandably, the 518d’s numbers are more modest: it develops 150hp at 4000rpm, while its maximum torque of 266lb ft (360Nm) is produced over the same rev range as the 520d. Although it’s slower than the 520d on paper, its 9.5-second manual (9.4-second auto) 0-62mph time underlining this, it doesn’t feel so outgunned on the road.

    Christian Hiemesch, Project Director Development Diesel Engines for BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series, explains that the new diesel engine family is already used in both the X3 and 2 Series Active Tourer. Designated B47, the 1995cc unit replaces the N47 engine. It’s a modular unit with 500cc cylinders allowing three-, four- and six-cylinder layouts. The B37 three-cylinder version will power the 216d Active Tourer for instance. The new engine is designed to be fitted transversely and longitudinally, for use in both MINIs and front-wheel drive BMWs.

    No such divisive drive in the 5 Series. Although xDrive four-wheel drive offerings mean some European markets will see power directed to the front, in the UK the 5 Series remains resolutely rearwheel drive. Like its predecessor, the B47 features EfficientDynamics technology to maximise economy.

    TwinPower turbocharging, Electric Power Steering and Brake Energy Recuperation all feature, while mapcontrolled oil pumps with variable vanes enable continuously adjustable control of the volume flow and pressure in response to the engine’s status. Thermodynamic efficiency is improved around the core of the engine, too, as has the starting characteristics of the Auto Start Stop function, the result being even less scavenging losses to auxiliaries.


    The variable intake ‘TwinPower’ turbochargers have been optimised with new roller bearings, while newly designed heat exchangers for the exhaust gas flow optimise cooling performance – to the benefit of a reduction in maximum combustion temperatures and efficiency. The common-rail injection system uses new solenoid valve injectors for more precise control of fuel flow, and allow increased injection pressure – of up to 2000bar. Friction reductions have been achieved thanks to thermally joined cylinder liners in the aluminium crankcase, while the stiffer case, along with balancer shafts, help to improve refinement.


    Those changes are obvious immediately; as in the 218d Active Tourer we’ve driven elsewhere in this issue (p28), the 2.0-litre turbodiesel’s refinement is exceptional, even more so when under the Five’s bonnet. There are absolutely no vibrations, so the smoothness and eagerness to rev are both very impressive, and the improved Auto Start Stop system is all but imperceptible in its operation – not least because of the engine’s near silence and lack of vibration. Choose Eco Pro via the Drive Performance Control switch and the earnest eco bias feels like you’re pushing an accelerator that’s attached vaguely to the engine, so the standard Comfort mode is preferable unless you value economy over all else.

    The dual-nature of BMW’s four-cylinder turbodiesels has always been their strongest point though. Even without much thought to efficiency they’ll return highly credible economy, and yet still produce effortless performance on demand. Ask for more and that keenness to rev is unlike the majority of BMW’s offerings, though it’s at its best when specified with the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

    That optional Steptronic transmission helps achieve greater economy and emissions figures over the sixspeed manual. It does this by a number of measures, including an rpm-linked damper with engine specific tuning that allows lower rev driving without the usual compromises in vibration and acoustic intrusion. The longer ratios assist, too, as does a sat nav-linked predictive shift. The gearbox talks to the sat nav – even when not routing – to allow the optimum shifting strategy for the driving situation, as well as a coasting function in Eco Pro mode.

    The 5 Series diesel has come a long way from its 1984 524td beginnings with 115hp and 40.9mpg. Now if only UK customers were offered somewhere as nice to stop for a coffee on the road all would be right with the world.

    TECG DATA BMW F10 518d SE & 520d SE #BMW-F10 /// #BMW-F11
    518d SE 520d SE
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel Four-cylinder, 16-valve turbodiesel / #N47D20 / #N47
    CAPACITY: 1995cc 1995cc
    MAX POWER: 150hp @ 4000rpm 190hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 135mph (134) 146mph (144)
    0-62MPH: 9.5 seconds (9.4) 7.9 seconds (7.7)
    ECONOMY 65.7mpg (68.9) 65.7mpg (68.9)
    EMISSIONS: 114g/km (109) 114g/km (109)
    WEIGHT (EU): 1690kg (1700) 1695kg (1705)
    PRICE: £30,265 (£31,815) £31,965 (£33,515)
    Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed auto #ZF-8HP
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