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    M3-STYLED F31 335d
    Touring gets M makeover. Some may think that the inherent boxiness of estate cars is fundamentally unsporty, but #PITSTOP Performance has other ideas, as this #BMW-M3-styled 335d Touring proves… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Hjalmar van Hoek.

    TOURING DE FORCE F31 335d with #M3-conversion

    Estate cars, it’s fair to say, come with a certain amount of baggage. And not just the junk in the trunk, but the whole history of their being, the fundamental point of their existence: take a sensible family car, realise there isn’t enough space in there, and graft on a few extra square feet of glass and steel at the rear. Then you’re well served for carting refuse to the dump, cramming in luggage for family holidays, feeling smug in the Ikea car park while those around you try to squeeze wardrobes into hatchbacks, and everything else that goes with station wagon ownership. You buy them because you need to, not because you want to.

    At least that used to be true. Then the 1990s happened, and things started to get silly: Audi began hiding Porsches inside its Avants, Volvo dropped massive Touring Car motors into its turbobricks, and before we knew what was happening the idea of having an estate car was edging away from ‘do I have to?’ and toward ‘I really want to’.

    It’s for this reason that the base car for the project you see before you isn’t as embarrassing as it might once have been. Sure, when you note down the layout on a stark and unforgiving set of bullet points, it should be the sort of thing that’d satisfy your grandad rather than your boy-racer cousin: a boxy wagon with a diesel engine and an automatic gearbox. Hardly the stuff of schoolyard dreams is it?

    Oh, but it is. For this is an #F31-generation 335d – a car that came from the factory boasting 313hp from a 3.0-litre common-rail diesel straight-six with a pair of turbos strapped menacingly to the side. It’s got piezo-electric injectors and aluminium construction and variable turbo geometry… this is quite a long way removed from the rattly oil-burners of yore.

    The only real hurdle here, then, is its boxiness. It’s an estate car, and there’s no escaping the utilitarian vibe of that. But as any of the best tuners will tell you, hurdles are really just upstart opportunities, and Blend Maroof, owner of Sweden’s PITSTOP Performance as well as of this F31, is eager to springboard off that bland reputation and transmute it into something awesome.

    The first thing you’ll probably have spotted is that this 3 Series Touring has received a full M3 body conversion. This is a fiery move, as the fabled M badge has a tempestuous relationship with estate cars. The idea of an M3 Touring is one that consistently gets BMW fans whipped up into an excitable lather, the internet bristles with pages upon pages of forum posts and blog entries along the lines of ‘it’s the best car that BMW never built’. It does, after all, seem unfair that the wagons were left off the product planning chart, particularly given the proven global enthusiasm for hot estates; the RS4 and RS6 have paid for more than a few posh dinners in the steakhouse next to the Audi factory. And the E60- generation M5 was offered as a capacious load-lugger – V10 up front, Labrador in the back – so why not the M3? Well, it’s all down to maths, probably. Or physics. But that hasn’t stopped the aftermarket bolting together what #BMW never dared…

    “My first car was a 316ti, and from that point on I was firmly in the BMW groove,” laughs Blend. “That car was RWD, red, and a BMW, which was all I wanted at the time.

    Since then I’ve owned and modified an E61 535d, an E60 535d, an E60 M5, an E39 M5, an E91 M3, and many others.” It helps that his hobby is also his job, of course, as that provides a handy excuse to constantly be tweaking, refining, and generally getting up to a whole mess of Bavarian mischief.

    It’s worth pointing out at this point that this isn’t actually Blend’s first crack at building an M3-alike Touring; regular readers may remember his E91 335i Touring that appeared in these pages some time back, sporting genuine E92 bodywork and a menacing attitude (the eagle-eyed will have spotted his mention of the technically non- existent E91 M3 in the preceding paragraph!). “I sold that car to an amateur, who destroyed it,” he sighs, “so I told myself I needed to build another one. We have to have at least one M3 Touring in Sweden! So I started searching for a good base, and decided on this well-optioned F31 335d xDrive.”

    The car was sourced from a German dealer in mint condition, but naturally this didn’t make Blend pause as he was single- minded in his mission; indeed, he went one step further than having a plan in mind – he already had most of the parts for the project before he even took delivery of the car.

    “The rear bumper’s probably my favourite modification on the car, as I’m the first one in the world to do that,” he grins. “I also swapped the front carrier, the bonnet, wings, lights, front bumper, mirrors, side skirts, rear panel and rear doors, and then it was all painted in original Sapphire black.” A pretty comprehensive conversion – and you’ll note that he’s cheekily left the M3 badge on the grille too; something we wouldn’t normally condone on a non-M car, but given the effort that’s gone into crafting this machine we reckon he’s earned it.

    “The car’s static, running KW coilovers,” Blend explains, “because of the quality of the brand, and the fact that I’ve used them before. Also at the time there weren’t many manufacturers that had coilovers for the 335d xDrive! The wheels came at this point too, and I knew I wanted something deep concave with nice wide rears – I found the ‘right’ wheels a few weeks before the project was finished, they’re Japan Racing JR21s.”

    The rears measure a whopping 11x19”, which certainly makes the most of Blend’s newfound hip girth (not his, the car’s), and their smoky finish really works with the overall aggression of the build.

    The engine was the next item on the list, and while it may have already been packing a serious horsepower figure backed up by the trademark stump-troubling torque of the modern diesel, Blend had a few ideas to spice things up further. So now you’ll find it running a PITSTOP remap along with the company’s own custom 3” downpipe and exhaust system, along with #K&N induction and a big intercooler. Any of you who are still questioning the impressiveness of a diesel estate car as an M3 tribute will hopefully be gratified to learn that Blend’s creation will now run from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds. And that, fittingly, would match an Audi RS6. “The engine work all took about a week,” he explains, with the nonchalant air of someone who truly knows his stuff. “It runs real good, I haven’t had any problems!”

    From start to finish, the transformation took around three months, which is really quite hair-raising. Blend’s proud to say that he planned and executed all of the work himself too, with the exception of the installation of the rear panel, which was done by the paint shop while it was spraying it. And it’s impressive to note that when we ask him what more he might have done to the car if money were no object, his response is a humble “Nothing, I’ve done everything I wanted.” Although, when we press him further, he does admit that he’ll be sprucing up the interior to matching M3 spec in the coming year.

    This, then, is the product of a man unafraid to build the cars that BMW didn’t; a singularity of vision that dismisses the notion of the estate car’s perceived lack of coolness with nary a second thought. And before we have time to catch breath, he’ll be starting down the path to creating an M2 hatchback. The fella clearly has an axe to grind with BMW’s product planners, and he just cannot be stopped.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-F31 / #BMW-335d-Touring / #BMW-335d-Touring-F31 / #BMW-335d / #BMW-335d-F31 / #BMW / #Wagner / #Akrapovič / #Akrapovic / #BMW-M3-styled / #BMW-335d-Touring-M3-Styled / / #BMW-335d-Touring-M3-Styled-F31 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-F31 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-F31 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo diesel #N57D30T1 / #N57 / #BMW-N57 / #N57D30 / , 3” downpipe, #DPF and #EGR delete, 3” #PITSTOP custom exhaust system with #Akrapovič tails, #Wagner-Evo intercooler, K&N induction, PITSTOP custom remap, eight-speed #ZF-BMW-Sport-automatic transmission ( #ZF8HP / #ZF )

    CHASSIS 9.5x19” ET22 (front) and 11x19” ET25 (rear) #Japan-Racing-JR21 wheels with 255/35 (f) and 295/30 (r) tyres, #KW-V2 coilovers, MSport brakes

    EXTERIOR Sapphire black, full M3 body conversion including custom rear bumper
    INTERIOR Stock

    THANKS Thanks to my wonderful wife, PITSTOP and Schmiedmann – without them the project wouldn’t have been possible, Streetwheels for the fast job on the wheels, and to all of you out there who stood by my side from the start and helped me with everything

    “The rear bumper’s my favourite modification, as I’m the first one in the world to do it”
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    High Roller #2016 / #Alpina-XD3 / #BMW-Alpina-XD3 / #Alpina / #Alpina-XD3-F25 / #BMW-X3 / #BMW-X3-F25 / #BMW-X3-Alpina-F25 / #BMW-F25 / #BMW / #BMW-X3-35d-F25 /

    The Alpina XD3 has undergone its midlife makeover and it’s still king of the luxury diesel 4x4s. The XD3 has been subtly enhanced with a series of revisions to accompany the X3’s face-lift but is it still a great sporting 4x4? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    At the recent anniversary celebrations to commemorate Alpina’s 50th year the company’s founder, Burkard Bovensiepen, admitted that he’d wanted nothing to do with the company’s first sporting SUV, the XD3. Perhaps it didn’t initially fit in with his idea of what a ‘Manufacturer of Exclusive Automobiles’ (the company’s strap line) should be producing, but given that everyone (Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin) seems to be at it these days it made good business sense to enter the fray with its XD3. And it’s been a decision that’s been wholeheartedly vindicated by the fact that the company simply can’t make enough of them.

    When we first tested it in 2013 we were impressed, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to see what improvements have been made with this facelifted machine. The X3 didn’t go through many noticeable changes during its Life Cycle Impulse and, as with the vast majority of BMWs these days, styling changes are relatively minimal. And so you would think it was with the XD3 when you see the #BMW-F25-LCI machine in isolation, but if you compare its looks with the pre-face-lift example, quite a lot has changed. As per the #BMW model on which it’s based the headlights and kidney grilles are more shapely – on the older car the headlight units did look a little like they’d just been plonked on to the car, but the new units are more sculpted and look much better for it.


    It’s perhaps the new front bumper treatment on the XD3 that does most to bolster the car’s looks. While Alpina can take some of the credit for this, much of it should go to BMW as it’s equipped the M Sport X3 (on which the XD3 is based) with a more shapely and aggressive front bumper assembly and to this Alpina has fitted its traditional lower front lip spoiler which not only looks good but will be aerodynamically efficient too. Alpina, after all, doesn’t do things by halves. Having said that the rear aspect of the XD3 looks to be virtually unchanged with a simple rear valance and an additional piece of trim that wraps around the quad exhausts, two of which have Alpina etched onto their tips while the other pair feature the #Akrapovic script as it makes the exhaust system that was designed in conjunction with Alpina.


    Inside there are a few upgrades that accompanied the LCI changes such as switches and whatnot with additional chrome highlighting but the main change in this car from the standard X3 is the lovely Alcantara covering that goes across the centre console around the gear lever and iDrive controller, along part of the dash and onto the doorcards. It’s such a tactile material and really lifts the interior of the car, endowing it with a sporty ambiance and at £580 we reckon it’s an option that’s worth ticking. The standard fit electric front sports seats have the Alpina logo inset into them and this car also has optional Alpina rhombs stitched into the headrests which looks classy and is one of the cheaper items on the options list at £235. It almost goes without saying that there’s an Alpina Lavalina leather-clad steering wheel complete with buttons for the #Switch-Tronic side of the gearbox and that there are also a set of blue-faced classic Alpina dials with their red needles. Overall it feels like a superb place to spend wheel time.

    However, it’s what goes on under the skin that’s equally important and while there aren’t that many changes for the LCI XD3 it’s worth recalling what we’re dealing with here. The engine might have the same swept volume as BMW’s 35d unit on which it’s based but a quick gander at the power and torque figures demonstrate just how hard Alpina had worked on finely-honing this engine. With 350hp and 516lb ft of torque its performance is impressive, with 0-62mph being knocked off in just 4.9 seconds. At the same time its combined economy figure is an excellent 42.8mpg with emissions of 174g/km – both pretty stunning figures for a nigh-on two tonne four-wheel drive SUV!


    No doubt part of the impressive economy and performance figures are also down to the eight-speed #ZF transmission. In its standard form it’s a great ‘box as we’ve seen throughout the current BMW range but Alpina has thoroughly reworked it for the XD3. It’s a given that it runs on Alpina’s software, but in conjunction with ZF the company has changed and uprated about a third of its internal components.

    The proof of the pudding though comes with the eating of the cake so it’s time to slip behind the wheel and see how the XD3 fares. As mentioned I love the cockpit and it engenders a real feel-good factor as you get yourself comfortable and adjust the mirrors to your satisfaction. The diesel ‘six erupts into life with a decent burble – no, it’ll never sound as good as a petrol, but it certainly sounds better than most other machines that sup from the black pump. Trundling out of Nottingham it’s quiet and refined, and provided you don’t tread on the accelerator too sharply it’s remarkably docile. You could be forgiven for asking whether it really has all this horsepower and torque at its disposal.


    Once we’re out of town though I can delve a little deeper into the XD3’s performance envelope and as I pass a derestiction sign and am greeted with a deserted stretch of road I squeeze the throttle pedal to the carpet and even though I’ve driven one of these before I’m still slightly caught out be the ferocity of its forward momentum. The horizon is being reeled in rapidly and it would appear that snapper Smithy who’s following behind in my VW Passat has jumped on the brakes as he’s a diminishing speck in the XD3’s rear view mirror. There seems to be no let up in its quest to overtake the horizon – it just keeps piling on speed at a seemingly unrelenting rate. All good things have to come to an end though and in my case this is because up ahead I can see that what was an arrow-straight ribbon of Tarmac is about to turn into a mini section of Nürburgring so it’s hard on the anchors to discover how the XD3 feels when you barrel into the corners.


    Despite its high centre of gravity there isn’t a huge amount of roll when you throw it through a series of corners and given the roads are dry and I’m riding on a set of gumball (and optional) 21-inch rims its grip levels are huge. Just about the only thing it could do with is a little more feel to the steering as every now and then I find I’m having to wind a little more lock on than I expected. This could be due to unfamiliarity with the XD3, but just a tad more feedback would allow me to place the car a little more precisely.

    Playing with the various settings while doing cornering photography runs tell me that in Sport mode there’s significantly better throttle response but at the same time the chassis has perhaps firmed up a little too much for the road I’m on. Alpina reckons it has made a number of changes to the suspension of the XD3 for the LCI machine, including softening things up in Comfort mode. This seems to be born out with experience behind the wheel as it rides better than a machine running 21-inch rims has a right to but for my taste Sport is too jiggly. On smoother Tarmac it may be fine, but best of luck finding some of that in the UK these days. On the motorway the ride is fine, but what you do encounter is a fair amount of tyre roar… another reason for perhaps sticking with the standard 20-inch alloys rather than these 21s, even if they do look fantastic.

    Just about the only other cause for concern is a certain amount of creaking and rumbling that seems to be coming from the door trim panels – I’m sure it can easily be cured, but it’s not quite what you’d expect from a machine in this price category. As all X3s are made in BMW’s Spartanburg plant in America the XD3 is finished by hand at Alpina in Germany where completed X3s are partially disassembled and then rebuilt with the #Alpina specific components, and I can’t help but think that this is why there’s that bit of creaking from the trim. It’s also the reason why the XD3 will remain such a low-volume seller for Alpina as it simply doesn’t have the manpower to make more than it currently manages.

    It’s not a deal-breaker though as bar the creaking trim the XD3 is a cracking piece of kit. It’s uncannily rapid and can be remarkably economical given the performance on offer. Personally I’d be more tempted by a D3 Touring, but if you like the raised ride height offered by the XD3 and the security of four-wheel drive then it really should be on your shortlist.

    CONTACT:: Alpina GB Tel: 0115 934 1414 Web: www.alpinabmw.co.uk


    The Alpina’s cockpit feels like a classy place to spend wheel time, helped by a couple of options such as the Alcantara trim and the rhombs in the headrests.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Alpina XD3 / #ZF8HP
    ENGINE: Twin-turbo diesel, 24-valve / #BMW-N57 / #N57 / #N57D30T1 / #N57-Alpina
    CAPACITY: 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 350hp @ 4000rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 516lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 156mph
    ECONOMY: 42.8mpg
    EMISSIONS: 174g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £56,450

    There’s no let up in its quest to overtake the horizon – it piles on speed at an unrelenting rate.
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    The Ultimate GT? The #BMW-640d Gran Coupé is put to the test to see if it can be the perfect Grand Tourer. Mark Williams takes a #BMW-640d-Gran-Coupé for a spin to see if it might turn out to be his ultimate Grand Tourer Words & photography: Mark Williams

    Most new cars on sale in the UK today can be categorised by a list of parameters. A set of attributes which ultimately define their type and usage. Hot hatchbacks for example, exceptions such as the M135i and Golf R32 aside, are resolutely front-wheel drive, normally three doors in configuration but occasionally five, replete with split fold rear seats and a good useable boot. There’s likely to be some body kit tacked on to the outside of the ‘cooking’ version and inside, tarted up interior trim with seats ‘blessed’ with side bolsters reminding us of 1980s shoulder pads. Underneath, we find modified (and lowered) suspension and maybe a bespoke differential or other unique appendage dedicated to the art of going faster. Fail to equip your offering thus and it will sell in tiny numbers (although perversely, go too far and the sales performance will be even worse. When was the last time you saw a Renault Megane R27?).

    Sports saloons? Easy. Four-doors, five-seats, a big boot (but not necessarily a saloon), loads of toys, a surfeit of power and oodles of torque. And a two tonne kerb weight. Fancy the same but don’t have children? Buy a performance coupé in the shape of the new M4 and join the ranks of those queuing up to buy something which is not quite as practical, but which looks good and tickles your trousers. Oh I know all this sounds quite cynical, but even with the relentless niche creation-’n’-fill of recent years, all the resultant products fall into these and other bandings.


    And then Mercedes went and made the CLS. What is it? A coupé? A saloon? Well it seats four and has a boot. But it can’t seat five as that would be too practical and they wanted to market it as a four-door coupé. I don’t want to get into the subjective discussion over the styling other than to say the rakish profile resulting from slicing the traditional saloon roofline is clearly one of the segment’s attributes and a key reason why there are thousands of them about. So naturally enough, Audi got in on the act and more recently, BMW has also joined the fray with this, the 6 Series Gran Coupé.

    But first, let’s address how to categorise the Gran Coupé and its peers. They’re not saloons, nor coupés. They’re not even four-door coupés. To my mind, these are the modern interpretation of the Grand Tourer. But how do you pigeonhole a Grand Tourer? What defines a GT these days? Do they even still exist, at least when viewed through rose-tinted spectacles which remind us of what a GT used to be (front-engined, rear-drive, generally quite exotic but temperamental two-seaters)?

    You need something which covers distance with ease and minimal strain. You need comfort, a hushed cabin, a smooth ride at speed and a generally quite tranquil demeanour. I owned a Ferrari 550 Maranello many years ago, which was the perfect companion for the first two or three hours of a long drive, but thereafter became somewhat tiring, especially in traffic. And you need luxury through space, not only for luggage but oddments space too, plus space for passengers. If you’re covering distance, there’s nothing to say that you can only do it in the company of one companion. But here’s the killer fact: you need range. There’s nothing worse than stopping to brim the tank on something like the aforementioned Ferrari, only to have to stop to do the same again barely three hours later.


    So what we have here, I believe, is the best Grand Tourer on sale today. Space enough for four passengers, ample power (313hp) plus a long-legged range afforded by near 40mpg economy. And a big boot. To my eyes at least, it looks simultaneously elegant yet imposing (even in white… trust me the colour grows on you after a while) and goes down the road with a relaxed gait. A real gentleman’s express, a cut-price Aston Rapide if you will. So the plan was to take one for a drive, long enough to get a feel for the car and thoroughly understand it.


    It’s late on a Friday afternoon when I finally pull up at Cooper Reading’s showroom, and after a few pleasantries I’m shown ‘my’ Alpine white 640d Gran Coupé and I reckon that as a piece of automotive sculpture this thing cuts quite a dash. It actually appears to grow shorter in height the closer you are to it and, in M Sport guise as tested, manages to land on just the right side of visual aggression. Once installed, the interior immediately puts one at ease, the sweeping lines of the dashboard combined with the contrast stitching lending the environment an upper-class air which isn’t affected by the 3.0-litre straight-six diesel rumbling into life up front.

    But crumbs, it’s wide. Heading out of Reading and back out into the countryside in the general direction of Oxford, it feels like it’s filling the lane, and there’s the occasional thump-thump-thump of offside tyres pummelling the cats eyes. It soon becomes clear though that I’m over-compensating and once I start to relax, the affect is less pronounced. Other early impressions focus on the ride quality, which exhibits similar levels of fidget to the X6 (but which I increasingly failed to notice the longer I drove the car) and the noise, which is very pleasant. There’s a delicious half moan, half rumble under power from around 1500rpm out to 3000rpm on the rev counter and you seldom need to go any higher than this, peak torque of 465lb ft being available from 1500rpm to 2500rpm. Something else which doesn’t go unnoticed is the way the seat belt gently tightens its grip across your shoulders as you move off from rest, which is a new experience for me (although personally, I’d also appreciate a small mechanical arm or similar device presenting the belt to me, as it’s quite a stretch to reach). Oh and another early impression – the superb (standard) stereo system, with excellent bass reproduction and more power than anybody could reasonably need.


    Next morning, the boot swallows all the luggage my wife and her friend evidently require for their weekend cruise break (40th birthday present, when did chocolates stop being acceptable?), and once we’re loaded up, we hit the A40 towards Oxford and are soon whistling south down the A34, Southampton drawing near. The Gran Coupé is a relaxing drive at a cruise-controlled 80mph and after a comfort break at some services (during which the Gran Coupé draws several admiring glances) my passengers are dropped at the cruise terminal and I retrace my steps home.

    Cruising back up the A34, left arm resting on the shift lever for the eight-speed auto, right hand lightly gripping the smooth leather-trimmed M Sport wheel (I’m still not sure about the new design, seems a bit minimalist to me) the Gran Coupé’s charms start to work their magic. It’s very quiet in here, even with the 275 section 20-inch rears, and the high waist, low roof architecture combined with low-slung seats and substantial dashboard design lend the interior a snug and cosy ambience. I’d wondered (and worried) whether it would be like driving a pillar box, but the visibility was generally excellent (forward as well as aft) and after several days driving the Gran Coupé the view through my F30 Three’s windscreen didn’t seem any more ‘open’ upon reacquaintance.


    Baulked by traffic around Newbury, I flick-flick to sixth and squeeze the throttle. There’s a hardening of engine note and a slight squat as I’m pushed down the road, I flick to seventh, another to eighth and our 80mph cruise is regained. We’re soon around Oxford and back out into the Cotswolds, whereupon I simply keep going in the general direction of Gloucester and South Wales beyond.

    Now you may think this is madness. After all, I’d already crossed the M4 motorway, why not just hang a left and make for the Severn Bridge? Because it’s more fun to take the Heads Of The Valley road, which is basically the A40 later morphing into the A465 and is a stretch of dual-carriageway interspersed with roundabouts every few miles. In other words, 60mph SPECS zone aside, it’s jolly good fun.

    So, with a roundabout fast approaching at the end of a particular stretch of dual-carriageway, I thumb the drive control switch into Sport, and click the gear lever to the left on approach, giving me control over the gears and engine braking. I then start to squeeze the left pedal and click twice down to sixth. Hearing the faint V8-esque rumble from up front and with the brakes nicely loaded up, I squeeze a little more. Fine for road work, the big discs bite back and wash off speed with disdain. I then click down to fourth and as the roundabout opens up in the windscreen, I shift down into third before entering the fray.

    Moseying round in third, I signal for the exit, then give the throttle a good prod as the A40 once again opens up to reveal a gentle descent into the middle distance. The Gran Coupé feels like it could do this all day, as I grab fourth, then fifth, the speedo inexorably advancing northwards, that rumble from up front once again in evidence, and the annoying Audi A4 which was filling my mirrors is now noticeably falling back. I slide the lever back into ‘D’ as the speedo settles at 80mph and then realise I’m surrounded by nothing. The accompanying traffic has been cast aside and I’ve effortlessly sprinted ahead into open space.

    Arriving in Swansea, there are appreciative comments and plaudits from family and friends who admire the design and the interior. It’s a flying visit though and I’m soon heading off again, straight down the M4 this time then up the M5 before completing the loop and heading on to the A40 via Birdlip and back home. Darkness is coming and the interior is soon bathed in a soft ambient light, set off brilliantly by the dashboard switching to a similar relaxing hue. The A40 under darkness can unpredictable, with vehicles suddenly appearing out of hidden dips. I’m relaxed behind the Gran Coupé’s wheel however and am content to glide along in serenity.

    All told, I covered 740 miles in the Gran Coupé at an average of 39.2mpg. There was no back ache and despite the time spent behind the wheel, there was no tiredness either. The only faults I could identify, other than the already mentioned seat belt arrangement, are the awful reflections in the windscreen due to the leather-covered dash and the strange panel gaps visible around the point where the front bumper panel meets the bonnet (a common affliction with many BMWs these days). Design items not identifiable as faults as such include the updated sat-nav, which seems reluctant to show true topographical 3D as easily as it once did (although maybe I was just doing it wrong) and the aluminium interior trim, which looks too cheap given the price.

    Considering the general quality of the experience however, that’s a bit like an art collector moaning at not having anywhere to hang their latest Picasso. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these, then please look after it because at some point over the next year or so, once depreciation has done its thing, I’ll be knocking on your door looking for a used buy.

    THANKS TO: Cooper Reading #BMW Tel: 0118 914 5934 Website: www.cooperreadingbmw.co.uk

    TECH DATA #BMW-640d-M-Sport-Gran-Coupé-F06 / #BMW-640d-F06 / #BMW-F06
    ENGINE: Six-cylinder, twin-turbo diesel BMW #N57 / #N57D30T1
    CAPACITY: 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 313hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 465lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    0-62MPH: 5.4 seconds
    ECONOMY: 51.4 (claimed), 39.2mpg (on test)
    EMISSIONS: 149g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £69,995

    It looks elegant yet imposing and goes down the road with a relaxed gait.
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    Added Muscle / #BMW-F16 / #BMW-X6-F16 / #2015 Road test

    A brace of X6s with a selection of M-Performance accessories. We sample a brace of M Performance-kitted X6s and try to pick a winner between the #BMW-xDrive30d-F16 and the #BMW-xDrive40d-F16 Words: Bob Harper /// Photography: Dave Smith

    I’ll admit that when I first clapped eyes on the X6 at the Frankfurt show back in 2007 I just didn’t ‘get it’. I’d been a big fan of the X5 since its arrival in 1999 but as I studied the concept X6 that BMW had just pulled the wraps off I couldn’t help but wonder who the ‘Sports Activity Coupé’ was aimed at and, more to the point, why wouldn’t you just buy an X5? After all, the X5 was cheaper, offered more interior accommodation and somehow just looked like a more coherent design. Did we really need BMW filling a niche no one knew existed?

    I went from doubter to believer after I’d driven an X6 though; it was just a little bit sharper than the X5 with all its responses feeling like they’d been finehoned with the driver in mind. The way you could pulverise a challenging bit of road into submission when behind the wheel of an X6 was something you had to experience to believe. It probably didn’t come as a surprise to BMW, but the car’s sales success certainly raised plenty of eyebrows, and if you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery you only have to have a look at how many other manufacturers have jumped on the X6-style bandwagon – the Mercedes GLC being the latest to join the party.

    There are plenty of people who still don’t ‘get’ the X6, though, but I generally find that the vast majority of those who don’t see the car’s appeal have yet to drive one. My first acquaintance with the all-new model, the F16, came a few months back when I drove one back from the Geneva Motor Show and despite it being the entry-level engine for the UK market, the BMW-xDrive30d-F16 , I was mightily impressed with the way it went about its business. This was a ‘nail it back as fast as possible, I’m on press deadline’ sort of a drive and despite it being a long night in the saddle I stepped out of the BMW-X6-F16 without any aches, pains or a feeling of tiredness. All in all it was an impressive performance with my most major gripe being a lack of rear visibility thanks to what is a bit of a letterbox rear screen when looked through via the rear view mirror. This really irritates me in a car, and just about the only machine I can forgive it in is an M1, for obvious reasons.

    Owners and potential owners don’t seem so bothered by this if the order book is anything to go by and while many owners are happy with their X6s as they left the factory there seem to be an equal number who like to personalise them, too. The X6’s success can also be judged by the number of European (and American) firms that are making aftermarket components for it and, as is often the case, what’s available from the tuners ranges from the mild to the wild with varying degrees of success – there are some very dubious-looking wide-body kits out there on the market!

    BMW itself obviously has its own set of accessories for the X6 and if any expression of the car’s sporting intent were needed you only have to look at the fact that BMW has made sure its range of M Performance accessories were ready for market virtually from the moment the car was launched. As per the rest of the model range we have a selection of parts available for the Sports Activity Coupé, including aerodynamic components (in a mixture of plastic and carbon), wheel and tyre sets and some choice interior goodies too.

    We sampled what’s on offer on a brace of X6s – an xDrive30d M Sport and an xDrive40d SE – with the former being kitted-out with a host of exterior items and the latter being blessed with the interior upgrades. As the M Performance styling can only be fitted to an M Sport model all the SE makes do externally is a fancy set of wheels. As well as evaluating the accessories it was quite interesting to drive the 30d and 40d models back-to-back as the question of whether to go for the M Sport with its sexy styling or to have the additional performance of the 40d but with the less aggressive SE looks may be on potential owners’ minds. For the record, in standard non-accessorised form the 30d M Sport weighs in at £56,100 whereas the 40d SE is actually a chunk of cash cheaper at £54,060.

    They both use the same 2993cc turbodiesel in different states of tune – 258hp versus 313hp – and naturally enough the 40d wins the torque output battle at 465lb ft compared to the 30d’s 413lb ft. Their top speeds are both pretty academic unless you live a stone’s throw from the autobahn, but both can do double the UK speed limit and the 40d wins the 0-62mph gong by quite a margin, recording 5.8 seconds compared to the 30d’s 6.7. It’s perhaps slightly surprising then that on the road the 40d doesn’t feel significantly faster under normal traffic conditions than the 30d. I guess if you were Sebastian Vettel attempting to come from the second row of the grid to beat Lewis Hamilton into the first corner you’d appreciate the 40d’s extra urge, but both pull away from the lights with more than acceptable acceleration without having to bury the throttle pedal into the carpet. There’s very little in economy and emissions too – both with official mpg figures in the mid- to upper-40s, but unless you drive like a saint you’ll not see much more than mid-30s in everyday driving and if you do a lot of town work it’ll be even less than that.

    When you do get hold of them and try to extract the maximum from both cars the 40d does delve into its extra bag of tricks and you do start to feel the presence of the extra power and torque. It’s the latter that’s most important – it feels less stressed when trying to extract the maximum from it and when the 30d is becoming a little breathless or a little strained the 40d keeps pulling hard and is less out of its comfort zone. It does have to be said that by the time you discover this you’re probably going to be travelling far faster than is generally deemed acceptable on the public road, and at the back of your mind you do have to keep remembering that you’re in command (and hopefully in control) of over two tonnes of metal. Overall the X6s – both 30d and 40d – do hide their bulk very well, but there’s only so much clever chassis work and the excellent xDrive system can mask. Ultimately the laws of physics do take over, but long before then you should really have backed off anyway. The bottom line is that something this big should not be this entertaining to drive.

    Which machine I would actually choose to own is a very tricky decision, ignoring the fact for one moment that I don’t have upwards of £50k burning a hole in my pocket. I do like the M Sport styling and I think its aggressive looks do suit the X6 more than the SE. But if I was in a hurry I’d much rather be behind the wheel of the 40d. I could be more than happy with either machine but would more than likely err towards the 30d M Sport, and if that was my ultimate decision then I’d also be able to add some of the fine M Performance accessories that we have here. In case you haven’t spotted it the Space grey 30d is the exact same machine I drove back from Geneva but since the last time I saw it it’s been slathered in a selection of M Performance accessories. If you approach from the front it’s hard to miss the lovely carbon fibre front lower spoiler which complements the M Sport front bumper treatment perfectly. Additional carbon items are the mirror caps and a rear diffuser which looks rather fetching, and a neat bootlid spoiler which is perfectly judged – not too small and not too ostentatious either.

    These rather lovely carbon goodies are backed up by black kidney grilles, M Performance side decals along the sills, a pair of winglets that sit just aft of the rear wheels and a couple of plastic rear fins that run up the side of the rear screen. Finishing off the whole look are a set of 21-inch Double-spoke 599M M Performance wheels complete with Pirelli tyres. These really are pretty impressive looking and measure 10x21 inches up front and 11.5x21 inches at the rear and are shod with equally huge 285/35 and 325/30 Pirellis, front and rear respectively. It says something about the size of the X6 that these 21-inch wheels don’t actually look that big on the car! Overall the M Performance accessories look pretty smart, although I’m going to add the usual caveat that the sill stickers aren’t my favourite part of the package and I’m not 100 per cent certain the little winglets or plastic fins by the rear screen bring all that much to the party. The carbon I love, though, although you do need to be pretty keen on it as the splitter, rear diffuser, mirror caps and spoiler will set you back over £3000 – and that doesn’t include fitting. To be fair, though, it’s certainly no more than you’d pay for similar parts from the aftermarket and obviously these ones have been fully tested by BMW and are backed by BMW’s warranty, too.

    If I was pretty keen on the exterior upgrades on the Space grey 30d then the interior on the Flamenco red 40d is equally impressive. There are swathes of carbon fibre running around the dash and onto the door cappings, and along the dash there’s also a nice sliver of Alcantara with the M Performance script woven into it. The gear selector and the surrounding trims are also in carbon fibre and look all the better for it and to cap things off there’s an Alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel that feels absolutely lovely to hold and has a delicate piece of red leather at the 12 o’clock point. A set of M Performance floor mats and some rather natty illuminated front door sill trims complete the package. The whole setup exudes quality and makes the interior seem significantly more sporting, too.

    The X6 might not seem like the most obvious choice of a sporting #BMW suitable for a set of #M-Performance accessories but in a way it makes more sense than on an X5 as the Sports Activity Coupé is the more sporting of the two big X machines. Some folk will still struggle to get their heads around the whole X6 concept but my advice to them would be to take one for an extended test-drive – they really do drive very, very well and are far more wieldy than their size and weight might lead you to believe. Of course this brace of machines we have here aren’t going to rival an M235i when it comes to ultimate cross-country pace, but they’re not quite as far as away as you might imagine. I’ll take mine as an #M-Sport and sign me up for the carbon fibre M Performance parts please…

    The bottom line is that something this big should not be this entertaining to drive.

    It’s perhaps slightly surprising then that on the road the 40d doesn’t feel significantly faster.

    M Performance #BMW-X6-xDrive30d-F16 and #BMW-X6-40d-xDrive30d-M-Sport xDrive40d SE.

    ENGINE: Six-cylinder, turbodiesel #N57 #N57D30O1 / Six-cylinder, turbodiesel #N57D30T1
    CAPACITY: 2993cc 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 258hp @ 4000rpm 313hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 413lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm 465lb ft @ 1500-2500rpm
    0-62MPH: 6.7 seconds 5.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 143mph 149mph
    ECONOMY: 47.1mpg 45.6mpg
    EMISSIONS: 159g/km 165g/km
    WEIGHT: 2140kg 2180kg
    PRICE (OTR): £56,100 (M Sport) £54,060 (SE)

    M PERFORMANCE EXTERIOR PARTS FITTED TO SPACE GREY M SPORT: Front splitter, carbon: £1225. Rear diffuser, carbon: £925. Rear spoiler, carbon: £595. Black kidney grilles: £131. Rear fins: £229. Rear winglets: £530. Carbon door mirror covers: £498. 21-inch Double-spoke 599M complete wheel and tyre set; Front 10x21-inch with 285/35 R21 Pirelli tyres; Rear 11.5x21-inch with 325/30 R21 Pirelli tyres: £5250.

    M PERFORMANCE INTERIOR PARTS FITTED TO FLAMENCO RED SE: LED door sills: £206. M Performance steering wheel: £775. Carbon interior trims: £1175. Gear selector and lower trim: £532. M Performance mats: £192.50 All prices quoted are for parts only but include VAT. Contact your local dealer for painting and fitting costs, plus details of any promotions running on M Performance packages.

    To cap things off there’s an Alcantara-clad M Performance steering wheel that feels absolutely lovely to hold.
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    Business Class. What would you buy for the same money; an Approved Used #BMW-F10 535d M Sport or a new 520d SE? The list price for a brand-new 520d SE Saloon is £32,260. For the same money you could buy a nearly new Approved Used 535d M Sport instead with two years BMW warranty. So which makes the best buy? Words: Guy Baker. Photography: Tom Begley.

    The current #F10 5 Series is undoubtedly ahead of the game – beating rivals from Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes to the title of top exec. Brilliantly refined and quiet, the latest Five delivers a genuine luxury feel, not to mention satisfying handling, impressive passenger room and especially efficient powerplants. And there’s a 5 Series model for almost every taste. The latest entry-level 520d for example provides feisty hot-hatch performance, yet claims a combined consumption figure of 65.7mpg and CO² emissions of just 109g/km, whilst at the other end of the 5 Series spectrum the 535d M Sport is almost an M5 diesel in all but name. Yet incredibly this 5.3-second to 62mph model too boasts a super-frugal combined consumption figure of 52.3mpg. Two very different saloons undoubtedly – but both share the same lust for efficiency. Furthermore, examples of either can be bought from your local BMW dealer, complete with warranty, for exactly the same sum.

    So you could splash out £35,000 on a brandnew mildly-optioned 520d SE – spec’d to your own individual taste – or alternatively put your cash down on a more appealing nearly-new 535d M Sport, which has already suffered the worst of its depreciation. Both choices have their attractions, and both come with the warm reassurance of a BMW warranty. But after a typical three-year ownership period which will have proved the better buy?

    Looking good

    Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And although the styling of the latest 5 Series won’t take your breath away, there’s no denying it possesses more than a modicum of presence. Purposeful and athletic, yet svelte and slinky, the Five exudes a sunny disposition but retains that trade-mark aggressive front end – with a condensed kidney grille and an angrylooking stare. In full-blown 535d M Sport trim the F10 is quite imposing on the road, especially in black.

    Comfortable yet corporate, the 520d SE doesn’t possess the 535d’s deep front spoiler or foglamps, or its striking 19-inch alloys, but still sits low enough to the deck. And with its long wheel-base it cuts a lowprofile dash in the company car park. It lacks any feelgood details though, like M Sport kick-plates and front-wing badging; and the small twin-exhaust back box is a tad puny compared to the 535d M Sport’s meatier separate twin exhausts.

    Our black 535d also has better in-cabin appeal, with contrasting cream upholstery in place of the 520d’s standard black fare; although the chequered carbon-fibre look dash trim in this 535d M Sport won’t appeal to all. The driving experience, however, will.

    The 313hp 535d M Sport possesses prodigious torque (465lb ft at 1500rpm) and delivers low-end pulling power in every gear. And yet it’s responsive and refined too. Muscular and effortless, its sheer pace and acceleration are a revelation. Fast but never furious, it’s a gem of an engine, and at lower speeds the 535d can still be docile and smooth – happy to cruise quietly to the shops. It is 125kg heavier than its 520d little brother, but you’d never know it – on faster B-roads it feels as quick as a Porsche Boxster. And with powerful brakes reining you in whenever the need arises, you can cover ground alarmingly quickly.

    The 520d in contrast is punchy rather than potent, with the benchmark 0-62mph dash covered in 7.7 seconds. It’s still torquey, though, with 295lb ft available from just 1750rpm – so overtaking is never a problem. And whether you’re cruising up and down the motorway, or blasting down a country lane, in Comfort mode the 520d always delivers a superbly comfortable ride – whilst retaining just enough dynamic involvement. At higher motorway speeds however you may prefer Sport mode, with its slightly firmer suspension and steering responses.

    Always composed and relaxed, the 520d SE is genuinely enjoyable to drive, but once you’ve driven a 535d M Sport – which is frankly a league and a half quicker – you’ll always feel slight pangs of envy every time you see one on the road.

    The complete package

    Whilst the 535d M Sport has its lower-powered sibling licked on the road, the new 520d still has an impressive kit list, with £32,260 SE models like the Glacier silver saloon you see here claiming 17-inch alloy wheels, an electric parking brake, cruise control, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC+), Business navigation, front and rear parking sensors, rain sensitive wipers, leather upholstery, part-electrically adjustable front seats, automatic air-con, electric windows, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, a single-CD stereo, a seven-inch colour display with iDrive and a trip computer. And for around £3000 extra you could also opt for a 520d M Sport instead, with the M Sport suspension, aerodynamics package, 18-inch double-spoke alloys, spor ts seats, an M Spor t steering wheel and gear knob, and extra aluminium trim.

    The standard price is for a six-speed manual saloon, but many buyers will prefer the 5 Series with the optional #ZF8HP eight-speed automatic Steptronic transmission, which adds £1550 to the list price. Other popular options include an M Sport steering wheel for £110, split/fold rear seats at £335, front sports seats at £475, Adaptive headlights at £540 and full climate control for £305. All these options are present on our 520d SE test car, adding £4865 to the list price and taking the cost to £37,125.

    That’s the asking price for a one-year-old BMW Approved Used #2014 #BMW-535d M Sport saloon with just 10,000 miles on the clock. A slightly older 15,000-mile September 2013 example – like the Metallic Carbon black saloon you see here – is even cheaper at £34,000. So even if you could glean a sizeable discount on a new 520d you can still pick up a nearly-new Approved Used 535d M Sport saloon for the same money. And with identical practicality and an even better spec, the more potent Five offers more for your money. Most main-dealer examples (which were priced at £48,920 when new) come with at least one of five available option packs – BMW Navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive, the Dynamic package, the Visibility package and the Comfort Package. In addition to this, all cars come with the full M Spor t package as standard, and quite a few examples also boast goodies like heads-up display, blind spot warning, 19-inch alloys and a rear spoiler. All carry the eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.

    Decision time
    There’s no doubt then that a one- or two-year-old #BMW-535d-M-Sport has the new #BMW-520d-SE saloon beaten in terms of styling and spec. And the Approved Used Five’s appeal as a driving tool is clearly much greater too. But any buying decision has to take into account ownerships costs too. And in this sector of the market that’s the over-riding factor.

    With the very latest technology on board the 520d SE Saloon, at 65.7mpg combined consumption, has the 535d M Sport beaten at the pumps. So after a typical three-year ownership period, assuming an annual mileage of 15,000 miles a year, the 520d SE owner will spend around £942 less on fuel at today’s prices. And greater engine efficiency also means they will have saved £375 on their road tax bill too. In addition, estimated servicing and maintenance costs are around £455 higher for the 535d M Sport, and insurance costs are £249 greater for our typical 5 Series buyer. All of which leaves the 520d buyer over £2000 better off after three years. A substantial sum.

    However, if either car is bought outright at current BMW or independent finance loan rates then we must also factor in depreciation. And here it’s the Approved Used 535d M Sport that holds all the aces. With the first year of heavy depreciation behind it, it will lose less in value over the subsequent three years than a new 520d SE – to the tune of £2711. And that completely cancels out the new car’s advantage, leaving the used 535d M Sport actually marginally cheaper to own.

    Some buyers will opt for PCP, or even personal contract hire instead of fully financing a new 520d SE, but if you consider this route you must compare all costs closely. Interest rates can be higher for PCP and you will only own part of the car at the end of three years. For comparison, typical current independent borrowing loan rates for home owners are 3.8-8.5 per cent APR.

    Current BMW offers on new 520d also include Personal Contract Hire at £329 a month for 48 months, but you would have to put down £5899 initially – and there’s a hefty 8.72 pence-per-mile excess charge. Add this lot up and it’s a couple of grand less than the depreciation on a used 535d M Sport – but you won’t own anything at the end of three years.

    The nearest equivalent PCP is currently £478 a month with a £451 deposit and a #BMW / dealer deposit of £4709. At 5.9 per cent APR this sounds good, but the optional final payment is £11,925, and the excess charge is 6.75 pence-per-mile. Buying the car outright may hit your wallet less in the end. Both our 5 Series contenders pack cast-iron BMW warranties, and right now there are plenty of mintcondition Approved Used 535d M Sport Saloons advertised for sale at dealers, so finding one with the colour and spec you require won’t prove hard. That said, collecting a brand new 520d saloon with your ideal spec and options will be an absolute pleasure, and there are no waiting lists for factory orders. Both these 5 Series make tempting buys in their own right, but impressive though the new 520d SE Saloon is it’s the Approved Used 535d M Sport Saloon which holds greater appeal – not only to the heart, but also to the head.
    Many thanks to BMW Specialist Cars Tring (www.specialistcarsbmwtring.co.uk) for its assistance with this feature.

    New #2015 #BMW-520d-SE-F10 vs Used #BMW-535d-M-Sport-F10
    (New) 520d SE (Used) - 535d M Sport
    ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve diesel #B47 - Six-cylinder, 24-valve turbo diesel #N57 #N57D30T1
    CAPACITY: 1995cc 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm - 313hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 280lb ft @ 1750rpm - 465lb ft @ 1500rpm
    0-62MPH: 7.7 seconds - 5.3 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 144mph - 155mph
    COMBINED ECONOMY: 68.9mpg - 52.3mpg
    ESTIMATED DEPRECIATION: £22,535 - £19,824
    MAINTENANCE AND SERVICING: £2655 - £3110
    FUEL COSTS: £3677 - £4619
    ROAD TAX: £60 (CO² 109g/km) - £435 (CO² 148g/km)
    TYPICAL INSURANCE: £840 (group 34) - £1089 (group 45)
    TOTAL COST PER MONTH: £827 (averaged over 3 years) - £808 (averaged over 3 years)

    Costs estimated over three years at the time of writing, assuming 2015 VED rates and fuel costs and a similar purchase price for a car covering 15,000 miles a year – insured by a 45-year-old project manager living in the Midlands.

    Any buying decision has to take into account ownerships costs and in this sector of the market that’s the over-riding factor.

    The 535d M Sport is undoubtedly nicer to look at both on the inside and outside. It helps this model is fitted with contrasting cream leather.
    Purposeful and athletic, yet svelte and slinky, the Five exudes a sunny disposition.

    The new #BMW-B47 four-cylinder in the current 520d may be around 125hp and 175lb ft down on the 535d, but it still drives very well with plenty of grunt on tap for overtaking. It’s also a whole lot better on fuel.
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