I had the rather unexpected opportunity when attending the birthday of a classmate of my wife’s, to be given the key by the birthday girl’s hubby to his new toy, an BMW e46 320d. Yes an E46, old but still a car that i always had loved to drive, but never got a chance. The car had a 5-sp auto box, not something a BMW 3-series owner usual buys, but this chap had hunted one down due to the very long drives in congested traffics the car would be used daily, but loved the logo and its driver oriented design/performance.
It has been years since i got close to anything called crazy driving, but the chap was keen that I push the car, though I was not as confident since you do not want to take too many a risk with someone else’s car, and also not knowing the true limits and issues of car means reservations.
The drive that was supposed to be just a quick spin around the blocks became a 30 min drive across small lanes, and some “highways” in Sri Lanka (aka the Ratmalana and Panadura road to be more precise). Just as we got into the highway, I felt the presence of a bright white light following us, and moves aside to see what it was, and it turned out to be a brand new BMW X1! The owner of the BMW told me, let us give chase to see if this older car is capable of keeping up with a near similar car, and chase we did. The X1 owner was all up for the game and was seen doing some serious zig zag moves indicating he was willing to risk the new shiny toy, though i was a little more reluctant considering the car was not mine.
Though both had similar powered engines, the 320d with the 5-sp auto box, against the newer 8-sp autobox x1 was always going to be an advantage, but the old sedan kept up, and was keeping pace well over over the 1×0+ speeds. Also impressive was how well the X1 with its high ride did, and the ride was made one crazy rush before we turned back. However X1 owners be happy that X1 definitely was able to pull away even with the 320d in mode, but not by much.
Initial impression was the impressive acceleration specially into 2nd gear, where you felt the car push forward and you get thrown back a bit. The torque clearly made its presence, and it was a joy when overtaking. The S mode was a lot more aggressive than the D mode, but i did notice that even in S mode the programming being hesitant to drop the gear if the revs were over 2000rpm. Only later did i learn that you had use the +/- to get the best of this car.
The gear change in the autobox was clearly a lot more smoother and quicker than my Stream RSZ, and with the +/- and S mode you would not have much reservations of not having a manual box. The ride was surprisingly quite compliant, and handled most rutty roads with confidence with only severe potholes intruding. The engine clutter outside was quite bad, something that surprised me since the car had just run 31,000km, but inside the insulation from noises were very impressive.
The driving position was superb, and it made you feel part of the car, and the steering weight a sheer delight, and you were reminded what you missed with electric power steering. The beauty was that it was not too heavy at slow speeds, and was very responsive at higher speeds.