When you watch a Yash Chopra movie, you know at the back of your mind that, it will be a concoction of old-age love & sentiments. Heartbreak so pure, that the person wears it as a badge of honour. You are aware of the fact that, the by product being delivered will be exactly what you would be expecting. Nothing more nothing less.
The skunkworks at BMW then are the Yash Chopra of engineering. They are the makers of the Ultimate Driving Machine. I personally didn’t believe this claim. At first, it sounded absolutely bonkers. Because, in short what they were trying to say is that, what they make are probably the best driving cars & that is a tall order.
Until the day, I drove one. It was my very own E90 320d. And to be honest, I was left speechless. I witnessed poetry. It possessed of something, which many cars are deficient of; Character.
The look of it is such that of Mr. Olympia wearing a t-shirt two sizes small. It is barely able to contain all that muscle that is hidden underneath all those creases & lines. The small kink at the end of the window line makes it clear. The whole car is packed in a manner that, it appears to be doing tremendous speeds, even when it is standing still.
It possess of the “Get-up & go” attitude. I believe it is something that is in its DNA. And surprisingly, it is not something you find at every stage in the fiscal food chain.
On the inside, things are put up in a way that is only expected from the Germans. It is quite ergonomically put-up. Everything is just there, where it should be. Not something we Indians are very good at. Also, one of the reasons why the Indian carmakers could never indulge in an one on one fight with the foreigners.
The reason why I am such a big fan of this thing is because of the fact that, the blokes at BMW are so determined to make this the best driving machine. It has a few tricks up its sleeve. The car for example boasts of a 50:50 weight distribution. The weight distribution process was so draconian that even the car’s battery is placed in a compartment in the boot, rather than placing it with its other companions.
It also has rear-wheel drive, which according to study has proven to get you laid faster as compared to other front-wheel cars. Brownie points for the 3-series there.
The engine is a 2.0L in-line 4 cylinder motor that spits out 184 bhp & 320Nm of torques. Doesn’t sound like much of a recipe. Right?
WRONG! The way this thing serves up power is intoxicating. Well, this is an observation made not by me, but by the splendors & the pulsars who always keep drawing alongside and roaring off in the hope I’d put my foot down. So, after a while I do just so. And even from half a kilometre in front where I usually end up after mere seconds, I could feel their balls shrinking in disbelief & embarrassment.
As soon as the turbo kicks-in, this thing becomes a completely different animal. Giving you an impression that it likes when you tickle its belly & it wants more of it. 100kph comes up in just 7.5 seconds, thanks to the endless wave of torque. Honestly, I’ve never seen a Diesel motor perform in such a manner. It can rev upto 4,500 rpm out of 5,000 and trust me it still is far away from words like strained or unrelaxed. Not the most refined I’d say, when at idle makes a noise similar to Honda’s portable generator. The gearbox is a 6-speed automatic which is a bit dim-witted at slow speeds and doesn’t swaps cogs until driven hard. But, the power delivery is so savage that you’ll see the traction control nanny flashing itself up on the dashboard & telling you not to be a massive idiot or else you’ll end up in a tree.
The trick I like the most, is a small button just behind the accelerator peddle which, if depressed fully deletes the words like efficiency or fuel saving from its dictionary & will provide you with maximum kickdown at any given moment. Sounds fun.
When shown a perfect piece of tarmac, all of these things start to make perfect sense, the engine, the gearbox, the finely tuned chassis, the suspension. All this comes together as engineering perfection. It grips the corners like a terrified toddler holding the mother’s hand. Any corner, any situation, any thing the road throws at you & you will still come out with a smile on your face. This thing, is good at something and does it with so much perfection that it is hard to fathom, why would someone want to buy anything else.
“The last of the stars”, this is the term I coined for this very particular car. Because, the coming generation is not of petrolheads, but of ‘eco-mentalists’.
But, it will remain an all-time classic just like Kabhi Kabhie (1976).
By- Pranav Mehta