Archive for November, 2010

Where Wachussett is born

Reminds me of the end of Strange Brew


BMW of Peabody gave me a 335Xi service loaner today so I thought it would be a good opportunity to compare to the 128i. The things I noticed right away were the annoying automatic transmission and much heavier steering.

Of course this automatic was ten times better than the Mustang’s auto, but I will always be instantly annoyed when a car doesn’t respond to my instruction to GO. Later, I did put it into manual mode and while that improved things, I still found its response times unnervingly slow. Even Germany can’t make a good slushbox, and maybe that’s why they’re moving the 2011 135 to a double-clutch SMT.

This was my first time driving the 300-hp twin turbo engine, and at first I felt no difference. After a while I might say there is a bit more acceleration on the low end, but what this is really saying is the extra 70 horses are soaked up by the transmission, AWD, and of course the 600 pounds of extra weight. Unfortunately it will cost you a good 8-10 mpg deficit.

Speaking of weight, you would think the portly extra pounds and larger dimensions would also be immediately noticeable, but that wasn’t true at all. I guess that’s where BMW shines because aside from the softer ride from the lack of my sport suspension, the car didn’t handle like something larger.

Chalk the heavier steering up to BMW’s active steering in -35 models. I knew to stay away from it from reviews, and although it was by no means horrible, I instantly missed the lightness and linearity of the regular steering. By the way, that is petty much the same comparison I’d make between that normal BMW steering and my MINI’s steering.

Other small details? I thought the iDrive was well-designed and easy to use. The only issue I had was the map zoom went the wrong direction and like everyone else the traffic data was useless. This was my first time driving with HIDs at night and I saw no benefit as expected…that’s why I saved $1500 without them on both cars. The 3 didn’t really feel any more spacious than the 1; in fact, I hit the door jamb getting out be because of the smaller doors.

I haven’t mentioned looks because of course I’ve seen plenty and that opinion was already well-formed. I don’t like the 3 series design in any of its forms, too many creases and wierdness, not quite balanced overall. I also noticed that I couldn’t see the hood while driving, unlike the 1-it’s nice to be reminded of the straight six living under there. Or maybe that just comes from growing up with Crown Vics.

So like the Mustang but in much smaller-detailed way, it’s nice to drive something different to remind me of how much I appreciate my cars, and why I research and nitpick and factory order to get every detail just right. I’m still pretty sure I’d prefer my 1 over any other BMW. At least until the 1M appears!


MINI of Peabody has a new Countryman in the showroom for just a few days so I quickly stopped in to have a look. My feelings were mixed on the mini SUV so I wanted to see it in the flesh and now… my feelings are still mixed. I was impressed with the interior, the rear legroom with the rear seats slid back was still small but the layout was very functional. The new center stack is a definite improvement over the garish ’07 design, and the orange/anthracite scheme looked nice. From the side, the Countryman almost looks like a small Cayenne. Unfortunately they went overboard on the front end aggressiveness, and we were all wondering why the rear bumper (and taillights!) stick out disturbingly far. I’m sure the combination of extra interior space and all wheel drive will make it very successful in New England as I’ve heard so many people say they like MINIs but think they need those features.

Gansett Time