It was a very gentle beast unless provoked. Steering was very direct, so direct, that I clunked the wheel on a left-hand kerb at low speeds.
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I have nearly owned a BMW but somehow never got there yet. A lot of this stems from an evening of passion which BMW’s frisky little number (Mini Cooper S), alas, the rubber broke and was subjected to a night of doom. I nearly put big money on a 330i GT, which is still in the classifieds, but I got ghosted big time as many others. I have driven an overly booted F30 328i extensively (frantic but fun) and some E46 316i/318i (wonderfully fluid). I was yearning to take it to another level and experience a six-pot BMW.
So how did this come together?
Let’s rewind to May this year. Like my homeless friend, I message a few special much-loved ladies stating that I will be popping over for my nephew’s wedding.
Goes something like this.
“Coming over for maybe a couple of weeks, might cut the trip short. Car hire is horrendous”
This was a fact, a dreary rental of something like an Astra would be 700 pounds. I was even considering trains/flying internally/flying out from Manchester. Another option was to check out an interesting electric car hire company but pick up/drop would involve a lot of wasted time. As I write after the trip, the price has halved as below.
Back to the conversation with the ladies –
“If you don’t have too much luggage, I could get you insured to use my car, I’ll use one of T’s cars! (Audi TT-S or Z3 – both these sisters are serious… and single!)
Sure – what was that again? Pinch me
Didn’t she ping me a couple of years back about an amazing lease deal on M4 pre covid and the concept of YOLO? Yes, slow reality set in that it was “that car”! I gave my licence details not very reluctantly!
“Cool, let me add it in July before you arrive”
I offered to pay any insurance premium excess for a wayward Indian driver but kindness knows no boundaries. My forthcoming joy was boundless but I kept quiet about this, too many slips between the cup and the lip. In gratitude, I invested in some shopping for a few dresses for them but I was a little too flattering on their sizes (a little too small – no insult there!).
And so I land in early August, hung out on Friday with my cousin in the ‘burbs and then moved into town to hang out with the ladies over the weekend. Yep, I saw the car, out on the street.
Yep – Dirty times with a dirty car coming up!
Pinged my dear fellow mod with the strong right arm and the sprained right thumb asking him to “Guess my ride!” All he could come up with was a Ford Focus – duh!
Could not believe it!! My hands were itching to get my hands on it but it had to wait. We took the Tube into Kings Cross and hung out at a few places. We returned and went to a nearby Sushi place.
At that point, am thrown the keys!
“Let’s see how you get on”
Driving such a car in front of the owner is a nerve-wracking moment. Fortunately, having driven that mad F30, I was familiar with the switchgear. I had driven M3/M4s on track, but what was it like on road?
Adjusted the seat from their normal 5ft 2′ to my 6ft frame. The switch is flipped and the roof folds down complete with the drama. I gingerly drive on… and pass. Having observed every damn rule in the Highway Code. Dinner over, I drive back – I’ve passed again. The next day, after a long night, a hot yoga session and brunch, I take the M4 back to my cousins back in Northwood. On the way there, I kept the roof up as I wanted minimal distraction and needed to understand the car better – tackled the camera-riddled North Circular and a bit of the M1 and landed in Northwood. My cousins were not there, so I flipped the lid for a quick drive in the country.
Warning – pics taken at random, am too busy having fun, consideration for TBHP perfect pics were thrown out of the window!
Kerb view while having a coffee
Need to flip these in manually when parked as these are rare items
Back in suburbia
It was in reality, a very gentle beast unless provoked. You are conscious of the extra weight. The ride was a bit sharp but I took it in its stride. Steering was very direct, so direct, that I clunked the wheel on a left-hand kerb at low speeds. Comfort mode made it easy around town. With the roof down, a little scuttle shake is apparent and there is a little more understeer.
Day 2 – Taking it into Enemy Territory
Pinch me, I’m dreaming – no way, will I take the Tube into London to lurk around my usual haunts. I’m going to drive the hell around the area!
Having finished my banking work in the morning, I decided to visit the AMG experience at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands about 40 miles away. Before I went there, I tanked the car up and gave it a check-up. Bonnet is hardly opened so plenty of cobwebs!
Beware of 444 Very Wild Horses!!!!
I decided to check the tyres.
38Psi, I was told. However, when I looked at the door jamb, I realised something else, the small print, it was 32psi. Why? This is an M3 Competition with 30 profile tyres. Ah – the lawyer owner did not read the small print – big fail!!!
Being a London car, people park on street, against the curb and there are casualties. Scratched and scored wheel rims. On one tyre, I found bits of rubber from the sidewall lip flapping around. This made me very conscious about any high sped cornering. I prayed that the sidewalls would hold up (they were fine but you need to understand my luck with tyres!).
Onto Brooklands via the M25. The weather was hot and traffic was thick but the M3 was very docile. I drove roof down. It was perfectly fine at legal speeds. Once I got off the motorway and into Surrey, and then I slowly realised the fun of this beast. All this while, I had been in D. I now started playing with the paddles and then the inner beast emerged – the fruity exhaust note, the power, all emerges at 4000RPM plus.
Rule No 1: When in town or on a motorway – stick to D. Otherwise, use the paddles to really get the most from the car.
Enemy at the gates – The afternoon was spent thrashing a C63s and an AMG GT (amazing car!). The torque in these beasts was amazing, they felt rigid but the C had more roll on the limit. Am very glad that I could do this as it helped calibrate and help explore the M3 further.
Right attire, wrong shoes – still got admitted
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