Road impressions: A BMW estate—the 2000 Touring

The moment the first pre-release photographs of an estate version of the BMW 2002 fluttered on to the editorial desk at Standard House I was enthusiastic about this new model. Later I saw some of the cars running about on German roads and was certainly not disappointed when the machine was viewed in the metal, and now a road-test example has come our way I am convinced that first impressions were absolutely right.

At £2,145 tax paid this fine piece of German engineering will undoubtedly find quite a niche here in Britain. It seems likely that sales of the BMW 2002 model will tend to drop to a certain extent, although, in the final analysis, BMW will gain further customers, which is the object of the exercise. The sporting estate is an interesting and relatively new sector of the market which was probably started by the Reliant Scimitar GTE, about which we report at length elsewhere in this issue. Personally I feel the "Great Tamworth Express" still leads the market but is facing increasingly fierce competition. There is now also the Gilbern Invader Estate, the newly-announced Volvo 1800ES, which we have yet to test but have heard rather mixed reports, and the prototype TVR, which didn't really need bare bosoms to attract attention to it at Earls Court. Some may consider the Triumph 2.5 PI Estate in this market as well and possibly even the excellent Renault 16TS, on which we have already reported at length.

There are, perhaps, quite a number of Motor Sport readers who have been attracted by a BMW 2002 but have been put off by its sporty image. In fact, the 2002 is a quick car but it is not a "sporty rorty" type of thinly disguised racing saloon. However, the wife might still think this so. If you broach the subject in a different way and say you are considering the new BMW Estate car it may put a completely different complexion on the whole matter. In fact, the 2000 Touring has performance very nearly equivalent to that of the 2002, the 200 lb. extra weight taking a slight toll on acceleration times.

Originally it had been planned to give the 2000 Touring a more powerful engine than the single Solex 40PDSI downdraught carburetter-aspirated 100-b.h.p. unit with which it is now marketed and, in fact, shares in common with the 2002. At last year's Geneva Show the Touring appeared complete with a 130-b.h.p. Kugelfischer-injected version of the engine but, it is possible, that the economists got to work and suggested that this would boost the price out of the reach of the largest group of potential buyers. However, it seems probable that a more powerful version of this nature will come on the market at a later stage.

The car is based on the regular two-door 1600/2002 platform chassis but, in place of the boot, the roof line continues down in a straight line to a point just below the level of the door handles and this whole section lifts up as illustrated. In some ways the styling of the back has certain Austin Maxi features about it, while the overall shape I personally find to be exceptionally handsome and one of the most pleasantly-styled cars available today. It would be interesting to know if a Scimitar GTE found its way to Munich for the layout of the interior bears several resemblances! The two rear seats fold forward independently of each other, as on the GTE, to give extra luggage room. If they are left in position for passengers then the space available becomes rather less than in the boot of the normal 2002, but it does have a p.v.c. screen under which baggage is hidden and this is an excellent idea. If the seats are folded down then there is bags of carpeted space; obviously dirty objects would not be carried without protecting this. This space is slightly impeded by the angled cones on top of the wheel arches which carry the rear suspension struts. Behind, and in front of one of these arches, are useful pockets for carrying map books, tow ropes or even bottles. The spare wheel lives under the floor with the tools.

The rear door does not have a separate wiper, while the GTE does, but it does not appear to need it due to the much sharper angle of rake. However, there is, as standard, a heated rear windscreen which mystified us at first as to its operation and there was no handbook provided with the test car with which to check this out. However, we finally fathomed out that it shared a switch with the rather noisy booster fan for the heater. Incidentally, the BMW heating system is extremely efficient but does not include through-flow ventilation with face-level control despite the black plastic outlets on the rear quarter-panels.

The rest of one's thoughts about the car are really in common with the 2002. The 2000 Touring does have stiffer rear suspension to cater for the extra loads it will be expected to carry and this includes heavy-duty gas-filled shock-absorbers which definitely do give a more choppy ride than the standard but, if anything, enhance the cornering which really is first class.

There is no doubt that BMW's alloy-headed, single overhead camshaft straight-four 2-litre engine is a superb and modern unit and in its 100 b.h.p. form it gives the 2000 Touring excellent performance. The top speed is about 106 m.p.h., but what is impressive is the way the car will cruise at just under the 100 m.p.h. mark at a much lighter throttle opening than that required for maximum speed. Using the marks on the speedometer as a guide (there is no rev. counter) we found 30 m.p.h. in first, the long second gear took us to 55 m.p.h., while one can accelerate up to 84 m.p.h. before snatching top. BMW do not fit overdrive on any of their models. A 0-60 m.p.h. time is just on at 10 sec. with a skilled driver.

Previously we have criticised BMWs for having gearboxes which fall into reverse too easily when one is quickly selecting first from rest. This box showed none of these tendencies, possibly because the car only had 4,000 miles on the clock, but altogether we felt it was the best BMW box we have ever tried. It was superbly accurate and beautifully light, as was the clutch.

The fuel consumption check brought a rather disappointing figure of exactly 24 m.p.g. over two tankfuls of motoring which contained rather more Motorway work than usual. Incidentally, the tank holds just over a gallon more than the 2002 giving a range of just under 300 miles.

Inside, the car is typically BMW with hardish but fully adjustable cloth seats which most people like but do tend to get dirty rather quickly, a large steering wheel, and rather fewer instruments than one would expect on a car of this nature—there isn't an ammeter, for instance.

In conclusion, we would thoroughly recommend this sporting saloon to the discerning motorist. It is £246 dearer than the 2002 but the advantages are considerable and it will surely find a ready sale in the British Isles.—A. R. M.