Two Contrasting Cars

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Two Contrasting Cars

An experience which I enjoyed recently was trying that compact luxury-car, the BMW 528 in its latest form. The car which Raymond Playfoot produced for me was the automatic-transmission version of a BMW model I had first driven back in 1975. Previous to this I had regarded the BMW 2800 as one of the best cars I had driven to that date. Time moves on, and if the 1977 528 did not move me to quite such paeans of praise as did that 2800 eight years ago, it did take me swiftly, comfortably and securely home to the Welsh hills, to Silverstone over a rather charming back-route that involves passing through Worcester, Pershore, Evesham, Chipping Campden, Shipston-on-Stour and over the hills to Banbury Cross and of course home again after the enjoyable VSCC race meeting. On other lawful occasions, too, and never a thing wrong apart from a stiff window-winder. This fine BMW ran quietly, displayed very usable acceleration, and handled, on Michelin XVS tyres, with the legendary precision of the 5-series. The brake pedal seemed a thought spongy and somewhere in the car, defying location, a loose tool or something similar rolled about, disturbing the hush.

I found the velour upholstery rather clinging, was glad to have the same excellent instrument panel and illuminated clock and heater controls as on the Editorial 520i, and thought the many minor but important alterations to this latest 528 worthwhile, least of all the fresh-air ventilation, which still seemed a trifle lacking. I did not get down to a fuel-check, because the intended “full-to-full” operation fell apart when, returning the car to the efficiently-busy BMW headquarters on the Great West Road, I found my car was under servicing attention and the 528 used therefore for some additional mileage and whipped away before I saw it again. A rough check showed around 22 m.p.g. and BMWs use hardly any oil. The impression left was of a very acceptable executive car, so easy to drive with the hold-1/2 automatic gearbox, although I found care was needed in moving off if a jerk was to be avoided. Those individuals or companies with £7,839 to spend on executive transport should have satisfaction from this fine 2,788 c.c. Austrian production, which now has a single carburetter. At a Motorway-70 its engine runs at under 3,600 r.p.m., against 4,000 r.p.m. of the 520i.

* * *

Following the BMW 528 a Toyota Celica 2000 GT arrived for appraisal. I am not inclined to go far out of my way to encourage Japanese sales against those of the cars of Europe. But as C.R. put you in the picture recently about the newest from Mazda and Colt, and Honda is accorded much praise, it seems only fair to give Toyota a showing. The car I was supposed to have had from them had been crashed, so the Celica GT 2000 was substituted. Maybe it is slightly dated. But it runs very well. It is a thought too “eyeable” for me (a radar-attracter, perhaps) and the steering does not appear to be in any way connected to the front wheels. The suspension can be over-harsh, too, and there is some back-axle clonk. But the twin-cam, twin-Solex power-unit is most impressive in terms of power, quiet running, smoothness, and docility. It is coupled to a very good 5-speed gearbox, in which all the gears, reverse included, are easy to engage and quiet and, if petrol-economy appeals to you, this GT power unit will pull from about 1,600 r.p.m. in 5th speed. Moreover, it is rather astonishingly economical. On a hurried journey from Wales to Birmingham and back, involving Motorway cruising, consumption of 4-star worked out at 28.0 m.p.g. and no engine oil was required in 725 miles. Using 5th gear helps economy; at an indicated 70 m.p.h. the r.p.m. is 3,300.

The liftback four-seater two-door body has a spoiler-type tail and is very wide at the back, making reversing hazardous and the back compartment a prison, as the comfortable front seats have tall fixed headrests. Interior stowage is restricted to an unlockable cubby and a shallow well, and a shelf before the front-seat occupant which was already falling apart. But in generous instrumentation, fresh-air venting, well-labelled heatercontrols with provision for fresh or recirculated air, etc. (a “face” and a “boot” symbol here are amusing), I give good marks to Toyota. Admittedly, the instruments do not have figure calibrations, so that oil-pressure and engine-heat mean little but this is so on other modern cars, although perhaps wrong on a GT. These dials are deeply recessed, as are the speedometer and tachometer; there is a loud Jeco clock. The door handles, seat-back releases, stalk controls, etc. are all well-contrived, and a driver’s door-mirror was provided. I liked the simulated leather upholstery, and the leather-clad steering wheel, the horn prods on its sphere symbolled with little trumpets!

We have previously tested the push-rod Celica and a competition version. The ordinary twin-cam road-going GT is very impressive in the performance provided by its 88.5 x 80 mm. (1,986 c.c.) engine, which is intended to run up to 7,000-8,000 r.p.m. The test car had chunky-looking Japanese HR14 Dunlop SP Sport 185/70 radial tyres, dual headlamps, and like most Japanese offerings it was very fully equipped, although I could not enjoy the 10-cassette stereo as no cassettes were provided. The car was also so full of nicotine fumes when delivered that I nearly suffocated. This Toyota GT is too ornate for me, anyway, but I can think of many who would like it. The wide doors have warning lights, there is a manual choke, recessed vizors, a roof lamp and separate roof map-light, a knob for setting the intensity of instrument lighting, an ammeter, neat lamps-controls are incorporated in the rh stalk, decorative wheel hubs fitted, and so on, all for £4,089. – W.B.