Unbeatable BMW

An Interim Report

The April issue of Motor Sport contained initial impressions of a BMW 2500 118-rn.p.h. £3,000 saloon submitted to me for a prolonged test. I think-perhaps I was rather free with the criticism, in this early assessment of what I have since found to be a quite irresistible motor car. To continue the story, the overdue 600-mile free inspection was undertaken by MLG of Chiswick, W4, at 1,642 miles, during which the rubber sleeve was properly stuck onto the gear lever, the demister for the large expanse of back window was made to function efficiently, and the four Hella headlamps were re-adjusted to provide reasonable illumination on the dipped setting. Nor did the neat BMW Kangol safety-belt anchorages any longer foul the hand-brake, and the bonnet is now pulled shut by the release lever, inside the n/s stowage well, without the need to press on the lid.

Before I took the 2500 over again it had done more than 1,100 additional miles in someone else’s hands, whose I never discovered, and when the Managing Director was bringing it up to the office for me it acquired a scrape along its near-side and a small dent in its n/s rear wing. It had previously been savaged on its opposite flank by a jealous Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Very promptly and efficiently BMW’s London Service Depot erradicated the new blemishes but, on the very day that it was returned to me, parked temporarily in the road while another vehicle was let out of the Standard House car-park, it was seen to rock on its springs—a lorry had nuzzled it, fortunately only marking a tyre. I hope it isn’t going to prove an unlucky BMW, because it is a car I like very much, on longer acquaintance.

I like the way its superbly-smooth 2,494-c.c, engine, in what I have come to regard as my BMW “small-six” (and, let’s get it right this time, it has a bore and stroke of 86 x 71.6 mm.), will pull away in top gear from below 1,000 r.p.m. if need be, smoothing out before 2000, r.p.m. is reached, and accelerate, at first with a typical subdued hard note conveying a sense of hidden power, then impressively silently, to its indicated peak-speed of 6,400 r.p.m. I like the interior spaciousness of what is not, outwardly, an over-big car, so that there is great passenger (and driver) freedom, plenty of stowage space and a really commodious boot. I like the facia layout, with two big Vdo dials, speedometer and tachometer, calibrated with white numerals, their steady reading needles sweeping round the black dials in the same plane, a sort of Derby-Bentley refinement, although one transparent sheet serves to cover these and the subsidiary fuel and heat gauges, below which, very neatly arranged, are the windows of the warning lights, for “gener”, “oil”, “beam”, “flasher”, “fuel” and “brake”. I like the two substantial keys, either of which works the ignition, easily distinguishable by their grips, and front-seat head-rests which are more a safety-protection than a relaxation when driving. I admire the plain stolid appearance of the BMW 2500, so nicely off-set by the traditional blue-and-white badges and those big wheel nave plates that almost obviate any suggestion of spoked wheels—nothing “boy-racer” about a BMW! Particularly do I like the very quiet, effortless fast cruising, the engine running at 3,500 r.p.m. at 70 m.p.h., of this essentially safe and comfortable car and the pleasant action of the gear-change, faintly reminiscent of that of a Lancia Aprilia, in the manner that the cogs can almost be felt into mesh. I like the car’s ability to comer deceptively fast, without too much roll. Running at upwards of 100 m.p.h. the BMW is splendidly quiet apart from some wind noise round the rear quarters of the body. The Michelin XAS tyres display a reassuring tread pattern which is fully justified by their wet-road grip and muted cornering, on a car the inner rear wheel of which will spin on corners if it is sufficiently provoked.

I am becoming used to what is really good but low-geared power steering, which feels over-sensitive only when the 2500 is being hurled at difficult corners, transmits no road shocks and has a gentle castor return action. The ride is acceptable, too, if just a shade unexpectedly lively for a big car on some surfaces. The all-disc brakes are reasonably progressive from ordinary speeds, but sometimes a bit sudden; when the car came back to me after that additional 1,100 miles on its odometer I thought it had been driven hard, because the brakes snatched in uncertain fashion; after the service session this had been cured, but they now squeal.

It is too early, after 5,000 miles, troublefree so far, to report on the long-duration performance of this delightful car, but I am already “hooked” on BMW motoring. A fuel consumption check after it was fully run-in showed 22.1 m.p.g. of 4-star in general driving conditions. Starting is fairly quick, on the automatic choke, and the fuel range is better than 330 miles on a tankful. I had about the fastest journey yet to Mid-Wales from London, in spite of long delays getting clear of town due to the rail go-slow road congestion, in recording this useful fuel range. A long run such as this brings out the best in the car, which is a pleasure to be in, whether crawling in the quiet lower gears, accelerating purposely through the box, or devouring the miles in top gear. The fuel gauge registers zero eventually and the low-level warning light then comes on (it does not dazzle at night, nor does the full-beam light, but it could be overlooked in bright sunlight) and the car will then do about 35 miles before running out.

In running the fuel tank almost dry a garage-hand remarked that the filler-cap seemed to be venting reluctantly, so I may have one of the faulty yellow filler-caps fitted to early 2500s, although I would have expected this to be spotted at the 600-mile free inspection. I did not get the English instruction book I requested but they did thoughtfully pop a standard wooden gear-lever knob in the facia stowage well, in case the rubber grip sheds itself again. A small point—BMW spelling is a thought unusual—the aforesaid filler cap is called a “cab” in a special instruction relating to it, but I assume “UPM x 100” on the tachometer face refers to units x 100. Another thoughtful accessory is a Compact Mk. II emergency windscreen, which I found in the smartly-carpeted flat-floored boot, with its useful parcels’ box (or bottle rack) on the o/s. I-also commend the honesty of the BMW mechanics, who did not help themselves to a chocolate bar and apple I had inadvertently left in the facia well, which, by the way, will remain shut under the weight of the Rolleiflex. . . . The red band of the heater control does not unwind as far as the blue band but ample heat is emitted, nevertheless.

Other excellent aspects are the very small turning circle, the nice action when the doors are shut, the precision adjustment of the front-seat squabs, although the knobs are somewhat difficult to get at, the hard but comfortable seats, and the well-placed door grips and internal handles. The interior arrangements, and decor, with just a hint of woodwork along the facia, Mercedes-fashion, are almost all to my liking, and an excellent example of the tidy and efficient Teutonic mind is found in the under-facia n/s location of the ten electrical fuses (with spares) and junction boxes, etc., although the stowage-well does somewhat impede their accessibility. The Berga battery is accessible when the bonnet is opened and the yellow-painted dip-stick easy to find, but I would not care to have to change sparking plugs Nos, 1, 5 or 6 in the inclined engine. Otherwise, the entire car is very much my idea or what a sporting medium-sized saloon should be and I am not at all surprised to learn that last March 1,268 BMWs were sold to British dealers, a record which exceeded by 392 cars that of the January UK sales. The slogan in the back window of HML931K simply says “Unbeatable BMW” —and with that I can find nothing wrong. — W. B.