Ford's Granada 2.8i and BMW's 528i

BMW's 528i anti Ford's Granada 2.8 injection have much in common — both have fuel-injected 6-cylinder engines with a nominal capacity of 2.8 litres, both are built in Germany, both are five-seaters, both have been the subject of recent heavy expenditure on extensive development and improvements and both have a basic price on the right side of £12,000. So how do they compare, A.H. & P.H.J.W. spent a week re-acquainting themselves with these fine saloons . . .

BMW 528i

It is now seven years since the medium size BMW 5-series saloon first made its appearance on the British market and there's no doubt that it has been a considerable success, a variety of engine options guaranteeing it wide acceptance. Now BMW have replaced it with a new 5-series range and we've recently spent a week with the latest 528i, an energetic five-seater saloon by anybody's standards and a car which has been immeasurably improved in its latest guise. Outwardly very similar to its predecessor, close examination of the new 528i reveals it to be a more refined and much-improved machine, and if the body styling changes look simply cosmetic, we can assure you that they amount to much more than that. With slightly more room inside the cabin, the new 528i has shed 160 pounds during the course of this re-styling exercise and, more importantly, received a lot of attention to its suspension. The old 528i was always a pretty impressive high performance sports saloon, but certain aspects of its handling were precarious for the driver in a hurry. Secondary linkages for the semi-trailing arms on the rear suspension have now been added to thwart the sudden camber change on the rear wheels which made earlier 528i handling somewhat unpredictable. Gone, as a result, is the sudden oversteer which proved so tiring, particularly in throes, and the 528i now corners with an impressive surefootedness. Few cars we have driven have been transformed so dramatically as the result of a suspension modification. The 528i is now a superbly sure footed machine which corners in such a reassuringly neutral fashion that one is tempted to drive it as hard as possible in all reasonable circumstances. Truly iris now a machine which begs to be treated energetically all the time!

Power comes from that familiar, spendidly smooth 6-cylinder 86 mm. X 80 mm., 2,788 c.c., o.h.c, unit which now delivers 184 b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m., an increment of 7 b.h.p. over the previous car. The 528i also benefits from BMW's clever fuel cut-off on the over-run and there is a minor increase in torque. This engine transmits its power through a beautifully light to operate five-speed gearbox. With third capable of taking this machine to within sight of the 100 m.p.h. mark, this is a pretty high geared car and we found that a conscious effort was needed to rev it hard in order to make full use of its potential. The "flip side" of its character is a disarming flexibility which almost tempts one to drift along unspectacularly in fourth or fifth, even twisting country roads where the one is at its hest in a hurry. This is a refined car, but it is also very quick. With a 0-60 m.p.h. time of just over 9 sec. and a top speed topping 130 m.p.h., its long fifth gear makes it a restful and unobtrusive motorway mile-eater.

A new power-assisted recirculatory bail steering system makes for a very positive response from the cockpit, particularly small movements of die wheel and this, allied to the rear suspension changes and the incorporation of the 7-series double-jointed front suspension set-up, are the factors which transform the 528i's handling. Our test car was fitted with Michelin tyres mounted on smart, spoked, alloy wheels, these being Part of an S/E package which adds another £2,500 to the price tag and also includes headlamp wash wipe, metallic paint, electrically operated, sun-roof, ABS anti-lock braking and an on-board computer. In fact our test car was not equipped with the two last-mentioned items, but from our experience of the ABS system on other cars, we would rate this package of extras as enhancing the 528i's appeal in a fully worthwhile fashion.

Inside, the BMW mixture is much as before with instruments clustered under a deep hood in front of the driver in time-honoured fashion. Between the large speedometer and rev. counter are a row of green dots which light up each time the ignition is switched on. At the same time a series of red tell-tale lights are illuminated on a "check" panel just above the rear view mirror. They indicate that brake lights, number plate lights, dipped beam, tail lights, washer fluid, engine coolant and oil level are all in order. If any one fails to come on, a central amber hazard light flashes in the middle of the instrument panel. On first acquaintance with the 528i we were somewhat concerned that the amber hazard light was flashing ominously; but it didn't take long to find out that a touch on the brake pedal is necessary to trigger off the brake light check. The five green dots gradually diminish to four, three, two and then one as the car approaches its scheduled service time. Eventually an amber light comes on and if this is ignored then up to three tell-tales will light up. This is a clever system which reminds the owner when he is approaching service intervals, or the time to check certain vital fluid levels, so there should be no excuse for the new 528i ever to be neglected!

We were so enthusiastic about this new BMW's road behaviour that we almost overlooked some of the cur's deficiencies. Although the driver's seat is adjustable for tilt as well as moving in the fore/aft plans, the cushions are too hard to be ideal for b118 journeys. Headrests on both front seats are 1.th adjustable and removable, the latter end.winll rear seat passengers with an improved measure of visibility. Windows arc electrically operated, of course, as is the sliding steel sunroof and a new heating system, complete with electronic regulating sensors, makes controll,g the interior temperature much easier than on the older cars with their water valve heaters. Intimidation as regards the task of driving ec.n.micallY (if anybody needed such intimidation with four star at £1.86 per gallon! I is provided by a fuel consumption indicator which relates pulses from the fuel injectors with the distance actually travelled. Calibrated from zero to an optimistic 50 m.p.g., one feels so guilty when revving hard in low gears, watching the needle sink off the bottom of the gauge, that one is tempted to grab for a piece of masking tape on the basis that "out of sight is out of mine. I recognise the worth of such instruments, but. quite frankly, I find them distracting and irritating. This is purely a personal opinion, of course, and the fact that I recorded an average consumption of over 26 m.p.g. must mean I was doing something right!

The basic tax paid price of the BMW 528i is 01,982, but it would be wise to budget for the S/E package if you're thinking of owning one of these splendid German sports saloons. Visually, they may not have changed a great deal. But the new 528i is a very much better car than its predecessor, well capable of lasting out several more years before any further revamp becomes necessary. — A.H.

Ford Granada 2.8 injection

Casual observers might be forgiven for wonderig quite where Ford managed to spend £50-million during their recent re-vamp of the Granada range: the external changes are very minor, affecting such items as the grille, which is now equipped with three louvres, bringing stir to line with the Fiesta and Cortina, enlarged bumpers, revised rear lamp clusters and some changes to the external decorative embellishments. Inside, new items are rather more obvious: new seats feature in all models, the instrumentation is much the same, but the layout and positioning have been improved for better visibility and the relative positions of the steering wheel, gear-lever and pedals have been adjusted for greater driver comfort. But it is under the skin where the major changes have taken place: that these changes have been worthwhile was ably demonstrated recently when we used an example of the "sporting" Granada, thc 2.8 injection, for a hectic week's varied motoring.

The first and lasting impression when driving this performance saloon is of its smooth quietness. Engine noise levels only intrude under hard acceleration when the tachometer needle is approaching the 6,000 r.p.m. maximum, but at cruising speeds, mechanical noise is muted and no vibration is transmitted to the seats. Road noise is present on all but the best surfaces, if one is listening for it, but it is only on poor, rough, surfaces that iris really noticeable, when the firrn suspension and wide tyres transmit road thump to the interior. Wind noise is remarkably low, even when travelling at highly illegal speeds, and the voice does not have to be raised to hold a comfortable conversation when cruising at 100 m.p.h.

Much of the development investment has gone into the suspension, steering and brakes, the whole Granada range being revised in these areas. The suspension set up for the new generation 2.8 injection car is derived from the handling pack ('S pack), which was offered as an option on the previous 2.8i models, but with an anti-roll bar fitted at the rear and Bilstein gas filled shock-absorbers all round. The spring rates have also been adjusted to give a better ride. As Nr as the steering is concerned, the major improvement is in the pump for the power assistance which now reduces its output as speed increases to maintain feel throughout the speed range, while the bralcing system has different friction materials, a larger bore master cylinder, new rear wheel cylinders and an automatic adjustment for wear.

The engine is unchanged and is that well known 2.8-litre V6 in fuel injected (Bosch K-jetronic), electronic ignition form in which it produces a healthy 160 b.h.p. at 5,700 r.p.m. The only under bonnet changes are the provision of a low maintenance battery, better cooling from a larger radiator, now robber mounted, and larger expansion bottle. A long-life exhaust system, which Ford claim should last twice as long as its predecessor, is fitted on all models. Power is taken to the rear wheels through a conventional four speed gearbox and 3.45:1 final drive ratio which gives just under 21 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top.

The performance is nothing spectacular in a sporting context. When trying really hard the car can be made to reach 60 m.p.h. in 9 1/2 sec., and top speed is a shade under 120 m.p.h., but foes large saloon weighing some 30 cwt. in road trim, the first figure is pretry impressive and the latter is academic. The important thing is that the Granada is endowed with excellent acceleration in the gears for overtaking — 65 m.p.h. in second and nearly 90 m.p.h. in third — and comfortable cruising at well over the legal limit. It is also remarkably thrifty with petrol, for its size, returning better than 23 m.p.g. over the first 500 of my 790 mile stint with the car and 25.8 m.p.g. over the last 300 or so miles, when it was more heavily laden, but driven less hard in deference to passengers.

Combining the performance with the undoubted improvements to the suspension, steering and brakes makes for a car which is a pleasure to drive and which is just as at home weaving around narrow country lanes as it is bashing along a motorway. The suspension set up provides just the right balance between hard (and therefore usually harsh) required for ultimate road holding and the soft (and therefore usually spongy) needed for passenger comfort, giving a firm but never hard ride. Some body roll is apparent on long corners when taken fast, but there is little pitching when travelling over bumpy roads. The excellent TRX tyres, which provide such superb grip even in the worst conditions make the car hang on in a most impressive manner, and when it does break away, it does so in a very gentlemanly, controllable, neutral fashion. You have to bc cornering very hard to unstick the inside rear wheel. The revision to the power assistance has paid off handsomely, the new pump doing all that is claimed of it. Never does the steering go dead, as it does on so many p.a. systems, when travelling fast and the amount of force required to turn the wheel hardly varies from just rolling to flat out.

Inside, the car is extremely spacious, providing room for five adults and with a boot to match; four adults, two children, a push chair, wellingtons, out-door clothing, a large picnic and sundry other items were all accommodated quite happily. The interior appointments are verging on the Iwturious, with thick carpeting throughout and soft cloth upholstery and trim. Recaro front seats, which have adjustable length squabs (which should please the long legged), are standard equipment and very comfortable they are too. Such items as the tilting / sliding sunroof, central door locking, map-reading lights, driving lights and a radio / cassette player are all part of the package, but the test car was further equipped with headlamp washers, rear seat belts, all round electric window operation, remote control boot release and a trip computer which, with metallic paint, add nearly £800 to the basic price of £11,541.

The instrumentation and controls are all ideally placed, except for the display of warning lights in a roof mounted central console, which also contains excellent map reading lights and the winder for the sunroof. These warning lights cover fuel, oil, coolant and vvasher levels as well as brake pad wear, and, certainly for the short driver, do not make themselves apparent unless a positive movement of the head is made to look at them. Heating and ventilation have usually been excellent on Ford cars, and the Granada maintains the tradition, with simple controls for an effective system.

The trip computer? I have come across many variations on the trip computer theme in various test cars over the last year or so. All are different, and as all take some time to get used to, I never really have the opportunity to explore all the functions properly if I am to avoid having accidents through paying more attention to the little green (or red) figure than to the road. The device fitted to the test Granada (costing some £196) requires a 20 page manual to describe its innumerable functions, and as this did not arrive until the day the Granada was retrieved by Fords, I did not have much chance to come to terms with it. However, I did find one automatic function very useful — with its knowledge of the fuel remaining in the tank and its memory of the distance covered and fuel used in the previous hour of driving, it is able to predict the distance the can will travel before running out of fuel and when this distance reaches 50 miles, a bleep is automatically turned on and stays on until turned off. Similarly at 25 miles and 10 miles. The only thing is that filling it up with the computer display reading two miles, the tank took only 12.8 gallons, and it is meant to hold 14.3... Other functions include an alarm to warn you when you are exceeding a pre-set speed limit, constant display of m.p.g. if required, time and date, average speed for a journey and many more. Ideal for the man with a scientifically minded teenage son.

So an already excellent large saloon has been improved still further to take it well into the eighties. The 19 model range starts with the diesel taxi at £6,583 and ends with the granada Ghia Estate costing very nearly twice as much.

Conclusion

When comparing the relative merits of the two cars, the first thing to consider most be price. The Granada is significantly cheaper at £11,720 on the road or £12,520 as tested compared with the BMW's basic £11,982 on the road, in which form it lacks a sun roof and alloy wheels with low profile tyres, both of which are standard on the Ford. In the guise tested, a further £2,500 has to be added to the basic price, bringing the total to some £14,500.

The Granada is definitely larger, and although rear seat passengers have plenty of room in the BMW, their lot in the Ford is that much more comfortable, having more leg and head room. Seats in the Ford are rather more comfortable for long distance travel, but this is relative, since the BMW has excellent seats . . . The Granada 5a few pounds lighter than the BMW, but perhaps through different driving conditions, we found it marginally less economical on fuel.

From the driver's point of view, the BMW must come Oct on top, the performance is more lively and the five-speed box a delight to use giving better acceleration in the all important 40 to 70 m.p.h. range. The revised BMW suspension has wrought a greater unprovement than has the Granada's, and the 528i now handles delightfully, holding the road extremely well. It is a more taut car than the Ford, and will stand more throwing around when travelling along country lanes. From the noise point of view, the Ford is the quieter when cruising at steady motorway speeds, but noisier when accelerating hard in the gears. Tickover on the Ford is commendably low, being hardly noticeable, but this does mean that care is required when feeding in the clutch since the engine is prone to hiccup, or even stun, if the clutch in engaged with below 1,500 r.p.m. showing on the tachometer, whereas the BNyf ticks over at a noticeable 1,100 r.p.m., and star quite happy to pull away from this engine speed. All round visibility in both cars is excelletu, although short drivers might find the Ford difficult to reverse accurately, while the rear head-rests in the BMW can also cause difficulties at times.

So both cars come out well. The Ford Hives more for your money in terms of equipment and passenger comfort, but ,the BMW comes out on top in terms of driver satisfaction . . you par your money and takes your choice.