Road Impressions of:— The B.M.W. 2002

Fast, Safe, Thoroughly Satisfying, this German 2-litre Two-door Saloon is One of the World's Best Family-type Cars and Remarkable Value at £1,597. A Top Speed of 110 m.p.h. and 93 m.p.h. in 3rd gear

Last year Motor Sport published a very favourable report on the Frazer Nash-B.M.W. 2000TI. In producing the 2002 the famous Munich Company has built an even better motor car and one which, with the 1,990-c.c. o.h.c. 100 (net) b.h.p. engine in the 1600 two-door body shell, is a very quick one indeed. It is difficult to know which aspect of this B.M.W. to praise first. Perhaps it is wiser to look at the B.M.W. as a whole, because it is a combination of good qualities that makes it such an outstanding vehicle. Like some well-groomed members of the human race it lacks character but makes up for this by its all-round integrity.

In the first place, there is very ample performance for a sports-saloon intended for family use, the engine seldom needing to be taken anywhere near its top limit of 6,800 r.p.m. to produce extremely adequate acceleration, but, given its head outside the backward British Isles, showing a maximum top-gear speed of 110 m.p.h. So smooth is this overhead-camshaft power unit that only by lifting the rear-hinged bonnet and seeing the firing order set out on the cans cover was I reminded that I had been driving behind a 4-cylinder engine. Yet this engine has a torque curve which flatters acceleration, a s.s. ¼-mile being disposed of in 17.3 sec. and 60 m.p.h. being reached from rest in a mere 9.2 sec., the British legal-limit in a matter of 13.4 sec. With this goes gearing that gives over 60 m.p.h. in 2nd and an impressive 93 m.p.h. in 3rd gear if this willing 80 x 89-mm. power unit is taken to its normal maximum speed, which is 1,100 r.p.m. below the speed at which maximum power is developed.

Coupled with this very impressive and usable performance there is quite outstanding fuel economy. With an 8.5-to-1 c.r. the engine runs on 4-star premium, on which it returned such an excellent consumption figure that at first I did not believe it. However, resumed checking confirmed this to be correct, the overall figure being 30.8 m.p.g., on fast main and secondary road driving in England and Wales, pottering about, and crossing London a number of times. For part of this usage I exceeded 31 m.p.g. The tank holds fractionally over 10 gallons, so there is a range of some 300 miles, although replenishment from a normal can isn't easy. The fuel gauge is calibrated F, ½ and R, over a gallon remaining when the needle reaches the last indication. The B.M.W. o.h.c. engine was equally sparing of lubricant, scarcely a ¼-of-a-pint having been used in a distance exceeding 1,150 miles.

With the windows shut the car is quiet, it has hard but reasonably comfortable reclining seats, and a roomy, plainly-finished, functional interior. Instrumentation is confined to the aforesaid fuel gauge, a tachometer reading to "80", and a Vdo 120-m.p.h. speedometer, the dials being angled at 45º and deeply recessed. There are total and trip odometers, but the latter does not record fractions of a mile. There is a shallow stowage tray, unlockable, before the passenger, slightly difficult to shut, an open well before the central gear-lever, and a slippery facia shelf. Pockets are provided in the squabs of the front seats. The heater controls are very neat and the back side, windows open on toggles. The splendidly-contrived B.M.W. interior door handles are used but the external locks involve inserting a key in the door-pushes. The ignition-key is hinged for safety—how they look after us, these days!

A high-set three-spoke wood-rimmed steering wheel, rather slippery, has a somewhat awkward horn-push as its padded boss, and slender stalks operate lights-dipping and flashing and wipers-cum-washers and turn-indicators, but on the test car the washers, even when the container was full, refused to function. Knobs on the facia look after the 2-speed wipers for more permanent operation, side/headlamps, lighter and heater fan. The quarter-lights in the doors are closed by knobs which are awkward and stiff to use, there is a seldom-needed manual choke, a drawer-type ash-tray, roof-grabs, and an anti-dazzle mirror supplemented by an external driving mirror on the o/s door. The B.M.W. 2002 has a boot entirely complementary to a family saloon, the lid of which rises automatically under torsion-bar action.

With practically nothing to fault in controls and equipment, it is in sheer driving enjoyment that this 2002, like any modern B.M.W., excels. The engine runs at approximately 4,000 r.p.m. at an indicated 80 m.p.h. (top gear = 3.64 to 1), and picks up speed instantaneously, flat-spots in the Solex dual-choke 40 PDSI carburation being sensed rather than felt. Through fast corners this car is a real delight to handle, the steering (geared 3½ turns, lock-to-lock) being precise and smooth, and quite light, no undue understeer marring the action or the accurate placing of the car. Roll is also virtually non-existent, this model having front and rear anti-roll bars. Whether it is being flung through open bends or manoeuvred quickly through traffic, this is a superbly safe and rewarding car to drive. The Continental tubed radial 165 x 13 tyres ensured that this remained true on wet roads.

The gear-change has what I call a "non-mechanical" feel but is precise and fairly quick, the lever being well placed but its knob rough to the ungloved hand. Reverse is outboard of the 1st-gear position but this should not cause confusion. A young lady driver said she could not drive the car habitually in towns, because of the heavy clutch; pedal travel is rather excessive but there is none of that pre-war Austin 7 in-out action that characterises the Rover 2000TC clutch. The servo disc/drum brakes are reasonably effective but lack sensitivity and may have had a hard time on the test car, which had been used previously at Snetterton, as they gave an embarrassing squeal when used for casual retardation. The engine really gets into its stride above 2,000 r.p.m. and there will be few keen drivers who will not have it running far faster than this most of the time, so captivatingly does this B.M.W. 2002 encourage one to motor it hard.

The all-independent coil-spring suspension gives rather an up-and-down ride on any but good roads but this is a small price to pay for such impeccable road-holding and cornering. At a basic price of £1,249 the B.M.W. 2002 represents wonderfully good value and although it is at present a comparatively rare encounter in Britain, I predict that very soon there will be a considerable number of these fine cars around, even at the selling price here of £1,597 8s. 2d. I say this because, once driven, never forgotten, the B.M.W. 2002 is about the finest family-type car available, unless perhaps you are looking for a little more luxury or rather more of those elusive virtues known collectively as "character". There seemed to be an electrical fault on the car I drove, because the headlamps went dim when the brakes were applied, and one stop-lamp was inoperative.

Anyway, a B.M.W. will be right at the summit of my next "short list"; and just think of the 2002 with the 135-b.h.p. TI engine!—W. B.