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      11-19-2017, 06:54 AM   #1
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Question Is this really progress?

Occasion had that I was passenger for 140 miles in my younger brothers ten year old 118d BMW, earlier in the weekend.

It's a five door hatch in silver and the spec is 'SE'. However, the original owner spent £3,700 on options (my brother has the documents) so it doesn't feel basic by any stretch of the imagination.

Although he's had it for four years, I can't recall ever being in it before, and indeed I didn't have high expectations. My brother keeps the car very well, and both inside and out it looks close to new, despite its 103,000 miles.

What a surprise! The car, despite being on runflats, rode with a refined maturity that the F2x and F3x cars could only dream of. It cornered flatly and without drama at a brisk pace. There were no creaks and rattles from the interior and I felt that the architecture, materials and build quality to be superior to BMWs more modern efforts.

The engine was the single biggest surprise, allied to a sweet shifting box. Quiet (yes, quiet) smooth and showing just under 60 mpg for our journey. It had more than enough poke to keep up with the traffic flow.

My brother reckons the car is worth about £3500. And so it leads me to a conclusion and a question. The conclusion is that this is the best argument I've seen for have a 'cheap' day to day car that costs peanuts to run, whilst spending your money on a 911 for summer weekend fun and track days.

The question is to BMW. Where did it all go wrong?
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      11-19-2017, 07:06 AM   #2
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One of the best cars I have ever driven is the E46 Coupe, one was my cousin's which was a 320Ci, and one a friend's who I was a passenger in recently, also a 320Ci. Given his car is now at least 15 years old, and it still felt really tight, rattle free and the suspension again was much better than what we are offered now. Compliant yet sporty, which is what BMW was supposed to have been about?

I fear the public's demands have corrupted what BMW used to offer?
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      11-19-2017, 07:31 AM   #3
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I have a Boxster for pootling around in summer and had it 7 years, it's now 14 years old.

Even though motoring has positively moved on since this was new, there are so many ways it's also gone backwards. This isn't just customer demands for sporty looks that ruin the car (massive wheels on ultra low profile tyres for example) but also all the Euro safety rules too. Together with the car manufacturers looking to make savings on assembly time make the finished product flawed.

I may miss some of the toys when in the Boxster but I miss the whole joy of the driving experience when in the BMW, nowhere near the same fun which is a real shame.
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      11-19-2017, 08:08 AM   #4
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Having just test driven the Macan yesterday as a potential replacement for the 335d, I was a little underwhelmed, relative to the cost to change and ended the day thinking that our day to day driving is very well served by the 335d and 330e, and now very cost effectively. And that if I'm going to spend 40k+ on a car, then it really ought to be one that makes my heart sing. Which I guess is the same as what you're saying.

However I think the previous gen 118d rode like it had bricks for tyres... Your meds must be working well!
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      11-19-2017, 08:18 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Having just test driven the Macan yesterday as a potential replacement for the 335d, I was a little underwhelmed, relative to the cost to change and ended the day thinking that our day to day driving is very well served by the 335d and 330e, and now very cost effectively. And that if I'm going to spend 40k+ on a car, then it really ought to be one that makes my heart sing.
Funny old thing, that's exactly how I felt!
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      11-19-2017, 08:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drek View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Having just test driven the Macan yesterday as a potential replacement for the 335d, I was a little underwhelmed, relative to the cost to change and ended the day thinking that our day to day driving is very well served by the 335d and 330e, and now very cost effectively. And that if I'm going to spend 40k+ on a car, then it really ought to be one that makes my heart sing.
Funny old thing, that's exactly how I felt!
Yes, and even with having had that discussion a couple months back I still think my expectations were too high. It was the diesel though and I'll reserve full judgement till I have a go in the GTS.

But my wife just said, why spend all that in a car when you're not blown away by it, you should just go get a newer Boxster!
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      11-19-2017, 08:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lobb View Post

The question is to BMW. Where did it all go wrong?
Where did what go wrong?

My e90 of the same vintage had a dreadful ride and tramlined like a....tram.

My initial thoughts stepping in to my first F30 was how much the runflats had come on and how much better the ride was coupled to, at the time, a very modern interior the car was and still is a huge step forward.

Itís heading towards end of life now and it shows hence me changing brands.

If anything after spending nearly 5 years in 2 different F30s I think BMW nailed it big time, and Iím very fussy having spent a lot of time in the car industry.

I had a hire 118d SE in Spain back in 2007 it was absolutely average and not a patch on the usual golf Iíd hire and this car was seen as an upgrade, no thanks.

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      11-19-2017, 08:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengocity View Post
Yes, and even with having had that discussion a couple months back I still think my expectations were too high. It was the diesel though and I'll reserve full judgement till I have a go in the GTS.

But my wife just said, why spend all that in a car when you're not blown away by it, you should just go get a newer Boxster!
Too spooky for words, that's pretty much what my wife said. That or a used 911! Out of the diesel, S and GTS the last one was where I started to get really interested but in the end I just wasn't getting the wow factor with it and with the huge cost to change it simply wasn't worth it. Be interested to know how you get on though.
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      11-19-2017, 12:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broncho View Post
Where did what go wrong?

My e90 of the same vintage had a dreadful ride and tramlined like a....tram.

My initial thoughts stepping in to my first F30 was how much the runflats had come on and how much better the ride was coupled to, at the time, a very modern interior the car was and still is a huge step forward.
Similar thinking here, my first drive in the F30 just after launch, was a positive view of BMW moving forward, included sorting some E90 weaknesses. Particularly in the ride/handling balance.
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      11-19-2017, 12:19 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Forinor View Post
I fear the public's demands have corrupted what BMW used to offer?
Or look at it another way, BMW have listened to their mass market customers and are supplying what they want.

BTW, what did BMW used to offer? Go back a few generations and revisit their priorities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Forinor View Post
One of the best cars I have ever driven is the E46 Coupe, one was my cousin's which was a 320Ci, and one a friend's who I was a passenger in recently, also a 320Ci. Given his car is now at least 15 years old, and it still felt really tight, rattle free and the suspension again was much better than what we are offered now. Compliant yet sporty, which is what BMW was supposed to have been about?
Interesting you pick the E46 coupe as a 'best car' for BMW.

Back in their time, we had friends drive up to us in the Highlands from the IOW in an E46 330ci. I recall the guy saying "never again", he didn't realise what a poor ride it gave (sport suspension and 18" wheels), wished they'd driven up in their E46 320d SE, with a decent ride quality.

As he said, the 330ci was fine for local driving, but a 600 mile haul in one day and what he thought would be a decent drive was so poor, it spoiled the whole experience.
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      11-19-2017, 01:24 PM   #11
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That's quite strange indeed, isn't it?

Perhaps my view of the suspension in the E46 Coupe is glorified by me having to live with the unforgiveable MSport suspension I had in my E90?

However much I love the ride comfort, the refinement and general quality improvements in the F3x, I do feel that one of the things they excelled at was making a car that had great feedback, one of the biggest factors (IMO) that made the BMW a drivers car. Now these car significantly lack in the feedback department, taking away that something special that made them a drivers car. Your thoughts?
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      11-19-2017, 01:58 PM   #12
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Having owned an E82 118d for 3 years...

The engine wasn't bad in terms of noise, it did handle extremely well, and it was slow.

I don't think it beats the replacement, an F32 430d. In terms of build quality the F32 is far superior, and I remember how much better it was from the transition. But then neither of my BMWs have had any rattles or creaks! Maybe only the early builds suffered with this? Mine is a 2015 and the E82 was a 2012.
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      11-19-2017, 02:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Forinor View Post
That's quite strange indeed, isn't it?

Perhaps my view of the suspension in the E46 Coupe is glorified by me having to live with the unforgiveable MSport suspension I had in my E90??
Rather than say too much myself, how about a few words from Kevin Bird in BMWCar July 2010. Birds B3 Suspension:

Bold text; edited by me.

Quote:
Regular readers of BMW Car may recall an article Kevin Bird, technical director of Birds Garage, wrote way back in 2002. He dearly had a bee in his bonnet about the sadly deteriorating ride quality offered by many BMW cars. Especially the tuned ones, It seems BMW et al didnít take any notice of his reasonable arguments, and there is no doubt that things have got considerably worse since then.

For reasons only understood by BMW, it embarked upon a program whereby it equipped all BMW cars with run-flat tyres. Only the M Power cars escaped this move, and you can imagine raging arguments between BMWs suspension development team and (we assume) the accountants and administration, revolving around the fact that the Ultimate Driving Machine was being massively compromised by this strategy.

Kevin Birds' view is that these awful devices contribute around 40 per cent of the current ride quality problems. But that's clearly not the whole story. Even before the advent of run-flat technology, customers were complaining about ride quality. BMW is alleged to have sent teams of development engineers to Britain to discover why customers were complaining. Maybe it did, but it's regrettable that nothing changed as a consequence.
If we agree with Kevin's analysis/opinion, (which many of us do), we therefore predate run-flats, for poor ride quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Forinor View Post
... I do feel that one of the things they excelled at was making a car that had great feedback, one of the biggest factors (IMO) that made the BMW a drivers car. Now these car significantly lack in the feedback department, taking away that something special that made them a drivers car. Your thoughts?
I agree some of the feedback has been eliminated, as refinement (NVH) is improved.

Been some interesting comments from BMW chassis engineers on why. One key area is getting the negative aspects of feedback reduced. Problem is, one man's heightened feedback is another's negative interference. One driver may like to feel the finest detail of the road surface, hints of bump steer, vibrations an all. The next driver views that as unrefined and want what they see as negative feedback eliminated. Difficult to please everyone with the same chassis settings.
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      11-19-2017, 02:11 PM   #14
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In regards to the runflats, that's next on my list to get rid of, as soon as they need replaced. I do feel that although my uprated suspension has improved the ride quality overall, the last weakest link still exists - the runflats. If only I had done that with my previous car, I may not have suffered to badly for so long.

Agreed, you cannot satisfy everyone, and that will always be the case, unfortunately. A real concern I have is that at some point in the future, what if there is nothing separating BMW from Mercs and Audis, where driver involvement is concerned. Right now BMW still trumps the competition for me due to them making a car that is more fun than the rest. If this difference fails to remain, I may have to keep a hold of my F31 forever
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      11-19-2017, 02:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HighlandPete View Post

Been some interesting comments from BMW chassis engineers on why. One key area is getting the negative aspects of feedback reduced. Problem is, one man's heightened feedback is another's negative interference. One driver may like to feel the finest detail of the road surface, hints of bump steer, vibrations an all. The next driver views that as unrefined and want what they see as negative feedback eliminated. Difficult to please everyone with the same chassis settings.
I believe one of the single biggest culprits here Pete, is the adoption, by all manufacturers, of electrically assisted steering. Give me a well sorted hydraulic set up any day.

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      11-19-2017, 02:20 PM   #16
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I believe one of the single biggest culprits here Pete, is the adoption, by all manufacturers, of electrically assisted steering. Give me a well sorted hydraulic set up any day.

Agreed 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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      11-19-2017, 02:37 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by HighlandPete View Post
Or look at it another way, BMW have listened to their mass market customers and are supplying what they want.

BTW, what did BMW used to offer? Go back a few generations and revisit their priorities.
I think this is the key issue. Being focussed on driving dynamics at the detriment of other aspects of ownership will always limit your market. Now, by any reasonable metric of commercial success, they're enormously successful.

But that dilution of what the brand DNA stands for means that for me for the first time in 35 years BMW is no longer a default choice when it comes to cars.
Where before you could always be sure they'd be the clear drivers choice, now they're just one of a few that will handle decently.
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      11-19-2017, 02:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I believe one of the single biggest culprits here Pete, is the adoption, by all manufacturers, of electrically assisted steering. Give me a well sorted hydraulic set up any day.

That's often the case but it's not as simple as that. Plenty hydraulic systems aren't all that fulsome in their feedback. E46 M3 isn't a patch on similar era Porsche's for example.

And with electric systems they are improving year to year. The 330e steering has bundles more feel that the 335d does. Porsche have apparantly made huge strides from the first 991 systems to the latest ones to be found on the 991.2.

But what I do totally agree with is that steering feel, or that connection to the road is absolutely key to driving enjoyment, yet ignored by so many.

My dad now has a M135i and after taking it for a good blast I know that the drivetrain is absolutely spectacular, the suspension is ok, and the steering is the letdown of the package.
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      11-19-2017, 02:50 PM   #19
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In my earlier days of driving, having only ever driven a Corrado (which was my daily car at the time - has bundles of steering feel), I drove a hire car Corsa for the first time. That car was where I understood what was meant by "numb steering". The lack of feel really had me on edge, only because I was so used to having feel. The feedback through a steering makes up so much of the driver's enjoyment, it's unreal.
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      11-19-2017, 03:47 PM   #20
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On the run-flat tyre argument we have to remember BMW have, to a degree, (how much is open to debate), tuned the suspension to help compensate for the limitations due to sidewall stiffness. The problem with fitting non run-flats, there are still compromises, as the suspension/bushing is now too soft. It is not simply a case of all positive improvement.

This was the case, even with the early E9x models, where we thought there was no suspension tuning for the run-flat. I changed to non run-flat in my E91, but the suspension was wrong afterwards. The car was underdamped, and required a better damper, to work in a balanced way. I sense that is more the case with F3x chassis, by the comments and aftermarket suspension tuning.

I see that as an issue for my F11. BMW have worked at improving the balance of the suspension's handling/ride mix, with the run-flat. If I changed to non run-flat, what would the chassis be like? With adaptive fitted, going after-market is one step too far. I do run a different sized winter run-flat, that in itself shows how BMW have got a issue on their hands regarding tuning for different wheel sizes. It is all a compromise.

As to EPS, we are in transition to autonomous driving, EPS is pretty much essential, partly for simplicity and for its integration with options like self-parking and other (safety) systems.

It will improve, but whether BMW will ever tune to a more 'raw' feel, I doubt it. If so, I'm inclined to think it may be artificial, at the flick of a switch, as many drivers will have no desire to have less designed in refinement. They want precision, EPS offers that, but not to feel everything from the road, be it good or bad feedback.

Same for steering heft, or weighting, many demand light control. Following that trend, servotronic is going to appear over-boosted to many enthusiasts, in any normal setting.
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