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      05-31-2014, 05:18 PM   #1
SpenceRx
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F30 versus the Coquihalla Highway (Long)

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This past long weekend I had the chance to take our F30 320i X-drive on an impromptu road trip from Vancouver, BC to Edmonton, AB. This was an unplanned trip where we decided on Saturday afternoon we would make an early start Sunday morning before the crack of dawn. Basically, gas up and go with my wife as my co-pilot for the twelve hour drive. Other than a few trips to Whistler this winter I had not previously taken this car on any long drives. I enjoy road trips and the chance to take the F30 on this journey had me excited with anticipation as I was lying in bed awake that Saturday night.

In the morning getting up early wasn’t too painful knowing the drive was ahead. Bags were packed, snacks were ready and the car was fueled up with premium 91 octane. Oddly, my wife noticed that this was our first road trip without my ritual of checking fluids and tire pressures prior to setting off – the car takes care of these things now. Liberating!

The car clean and ready to go:




The total distance, according to Google Maps, was going to be 1157 Kilometers each way and this trip involves traversing the famous Rocky Mountains. For those of you unfamiliar with this area, there are a number of different routes to take – all of which are scenic and amazing driving roads. Truly super, natural British Columbia at it’s finest. The shortest route through the mountains and our route of choice between Hope-Merritt-Kamloops, would be the BC-Highway 5 Coquihalla (Poronouned Coke-ah-hal-ah).



The Coquihalla, with posted speed limit of 110 Km/h, is a former toll road that is quite a unique highway. It’s a fully divided highway with four lanes each way. The distance between Hope and Kamloops is relatively short at approximately 200 Km’s but the terrain is downright treacherous. It all starts in Hope from an elevation of ~200 meters to the summit of 1444 meters (4000 feet) in a distance of only 40 Km’s (8.5% grade). For the motoring enthusiast the entire 200 Km trip is an extraordinary high-speed journey of climbing sharp peaks and rapidly ascending into the valleys of the Rocky Mountains. It’s exciting driving that definitely requires a capable machine.

*not my pic

*not my pic

The Coquihalla is riddled with brake check areas, chain-up zones and runaway lanes. In the winter, rapidly changing weather conditions can instantly render it impassable due to snow mass and icy conditions. In the warmer months brake fade and overheating are the main challenges. This road takes a physical toll on any vehicle that faces it. Semi-trucks crawl up at seemingly standstill speeds. Mini vans loaded with family and camping equipment slowly conquer each peak with their buzzing engine high in the rev range and dad sweating behind the wheel. It’s a challenge and there are always broken down vehicles abandoned on the side of the road who succumbed to the mountain pass. The speed limit on this road seems to be merely a suggestion as drivers try to carry their speed from one peak to the next after conquering each summit.

*not my pic



*not my pic

I’ve driven this road a number of times over the years in an e30 325e, e46 325i and now my wife’s 2012 BMW 320i X-drive. I can say with certainty that each iteration is better than the last when it comes to tackling this road. The e30 could manage it but almost felt unstable at times and in the summer over heating was a valid worry. The e46 was great on the highway with its smooth inline six but you’d be watching the temperature gauge closely.

The F30 though… it exceeded my expectations. I was worried it would feel underpowered. Especially on the longer pulls given I’m running the little N20 in this big-ish car but this was not the case whatsoever. I soon came to realize that the difference is in the transmission. The car, sensing the grade, made sure I was always in the right gear so the power was ready when needed even when facing the steepest peaks. It accelerated with ease in all cases rapidly, yet smoothly. Best of all the car was so sure footed at these high speeds that my wife didn’t even notice the speed at which we were travelling. The 320i was a joy to drive and conquered the Coquihalla Highway with ease.

First rest stop:


Second rest stop:




The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful but still enjoyable as driving through the mountains is great fun. We saw lots of wildlife as we passed through the Jasper National Park. Black Bears, Bighorn Sheep, lots of Deer and Elk including one who decided to mosey on across the road right in front of our car.







The fuel mileage for the trip was phenomenal. Sadly, we didn’t keep exact figures but I estimate we used about $120 in fuel each way. Given the gouging prices commonly offered during a long weekend I was pleasantly surprised. For the majority of the trip the car was in Comfort mode but Sport mode was used for passing and some of the winding roads in the mountains. I definitely noticed the difference between Sport and Comfort when it came to passing.

All-in-all I finished the trip with a greater admiration for this machine. What a beast both in the city and on the highway. To anyone considering a 320i but worried it will feel underpowered on the highway – I wouldn’t worry. The transmission really makes the engine shine. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make this same trip with an F80 M3 at some point in time.
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      05-31-2014, 05:42 PM   #2
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Great write up. Im originally from edmonton and now live in vancouver. I have taken the drive a few times too and the BMW definitely makes it that much sweeter.
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      05-31-2014, 05:49 PM   #3
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"I can say with certainty that each iteration is better than the *next* when it comes to tackling this road."

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      05-31-2014, 06:01 PM   #4
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Two replies, both from locals.
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      05-31-2014, 06:28 PM   #5
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Nice pics and write up. I am just picking up my F30 335i tomorrow morning and I can't wait! Hope to see you around the city.
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      05-31-2014, 06:45 PM   #6
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Nice post, it is a great drive. The turbos maintain power even at those elevations.

The speed limit only seems to be a suggestion as drivers are frequently in the 130-150kph (80-93mph) range.
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      05-31-2014, 07:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by visor View Post
"I can say with certainty that each iteration is better than the *next* when it comes to tackling this road."

Nice write up.

But that *next* should be *last*... unless you really meant *next*...
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      05-31-2014, 07:58 PM   #8
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Corrected
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      05-31-2014, 08:36 PM   #9
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      06-01-2014, 01:39 AM   #10
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Great write up and nice shots!
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      06-01-2014, 10:20 AM   #11
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Nice write up. I wouldn't have thought a 320i would have done well on the Coquihalla given the long uphill runs especially the one through the snow shed. Good to hear it is.
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      06-01-2014, 10:40 AM   #12
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Looks like a great drive, makes me wish we had mountains around here.
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      06-01-2014, 10:51 AM   #13
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Very nice use of your time !! Happy that both you and your wife enjoyed it!

Thanks for sharing!
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      06-01-2014, 08:57 PM   #14
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Love that road! The crowsnest is also a wonderful drive in an F30.
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      06-01-2014, 09:32 PM   #15
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Great writeup and great pictures.

We visited your country a couple of years ago and went on parts of that road - only up to Kamloops and back due to limited time.

I hope one day we can return and do the full trip you have shown and also do it in a BMW, as we do not have those type of mountain drives down here.
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      06-02-2014, 08:15 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnook
Love that road! The crowsnest is also a wonderful drive in an F30.
Agreed.

Great write up!
Another fun road trip in the F30 is to explore the wineries in the Okanagan for the weekend, heading there via Hwy 3 Crowsnest and back via the Coquihalla as you did. Having the wife along helps with staying out of too much trouble on those roads...
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      06-08-2014, 01:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
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Love that road! The crowsnest is also a wonderful drive in an F30.
Yeah, I'd like to go the crowsnest route next time. I've only taken crowsnest once (in my e30) and it was because we were re-routed due to forest fires.
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      06-08-2014, 01:39 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpenceRx
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnook View Post
Love that road! The crowsnest is also a wonderful drive in an F30.
Yeah, I'd like to go the crowsnest route next time. I've only taken crowsnest once (in my e30) and it was because we were re-routed due to forest fires.
Just make sure to hit the crowsnest very early to avoid the radar traps and motorhomes. Some of the best curvy sections are still single lane. Getting stuck behind traffic on that road is cruel and unusual punishment.
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      06-08-2014, 04:33 PM   #19
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awesome write up!
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      06-08-2014, 04:50 PM   #20
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Cool write-up. Great to hear your car did so well!
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      06-09-2014, 09:24 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpenceRx View Post
Yeah, I'd like to go the crowsnest route next time. I've only taken crowsnest once (in my e30) and it was because we were re-routed due to forest fires.
Crowsnest is a great route. Have driven it so many times because we go to my in-laws cabin in Tulameen (outside of Princeton). Great drive for sure but be careful. Some of the single lane areas against the mountain have taken some lives. Saw the aftermath of a motorcycle going over the barricade once.

Lots of radar in Manning park just east of the lodge. I typically drive our SUV on this route because of the storage capacity. Would love to drive the 435 up to Osoyoos or Penticton this way.
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      06-10-2014, 08:00 AM   #22
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Nice car. Thanks for sharing! Welcome to Edmonton
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