(Motor, October 1971.)
Our test of the BMW 2800 CS
appeared only weeks before the 3.0 CS was released, we thought we’d straighten
the performance records here with a brief evaluation of the latest car.
Inevitably, the price went up with the capacity – but only by £120, which is
not much on top of £5000, and certainly less than we expected.
The main change is an increase in bore size, from 86 to 89 mm, to bring the capacity of BMW’s big six up to 2985 cc. The stroke remains unaltered, as indeed does the rest of the engine. BMW claim another 10 bhp for the extra 197 cc, a total of 180 (net) bhp at 6000 rpm, or a healthy 60 bhp per litre – a figure that few engines as smooth and refined as this can match, let alone exceed.
To take into account the effect on performance of a slight increase in weight and (surprisingly) slightly lower 2nd and 3rd gear ratios would but confuse the issue, so we’ll settle for a straight comparison of 2.8 and 3.0 times on the assumption that all other things are equal – which in broad terms they are.
On the academic point of maximum speed, there is very little in it. An ignition cut out on the latest car restricts revs to 6200 rpm, which can be reached comfortably in top to give 130 mph. Given a good run in, the 2.8 would reach the same speed, but in nothing like a short distance. This fact emphasises where the 3.0 litre really scores – on acceleration in the upper reaches of the speed range: 80-100 mph, for instance, is down from 17.0sec. to 10.5, 70-90 in third gear from 9.8 to 7.1. At the other end of the scale, the 3-litre will surge vigorously away in top gear from under 20 mph, witness the 7.8sec. from 20 to 40 mph (9.2 for the 2.8) though transmission snatch discourages really low speed in top. Through the gears the improvement is less marked, only half a second coming off the 0-60 mph time, less than two seconds from the 0-100.
Although the engine is inevitably a little thirstier at any given speed, our overall fuel consumption was actually fractionally better than that of the 2.8, probably because the extra torque low down minimises the need to change gear. As in the 2.8, though, the excellence of the four-speed manual box encourages more gear work than is actually necessary. The gearlever, topped by a smooth wooden ‚mushroom’, can be sliced through its positive gate as fast as your hand can move without the synchromesh either baulking or grating. The clutch action is equally good, cushioning any mistimed changes so well that passengers wouldn’t notice.
In every other respect the 3-litre engine is indistinguishable from that of the 2.8: totally without temperament (except for the rather chattery idle on our test car), utterly smooth under power right up to the limit, and very low on mechanical noise, not to say remarkably potent for its size.
In most other ways, the 3.0 CS is identical to the 2800, the one notable exception being in the braking department where ventilated discs with duplicated servos and hydraulic circuits are now fitted all round. As the disc/drum brakes of the 2800 barely faded in our tests, we think it can be safely assumed that the latest discs would be quite immune to fade, though we did not confirm it by repeating the tests. Certainly on the road the brakes felt reassuring, albeit a mite heavier than before.
We still don’t think this hybrid coupe (an amalgam of big BMW saloon running gear and ex-2000 coupe shell) matches some of the lesser BMW saloons on handling, good though it undoubtedly is. On normal roads it feels taut, precise and predictable but bumpy, twisty roads induce some diagonal pitching, and lifting the throttle in mid corner can make the car feel a bit twitchy. Mild understeer is sufficient to make the car inherently stable only when cornering below the limit. The optional power steering is light but not over-assisted, so it retains some sort of resistance and thus feel. But rather low gearing is accentuated by the unnecessarily large steering wheel – identical to that on the unassisted car on which plenty of steering leverage is needed. The handsome alloy wheels, shod with Michelin 195/70 VR 14 covers (like many of the world’s best and fastest sporting machinery these days), gripped a wet surface rather better than the slightly narrower types of the 2800 we last tested. Their dry road grip is, needless to say, very high.
As it ought to be for so expensive car, the 3.0 CS is very comfortable to
ride in, provided you’re sitting in the front. Sumptuous cloth-covered seats
support you well and have generous adjustment for reach: but the rake adjuster
– a knurled wheel mounted close to the door – is very awkward to use,
virtually impossible while on the move. The rear seats are less satisfactory,
largely because head and legroom is so restricted. This is one of the big
sacrifices you make when opting for the (arguably) more elegant Karmann-built
coupe body rather than for the more capacious and very much less expensive
saloon – which on the whole we still prefer. The big all-enveloping windows of
the coupe do afford an excellent panoramic view from the driver’s seat, though.
Coupled with the light-steering and easy controls, this makes for effortless
The controls are well positioned and easy to use. The horn is in the middle of the steering wheel, the indicators, flasher, dip, and wash/whipe are under fingertip stalk control – all as it should be. The main console-mounted wiper switch has three positions – fast, slow and intermittent: a cigar lighter and four electric window switches are also on the central console.
Although bad bumps penetrate the suspension’s defences, shaking the car if never unearthing any rattles, the ride is on the whole good, though not in the Jaguar XJ6 class.
We were disappointed with the lights. Both dip and main beam were set far too low, and their intensity was indifferent, not what we’d expect of a four-shot quartz-halogen system. Really fast, safe night driving was not possible.
The 3.0 CS is certainly well insulated from road and engine noise, which helps to make it a tireless car for long journeys. Wind noise, however, is disappointing as the glass-to-glass insulation of the pillarless side windows is poor, creating draughts and roar. The rubber strip that forms this seal also makes closing the doors difficult.
The excellent heating and ventilation system includes a rheostat-operated fan – much more effective than a one- or two-speed fan. Instrumentation is clear and simple. It consists of four main dials with the easy-to-read speedometer and rev-counter sandwiched by a large clock and the fuel/temperature gauges and warning lights. The hazard warning and heated rear window switches are under the dashboard.
The inertia reel seat belts were annoying because they slid off your shoulder when cornering, as they did in the 2002. seat belts would appear to be something of an afterthought at BMW.
The general finish of the car is outstanding. You’d expect nothing less inside for £5000 but even the boot is lined throughout, the panelled lid containing a drop-down shelf full of tools and spares. There are detail disappointments, though, like the tiny, badly positioned ashtrays, the seat rake adjusters we’ve already mentioned, and the glove pocket which had already crinkled and become difficult to close.