FOR: sparkling performance; stick gearchange; comfortable driving position;
unobstructed vision; superb instruments; lots of stowage space; well made and
AGAINST: heavy fuel consumption; expensive; wind noise; stiff throttle pedal
(Motor, 12 January 1974. UK.)
Since we last tested a big BMW (the 3.0 S 10
month ago) a succession of increases have added £1,579 to the price of the 3.0
Si, raising it to the current substantial £5,578 (including £178 for the
mandatory power steering). That the car is in demand despite a price tag almost
£1,000 more than that for the Jaguar XJ12L is perhaps more an indictment of
British Leylandís inability to produce enough cars than an indication of the
BMWís superiority. For a BMW is about the closest competitor the Jaguar has
and itís available now, rather than in two or more years time, the
typical waiting period for the Twelve. Faced with this sort of situation itís
no wonder that the UK concessionaires for BMW sold over 5,000 sixes last year.
1974 the big BMW is altered and improved in several ways. Importantly both the
driverís seat and steering wheel positions now can be tailored to suit people
of almost any size and shape; the rear seat backrest has been reset so thereís
more room in the back and heating ducts are provided to keep those in the back
warm. The ride has also been softened with minor changes to spring rates and
damper settings, though whether this is an improvement is open to debate.
Nevertheless all those who drove the car praised its numerous qualities, not
least of which is its sparkling performance.
carís Bosch electronically injected in-line six produces a healthy 200bhp
(DIN) at 5500rpm and rockets the car to 60mph in 7.9sec, only half a second
slower than the automatic XJ12. For a 3-litre the performance is astonishing,
especially for one of its size and weight, though real gains over the
carburetted car (no longer available with manual transmission here) are evident
only above 60mph. The automatic choke proved faultless in operation and the
engine runs smoothly without temperament, warming quickly on cold mornings.
Power is transmitted in a smooth rush with a turbine-like hum that is very
pleasant to the ear. The engine is also very tractable and, despite the highish
gearing, will pull quite strongly from low revs in top: 30-50mph takes a brisk
7.9sec. Maximum speed is a claimed 133mph, too fast to check on MIRAís banked
circuit, and we were unable to take the car abroad. However, thereís lost of
performance to spare at 120mph.
through our test the 50mph speed limit was imposed so the car had several gentle
runs. Even so, it returned a disappointing 15.0mpg overall, much the same as the
3.0 Sís 15.4mpg. Thatís enough for 260 miles on the carís enlarged, 17.2
gallon fuel tank. It uses four star fuel and during the 718 mile test distance
consumed one pint of oil.
flickswitch gearchange provided by a short, stubby lever is slick and easy: ours
was slightly obstructive on the lower ratios but we know from experience that
this wears off with use. The sharp edge of the wooden gear lever knob emphasised
any notchiness. Additionally, reverse isnít sufficiently protected and itís
easy to select it instead of first.
paper the gear ratios look ideal, giving 35, 61 and 96mph at 6,400rpm in the
lower gears; but on the road first feels too low, and you have to grab second
very soon after a quick start. With the carburetted car we criticised the
transmission snatch; petrol injection seems to have eliminated this for the 3.0
Si pulls without fuss from 20mph in top.
changes have been made to ZF-Gemmer
worm and roller steering except that BMW now fit a slightly smaller (and hence
better) leather-rim wheel which is adjustable for reach. The power assistance is
just about right Ė light enough to make parking effortless, yet with just
enough feel to enable the car to be pressed through corners with confidence. The
basis trait is mild understeer, though lifting off in mid corner can make the
nose tuck-in; obviously excessive power will cause the tail to slide, especially
on a wet surface. Roadholding on the 195/70 VR Michelin XWX tyres is excellent
in the wet or dry and the car can be cornered hard with only moderate roll.
brakes, ventilated discs all round with dual circuits, haul the car down from
high speed with only slight pedal pressure, albeit to the accompaniment of
slight juddering. For ordinary use, though, we felt that the brakes were
slightly over-servoed as it was difficult to feather the brakes and avoid a jerk
when coming to rest.
suspension has been modified for í74 and is now less strongly damped, making
the ride feel a little more resilient and less taut. The firm, comfortable
fabric-covered seats now give greater lateral support. The rake of the seat is
variable and the adjustment is much easier to make. The driverís seat is also
adjustable for height. With the new adjustable steering column the driving
position can be tailored to suit a very wide range of shapes. Thereís also
more room in the rear now, as BMW has reset the back of the seat. There are head
restraints front and rear and those in the back fold down when not in use. All
round vision is excellent: you can see every corner of the car without straining.
gear and instruments are unchanged, and very good they are too. The indicators,
parking light, washers and three speed wipers are controlled by one
column-mounted stalk, the headlamp dip and flash by another. The horn is sounded
by one of four insets on the new steering wheel, as opposed to three on the
earlier car. The wipers scythe a clear path across the screen no matter what the
speed and the electrically operated screen washers are powerful.
only complaint we have about the driving position is that the accelerator pedal
of our car was too upright and stiff, so much so that after a long spell at
50mph you finish up either with an aching ankle or a numb foot.
instruments remain unchanged for the simple reason that it would be hard to
improve on them: theyíre a real object lesson in clean design and clarity.
Both the speedometer and rev-counter are large and clearly calibrated; between
the two are smaller dials for water temperature and fuel. The instrument
binnacle also contains a cluster of six warning lights. Thereís a clock on the
facia in front of the passenger but a radio is extra.
such an expensive luxury car the Si is only fairly well insulated from noise. At
idling speed the huge air intake makes obtrusive noises and at speed above 50mph
wind noise makes you turn the radio up. BMW say they usually attend to this sort
of complaint by slightly bending in the top of the door window frame.
heating and ventilation system is excellent, though you canít recirculate the
air to exclude exhaust fumes. To get sufficient heat into the car you also need
to use the fan. The centrally mounted air vents, perhaps a bit fiddly to adjust,
push through a big volume of air. Eyeball vents each side of the facia are for
side window demisting, and very effective they are.
ample storage space inside the car for the assorted bric-a-brac five adults can
accumulate. The carís only real rival in the provision of trays, cubby holes
and shin bins is the rover 2200 which is outstanding in this respect. The boot
of the BMW is huge and contains in its lid a compartment of superbly finished
tools and a few important spares.
£5,578 the car is undeniably expensive and at 15mpg very thirsty. Nevertheless
itís superbly engineered, very well finished and discreetly luxurious. Even if
we are all reduced to travelling at 50mph, there are few more comfortable big
cars in which to do it.