(Autosport, 13th May 1976. UK.)
The BMW 3.3 Li is a new, long-chassis version
of the big six-cylinder car. The engine, which has a slightly shorter stroke
than its predecessor, has been specially developed for this luxury limousine. It
is a straight-six with a chain-driven overhead camshaft, operating the inclined
valves through rockers. As usual, it is of extremely rigid construction with a
fully-counterbalanced seven-bearing crankshaft. For maximum performance with
minimum pollution, Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and electronic ignition have
new is the ZF automatic transmission with a fluid torque converter and
three-speed planetary box. The independent suspension of all four wheels follows
normal BMW geometry, with a MacPherson front end and semi-trailing arms behind.
Power-assisted steering is standard and all four brake discs are slotted for
ventilation, while there are four-cylinder callipers in front with two separate
body is what the Germans call a limousine, but as it has no division or folding
occasional seats it would be described here as a long-chassis saloon. It has
leather upholstery and the equipment is lavish beyond belief, as the data panel
shows. Refrigerated air-conditioning is standard, as are wipers and washers for
the headlamp glasses, an electrical control of the external rear-view mirror.
There is separate heating for the rear passengers and, needless to say, all the
door windows are electrically raised and lowered.
doors are easy to enter and the seats are comfortable, that for the driver
having an extra adjustment for height, and the steering column is also
adjustable. He has a good all-round view, but a short driver needs the extra
height adjustment to secure an unobstructed rear view for reversing.
engine starts instantly, hot or cold, and runs steadily and evenly while warming
up. The automatic transmission is up to the best American standards, being
smooth in its changes yet wasting no time. There is never any sign of
temperament, even after the BMW has been crawling or sitting in traffic blocks.
the spacious body provides room for the occupants to stretch their legs, both
front and rear, this does not seem a particularly large car from the driverís
seat. It does not behave like a luxury car, either, being much more sporting
than one would expect. Standing starts are not particularly quick and there is
no wheel spin, but once the car is on the move, the acceleration becomes fierce.
A 0-100mph time of 22.6s after a leisurely getaway is really something.
maximum speed of 125mph is easily reached, and might well be exceeded on a
longer straight. A genuine 120mph comes up in a surprisingly short distance. The
engine is very smooth, but it emits n unmistakable song of six cylinders from
the twin exhaust systems. There is an efficient mechanical hum, too, which is
certainly not at all noisy, but more audible than is usual in a limousine. On
some road surfaces, there is a fair amount of tyre noise and the roar of the
wind cannot be ignored at speeds above 100mph.
may seem harsh criticism, but let us not forget that this is an £11,000 car. It
would seem that the makers have deliberately built a new kind of luxury car,
with the emphasis laid on the driverís pleasure rather than on the smooth,
silent ride of the rear passengers. The suspension is effective, but there is
more up-and-down movement than most limousines exhibit. If this is an
owner-driverís car, BMW have their priorities right, but as a chauffeur-driven
vehicle it could do with a softer ride and better sound-damping.
car is well-balanced on corners, generally with moderate understeer. The
power-assisted steering reaches very high standards indeed, giving extremely
easy parking, yet providing plenty of feel of the road during fast cornering.
This is a heavy car, but the weight must be carried low, for it feels very
sure-footed and does not roll to excess, which is important for the passengersí
the weight does not worry the brakes. After hard driving, there is remarkably
little smell of hot pads, nor do the hubs exude bubbling grease, as often
happens with otherwise well-behaved cars. Yet, this is quite a lot of motor car
heating and ventilation work well, although it would need summer weather to test
the refrigeration adequately. I was amused to notice that whenever I exceeded
120mph, the heater nearly set light to my gentís natty socks, although whether
this was due to the aerodynamic ram effect or increased heat output from the
power unit, I would not know. Anyway, itís of regrettably little interest
nowadays, I suppose.
having a smaller and more efficient engine than other luxury cars, the big BMW
does gain in petrol consumption, and many owners will see 20mpg on a run,
instead of the usual 12mpg misery of the super-cars. Itís an impressive
machine with an attractive interior and very well finished. In spite of the
contradiction in terms, I would call it a sports-limousine!