When my girlfriends Mini had to go for a little damage repair (I actually crashed it into something that fell of a truck on the highway) I asked BMW if I could have a BMW 3 touring as a replacement, explaining that I was considering it as one of the options to buy. One thing that is really good with BMW is their service, and they immediately promised me to organize this.
A few days later I brought the Mini to the workshop and in exchange I got the keys of a brand new BMW 3.18 touring. It was a fairly standard business line, grey, with dark upholstery and an automatic gearbox. The automatic gearbox was nice, because I always have doubts about going standard or automatic and this allowed me to do an extensive test. I found the car well equipped and the navigation system was easy to use (although I had to ask another BMW drive how to turn on the voice over) and did a good job, even on places where I've seen others go wrong. The same applied for the build in phone features, it was easy to connect a blue tooth phone and it was very easy to use. I found in general all the equipment very easy to use and matched my expectations on features. Further the interior was roomy and actually bigger then I expected, the booth was huge in my opinion (criteria here is: does it fit 2 snowboards). The exterior on the other hand is very modest and probably fits very well with the business like family car market segment, but is a bit too boring for me.
The first thing I noticed was how soft the suspension was, as my girlfriend said: It's a boat, meaning smoothly moving up and down with the waves. This soft suspension did a good job smoothing out the road, but for me it was too smooth, because in fast corners it was leaning over quite a bit and the steering wasn't that razor sharp as I like it. The automatic gearbox was good, you hardly noticed shifting gears, except for some more engine noise when shifting down. However I felt it was shifting a bit too much, but that is probably because the engine might be a bit under powered when running it at lower revs. In general the ride was smooth and comfortable and I'm sure many people will like the comfort. For those interested, I drove it the way I always drive and the fuel economy was somewhere around 9 liters per 100 km. I found this reasonable.
It was really good to have the opportunity to do a three day test drive and I thank BMW for making it possible. The car was good, easy to use sound, phone and navigation systems and the ride was smooth. Everything felt of good quality and comes with the great BMW service. It's a sensible option to buy.
However, I prefer a bit stiffer suspension, sharper steering and a bit more power so I do need to drive a version with a sport suspension, manual gearbox and larger engine to make a final judgement on my personal purchase.
I'm open for other few day test drives in the Delft, the Netherlands area. Just contact me for details