Tuesday 14th February 2012
PH BLOG: HOPPING CONTINENTS IN THE NEW 3 SERIES
Part two, in which Riggers bites off more than he can chew
Snow in the Pyrenees, but roads perfect
In retrospect, 730 miles was a bit too much. Despite starting off from Valencia at 6am, and despite - er - pushing on during the quieter stretches of autopista and autoroute, my run up to Poitiers was a 13-hour slog.
Healthy diet crucial
But it was my Red Bull-addled brain that suffered, rather than the new F30 BMW 335i. I arrived in Poitiers twitching with caffeine, and red-eyed, but having experienced one of the best drives of my life.
Why? Because the 335i lapped up everything I could throw at it. Prior to setting off I figured the mind-numbing monotony of thinly-trafficked continental motorways (and the gendarmes' habit of hiding on bridges like snipers) would not be good for my sanity. To stave-off looming madness I therefore decided to use the (genuinely excellent) sat-nav to plot in sections of twisty single carriageway routes departementales and routes nationaux.
Saw the sign. Made a stop
The 335i proved itself a master of all trades. It was totally at home cruising at motorway pace, delivering 35-ish mpg. Switch the 8-speed auto into 'S' (or even the manual setting), wind up the 'Driver Performance Control' to Sport and switch the traction control off (but leave the ESP to catch you) and it would tackle twisty mountain passes with gusto (and a gloriously gurgly straight-six soundtrack. And for the inevitable trundles though towns and villages, there's the start-stop mode, refined drivetrain and cosseting cabin to keep you a) frugal and b) comfortable.
When the roads were boring, our particular 335i had plenty to keep me entertained, too, with the usual iDrive iPod hook-up complementing a cracking sound system. The gadget count was through the roof, too, with a thoroughly effective head-up display (a class first) auto-dipping headlights, camera-based speed limit detection system, cruise control, reversing cameras (back and sides), lane departure warning, electric seats, an electric sunroof and plenty of other fiddle-worthy goodies.
So the moral of the story? Don't voluntarily attempt a 700-mile one-day trek on your own (at least without caffeine-based support). But if you do have to do it, it's hard to think of a better tool for the job than the new BMW 335i.
PS - full and 'proper' driving impressions coming soon