Saturday – The BMW Factor

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The Saturday morning run along Wiltshire‘s Great Ridge almost came unstuck today. Not because of the large number of shooters out, or the horse that spooked my dog. No, I just completely forgot that this X1 isn’t four-wheel drive.

So when I parked on the slippery bank, about 100 yards down a farm track, I didn’t take into account the ‘BMW Factor’. As everyone knows, rear-wheel drive Beemers are just rubbish on anything other than tarmac. Really rubbish.

My 6 Series refused to budge on a virtually flat track in the Cotswolds last winter  – an older 3 Series Touring was even worse, unless you chucked a couple of bags of coal in the boot.

My problem with any car that looks like a four-wheel drive is that it SHOULD also behave like a 4×4. What’s the point of paying for all that extra ground clearance if you can’t even pull away smoothly from a grass bank?

So while our xLine X1 is loaded with £5,000 of extras, I’d ditch the lot and go for the four-wheel drive model. Then I could park on grassy banks without any worries.

Sunday – A Car For All Seasons

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Jeremy It’s the last day for our 6 Series Convertible and, predictably, it’s raining! The soft-top has been down for about 20 minutes in ten days. What the hell happened to spring?

Despite the climatic challenges, this is the most accomplished convertible on the market today. It is an outstanding grand tourer, eating up the miles on our trip to Le Mans, as well as coping with cobbled streets and twisty A-roads en route through Normandy.

Big convertibles can look clumsy and awkward (just consider the Mercedes E-class) but the BMW is eye-catching from every angle. A sophisticated and elegant machine, can you think of a cabriolet that ticks quite so many boxes?

Jessica The BMW is so refined that for a convertible, you wouldn’t know it was a soft-top. The rear end is much prettier than the previous version, with a much more sculpted boot line. It’s a convertible that works on every level, with so much technology, refinement and style that it more than merits the price.

Saturday – Toys For Boys

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Jeremy It’s cold, wet and almost halfway through April. The only good news is that Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Chinese Grand Prix. Ever wondered what a Formula 1 racing driver does when they are sat in on the grid for endless minutes before the start?

I asked ex-driver Martin Brundle the same question a few months back – he told me it was all about focus and concentration. At least when I’m stuck in a traffic jam, the 6 Series has plenty to keep me entertained.

This morning, I discovered the iDrive infotainment system can log on to the internet when the car is stationary. You can then use Google Earth information to request photographs of any destination you have keyed into the satellite navigation system. How clever is that?

The sat nav screen can be split to show a route on one side, and other information on the other – or you can have one giant screen showing the route instead.

Of all the information on tap, my favourite has to be the car status page, which uses a picture of the BMW and numbered areas around the bodywork. Select a number and you can clock through to everything from tyre pressures to the windscreen washer bottle level.

Sadly, there is nothing to adjust the miserable British weather, so the Convertible   may be collected before we can really enjoy the power hood and sunshine and report back.

 

 

 

Friday – Don’t Mess With My BMW

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Jeremy It’s a typically French thing to do. Having lived in the Midi Pyrenees for 18 months I feel justified in saying that many French people have no respect for cars.

So perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised when a woman on the Brittany Ferries ship lazily opened her car door against the bumper of the 640d and didn’t show a trace of remorse. Even though I was sat in the driver’s seat and at least four other motorists saw her do it, no apology was forthcoming.

The upshot? Well, if you are going to whack the door of a Citroen Picasso against a robust BMW, chances are you will come off worse. Her year-old MPV now has a lovely crease in the paintwork and the Beemer is unblemished.

It’s ironic that we took the 6 Series Convertible to France hoping for sunshine. It poured down for most of the trip! Today I’m hoping to finally drop the roof as England sees the first signs of spring. Will let you know how it goes tomorrow…

Thursday – 6 Series Motoring Masterclass

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Jeremy After 25 years of driving cars for a living, a milestone has been reached with the BMW 640d. A brief calculation suggests I’ve tested some 1200 new models and owned at least 30 – few of which have lasted longer than six months in the garage (2012 started with a 5 Series Touring, which morphed in to a Boxster, then a new style Beetle and finally became a 630d Coupe).

Apart from a Porsche 993 Targa in 1997 and a Caterham 7 in 2001, only the 630d has come close. So, as CarCouture waits on the seafront at Caen for the ferry home, the new 640d we have on test is going straight to the top of the pile – it’s one machine I don’t want to part with.

Why? Well, I thought my own 630d was one of the most competent, well-built and equipped cars I have ever driven. Sure, a 911 goes faster, a Caterham is more fun and a Ferrari turns heads but as a package, the 6 Series takes some beating.

Compared to the old 630d, the 640d feels very similar. The technology has advanced, with head up display, keyless entry and even more seat adjustment but otherwise, I wouldn’t say there is an awful lot of difference between them. And I loved the 630d – so the 640d is just that little bit better.

It’s a very grown up, sophisticated and stylish convertible that wants for little, apart from easier access to the rear seats and better rear view visibility. I still have the weekend to fall out of love with the BMW but it just isn’t going to happen….

Sunday – Le Mans. Twinned With Bolton

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Jeremy After a day at sea yesterday, CarCouture has swept in to Normandy, home of the greatest motoring endurance race in the world. The Le Mans 24 Hours will celebrate its 90 anniversary this June and we’ve brought the BMW 6 Series Convertible to any petrolhead’s favourite French city.

To be truthful, the outskirts of Le Mans has little to recommend it. The 6 Series stood out like a diamond necklace at a fairground. With British number plates, it wasn’t always a welcoming smile either. However, the centre itself is incredibly beautiful. A walled Plantagenet city on the side of a hill, the BMW squeezed through narrow streets originally designed for horse and cart with surreal grace.

Jessica has a sore back after being bundled over by a runner on a pavement in London last week, so we’ve travelled down from Cherbourg with the 6 Series suspension on ‘Comfort’ mode. I’m itching to slip into ‘Sport’ because the 640d obviously packs a mighty punch for a large car. It is such a sophisticated touring machine, I could have quite easily carried on driving across Europe until we reached the Med.

Favourite features so far? Head up display on the windscreen, which can be usefully programmed to project our speed in KPH, rather than MPH, auto-dip headlights and the shape of the convertible roof. It has flying buttresses, like Le Mans Cathedral itself.

BMW hasn’t won at Le Mans since 1999 but tomorrow we are going out with a pro driver around the Bugatti Circuit in something interesting. More when I’m managed to settle my stomach afterwards.

And yes, Le Mans is twinned with Bolton. Not even the tourism office here knows why…