Tuesday – Hands Free

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Jeremy It’s impossible scribbling about the V40 without coming back to safety features. So today I set out to test the Park Assist Pilot – the system that allows the car to steer itself into a parking space.

Now, I’ve been lucky enough to drive a Formula One car, scream around Le Mans in a race-winning Peugeot, and hitch a seater with mad motorcyclist Robbie Maddison but I think I was more nervous about letting a car park itself with me in the driver’s seat.

With Pilot switched on, I drove the V40 along a quiet road with parked cars either side. The system actually identifies a space that is big enough and once I had come to a stop, I took my hand off the wheel, engaged gear and gently accelerated.

I was parking between a 2011 Range Rover and a Fiat 500 – so I was quite anxious not to ding either. The steer wheel automatically starts to turn as the car goes backwards, slowly, slowly putting you perfectly into the space.

When the V40 comes to a stop, all I had to do was engage first gear and again, the steering was done for me. It took two reverse moves and two forward to complete the parking operation but it worked perfectly.

That said, I can park equally as well and much quicker! However, if you aren’t a great parker and like the reassurance of Pilot, it’s probably well worth the money.

 

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.

Tuesday – Singing in the Rain

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Jessica We have left the contrasting elements of Le Mans behind, from the medieval city with Roman walls, cobbled streets (frequented by Hollywood filmmakers for movies such as Cerano de Bergerac), 14th Century stained glass in the cathedral on an epic scale, to the vast expanse of the Le Mans 24 hour circuit poised for the next pilgrimage and we are off to visit Giverny the home of Monet and his garden.

The BMW takes us with absolute ease and comfort through very British driving rain across expanses of open countryside on roads which, despite the conditions, are hugely enjoyable to drive on, overtaking (with a handy co pilot for vision) is a breeze and the heads up display keeps you up to date with your speed it feels very Top Gun fighter jet.

Sadly due to weather we did not speed drive around Le Mans in a Bugatti or have the roof down on the BMW for any length of time but the car was no less appealing and satisfying to drive as a result.

My only difficulty with this car so far is planning my seating position with the seemingly infinite buttons to be pushed, pulled lifted or pressed, I found being a passenger most testing as somehow I could not get the ideal position for a long drive. (Could be my build of course, however you would have thought with all that choice, being above average height would not be an issue).

Monday Car Courreges

Jessica We have reached Le Mans and it feels like I have been cocooned in a Courrege car, the all off-white interior with black trim feels luxurious, and a little futuristic (as it may have looked from the sixties).  The spirit of Courrege and his engineering background not only reflect the interior of the BMW but the spirit of invention, daring and technological prototyping that is intrinsic to Le Mans.  It is a fitting coincidence that we have this particular car in black with a white interior for this trip.

Jessica and BMW 640d Convertable at Le Mans

Opening the roof is pure Stanley Kubrick as the whole car takes charge with a series of window moves, automatic folds, lifts and sounds of hidden mechanisms, where you the driver become infinitely secondary to proceedings.

So far I am throroughly enjoying this car, it is intuitive, feels safe despite the speed possibilities and is far removed from what you would imagine a diesel car to be and if you consider Audi won Le Mans in a diesel hybrid there is definitely more to come.

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…

Thursday – Too Many Horses…

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Jeremy I’ve spent the day interviewing Pippa Funnell – the equestrian rider who is probably Britain’s most successful, three-day event sportswoman.

Driving the Mini GP 100 miles to her Surrey stud was hard work, especially on the motorway stretches where noise levels are high. Then snow started to fall and the hills around Forest Green are riddled in deep, back crunching potholes. Not pleasant in a car with such robust suspension.

Exchanging the GP’s 215bhp for one horsepower should have been a more relaxing ride, except a highly tuned dressage horse is even less forgiving than an F1 car. At least the horse and the GP have one feature in common – an excellent heated seat.

The GP is heading back to Mini UK tomorrow and CarCouture will be exchanging keys for a BMW 6 Series Convertible, with the sublime, high-powered diesel engine. As we’re fed up with British weather, the plan is to take it over to France and check out the delights of Le Mans

You can read about my riding exploits with Pippa in next weekend’s Financial Times Magazine.