Broken Coyote

A Dog's Eye View of The World

- don't you just wish that you could make half the speed I do?

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Sometimes, It's Not Good To Be Right
After having returned my León to the dealer at the end of its leasing term (with a whole load of stone chipping on the right side of hood), I got a BMW 330d x-drive station wagon as a temporary car.

Remember how I wasn't at all happy after checking out a 3-class BMW? It turned out that I didn't get any happier actually driving one.

Let's mention the positive things first: most of all, its engine. It's a powerful, mean-sounding, smooth-running, straight-six diesel. With winter tyres on, I can't check out how fast it is altogether since they're limited to 210 kph, but I expect it to be able to easily hit the 250 kph mark, where it'll be governed at. [Edit: it turned out later that it's governed at 258 kph.] On the other hand, it's about as fast as any other car with about 230 hp. The AWD (x-drive) provides an impressive "traffic-light start" acceleration, too.

And there's the distinctive BMW look.

And it's roomy with a huge moon roof (after all, it's a station wagon and has the space for that).

And the strips of alcantara on the seats provide a very nice feeling.

And it has keyless access and the audio system sounds fine.

So far, so good, but it about ends here.

The rest started when I picked up the car hearing the words "it needs to go to the garage during the next days, there's oil on the transmission." I also found out that the USB connector in the glove compartment doesn't work. It is used for copying MP3 files to and from the internal drive. And after opening the moon roof, I found a rubber gasket hanging down from its rear end. I stuffed it back into the space between headlining and roof and told a company secretary to notify the garage.

When it came back from the service, the secretary told me waht the shop had said. The oil on the transmission comes from "somewhere" and means nothing. The USB port is "for service only". And they couldn't find anything wrong with the moon roof. About the USB port, I showed the secretary a quote from the user manual saying what it's really to be used for. About the moon roof... I opened it again, which resulted in the following:

I left it that way, and, eventually, the gasket fell onto the rear seat, where it still lies.

But there's more.

First, the price. It matters since I have to pay income tax on the car. I wonder how the previous owner managed to pay this much for the car, which apparently doesn't have all that many extras. Well, first it's got the "M" sports package for more than 6000 Euros. The most noticeable effect it seems to have is to provide an ugly aluminum trim in the interior. There's the big satnav system, the moon roof, keyless access and the partially alcantara-covered seats and not much else, for a total of 65k euros.

And the satnav is just a big annoyance. If I want to drive from A to B, I may or may not enter that route into the satnav, but either way, I like to be able to check the traffic situation on alternate routes. Like taking the A8 or A6 going towards Frankfurt. In my León, used to hit the "Traffic" button and scroll to "A6", "A8" and "A81" in the list of traffic announcements and know what's going on. Sorted by road name, they're easy enough to find.

Not so in a BMW. You take the control knob and scroll through a menu until you see the small "traffic information" symbol, then you press down the knob to see the list. And someone thought it's a very neat idea to list the traffic announcements by distance. That's right! Standing downtown, I get a list that goes "B14, B27, L1100, B27, K13, A8, A81, A8, A6..." Of course it tells me about the incidents on the calculated route right away, but everything else needs to be thoroughly searched for. If a traffic jam on the autobahn towards Munich and on some irrelevant overland roads are closer than the traffic jam on the autobahn I want to take, they get listed first.

And in that list, you'll see things like "A8, traffic jam, between Someplace and Anywhere, 45 km". First question: "where are Someplace and Anywhere? Towards Karlsruhe or towards Munich?" Second question: "45 km?" Oh no, that's not the length of the traffic jam. That's the distance from my current position. Pretty useless for getting an oversight about the general traffic situation. If I drive southbound for 400 km from central Germany, I have to dial through the list until I find stuff that's farther away to be sure that it's not relevant to me anymore. But before that, I got to look through all of the traffic jams between Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne and Munich.

Driving to your destination, you'll notice that there seems to be no setting that makes the satnav display upcoming rest stops on the roadmap. Neither does it display map-based speed limit information. It's arguably useless anyway, but with everybody else doing it, why can't they? It also takes a while to make it find gas stations. Compare:

León: hit button "Nav" to enter the menu. Touch "gas stations". Get a list of gas stations to pick from by touching or turning and pushing a knob, select "as new destination" or "as waypoint" by touching.

BMW: hit control knob and dial towards "destinations". Push knob. Dial "special POIs" (points of interest), push knob. Dial "location", push knob, select "in my vicinity", push knob. Select "type of POI", push knob, select "traffic", push knob, select "sub-category", push knob, select "gas stations", push knob, select the station desired, push knob, do the waypoint/final destination stuff.

Once having refuelled and being back on the autobahn, you'll get annoyed by the cruise control lever, being placed below the signal/high-beam lever. I still accidentally hit it when I actually want to turn on the signals. And I still sometimes signal when I actually want to turn off the cruise control. Or hit the "on-board computer" button when I actually wanted to re-engage the cruise control. Well, that's how the Audis and the Passat were as well, though. Seems like a spreading disease.

Driving further on, it eventually gets dark. Did I mention how I considered the high-beam assistant to be useless during my test ride? It is useless indeed. It works best, but still not good enough, on lonely overland roads. Or actually, only there. And I hate how it seems to override my decision to use high-beam. I flick the high-beam switch with no traffic around... and nothing happens for a second or two, probably until the sensor verifies that there is indeed nothing around.

Feeling thirsty, you grab for your drink that's standing in the ("the" as in "the only one") retractable can holder. Though "standing" is a bit of an euphemism, as this can holder neither holds a can of Rockstar or a bottle of Coke or a McDonald's cardboard cup upright. Instead, all of them eventually topple over to hang in there at quite an angle. At least nothing actually falls out. (There is another cup holder for the passenger, but that's totally inaccessible from the driver seat, being on the far right of the car. The León had three "deep hole" type holders in the central console.)

Grabbing your can, you take a sip, and try to put it back into the cup holder. Which, located unusually far away in front of the passenger seat, is not illuminated in any way, not even by the ambient light. So you'll spend a few seconds trying to find it in the darkness.

Then you'd like to take a chewing gum from their "pill bottle" container inside the only small-sized storage compartment within reach, which is inconveniently located underneat the arm rest. Try it - the area immediately underneath your elbow is not the most accessible one. It's also quite tiny, it won't take much more than the chewing gum bottle and my smartphone. Of course, there's also the door compartment, but it's too large to store small things.

You feel in the mood for a special song. Thankfully, you have an MP3 stick with lots of music on it. Some albums, located in subdirectories inside each artist's directory) and a random collection of songs within another directory. The latter is already playing. You dial-and-push your way to the music selection and get the list of song titles. Ordered by file name. I guess - it's either that or by artist name. Which wouldn't be bad if the file/artist name were actually displayed, but it isn't. So to find a certain song within a rather long list, you need to scroll, spot a random title, remember what the file name would be, and then estimate how far and in which direction you have to scroll now. Rinse, wash, repeat, until you found your song.

Maybe you recall how I was miffed at some other cars not being able to shuffle across the whole music collection. At least not without placing a song in the root folder and enabling "shuffle over subdirectories" while playing it. This car doesn't even allow to include subdirectories in shuffling. Or even regular playing, as it appears. So no "play all songs by Mark Knopfler, in a random order". Or "all albums by Mark Knopfler". What it allows, though, is to "play all songs by Mark Knopfler, in alphabetical order" by searching for him. Far from perfect. Maybe it works better after copying my collection to the internal disk, but alas, the USB connector that's to be used for this is broken.

I miss having a "driver's display" on the instrument panel. In my León, I could make it display the music information or whatever else I want at the push of a button on the steering wheel. In the BMW, there's just the satnav's very wide main screen. I have to activate the "split screen" option to see two sets of information at once, like navigation to the left and music info to the right. If, for some reason, I switch the main part of the screen to music info (e.g. to look for a certain song), I have music info to the left and music info to the right. Making the split screen change its content is a bit of a hassle. I think I have to push the knob to the right twice, and then dial up "set split screen content" and then dial to whatever I want to see. It's quite inconvenient in my opinion, even more so that I still have to look at the main screen for my information (like turning info), and not at the driver's display right in front of me.

I also miss the compass a bit. The León had a permanent compass (one or two letters in the top left corner) shown in the driver's display. The BMW just has a tiny "North" arrow on the satnav. As the map (which, by the way, doesn't appear to have auto-zoom) turns, so does the arrow, and it always takes a bit of brain activity to figure out which direction I'm now heading into. "If the arrow points down there, that's south... and upside-down left is right and right, uhm, means east..."

As you see, even though the car's fact sheet is okay (a bit too little for that price), its practical usability is driving me nuts.

And why oh why, of all the things they could have placed there instead, is there an additional "air recirc" button on the steering wheel? Why not a pause/off button for the radio? Why not a cruise control toggle? If there's one button in a car that I rarely need, it's "air recirc".


My Golf is being assembled right now, the dealer said. It'll be delivered later this month. Hopefully.
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