As a driving enthusiast, my eyes lit up when I was asked to review a BMW.
The marque is popularly regarded as the Ultimate Driving Machine so, yes, my inner boy racer went into overdrive.
But I was slightly disappointed when I was handed the keys to the BMW 216d Gran Tourer, a seven-seater multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). I quietly wondered if a people mover would live up to that billing.
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Still, the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer scored a good first impression; there was no mistaking its credentials as a member of the BMW family.
The iconic Kidney Grille, stretched headlights, dynamic contours and lines were synonymous with the marque.
The plush Dakota leather seats and fine interior trim also spelt luxury, setting it apart from most MPVs in the market.
Other bells and whistles included the BMW ConnectedDrive system, lane departure warning system, LED headlights, emergency call system, keyless entry and ignition, parking assistant, contactless tailgate function and an automatic start/stop function.
The Gran Tourer is the second MPV offered by the Bavarian marque after the Active Tourer.
They share the same design DNA, but the Gran Tourer is slightly longer, and powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine instead of a petrol engine.
My initial concerns about its performance proved to be unfounded.
Although the car only produces 116bhp, its abundant torque of 270Nm means that the car felt much quicker than the 10.9 seconds taken to complete the century sprint.
To make a comparison, this 1.5-litre diesel engine produces the same amount of torque as the 2.0-litre petrol engine found in the 3 Series.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Gran Tourer’s responsiveness.
In Comfort mode, (the default selection in the Driving Experience Control), the drive did not feel sluggish at all. The MPV delivered a smooth and comfortable city ride without much fuss.
The fun really started in Sports mode — the damper stiffened and the drive became a lot more engaging.
I could feel the bumps on the road, and it gave me the illusion that I was driving the car’s sportier cousin.
Thanks to the accurate steering and solid chassis, I could take on sharp bends and turns with confidence. Despite its size, the Gran Tourer was agile and nimble.
Having a heavy right foot will also not be too painful for the wallet. The manufacturer states that the 216d has a fuel efficiency of 22.7km per litre. As the car runs on diesel instead of the more expensive petrol, the cost savings will add up in the long run.
The sweet price point is a big draw. The Gran Tourer falls under Category A in certificate of entitlement (COE) bidding exercises and retails at $167,800.
It also enjoys a $10,000 rebate under the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS).
However, a more stringent Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) will kick in next year and the 216d will not only lose the rebate but also incur a $20,000 penalty.
Thus, prospective buyers have an incentive to buy sooner than later, to avoid paying more in 2018.
As a photojournalist with a lot of equipment, I was delighted with the Gran Tourer’s generous space.
The second row seats adults comfortably, although the third row is best left to the petite ones or children during long trips.
The boot space offers 560 litres with the seats up and a whopping 1,820 litres when the seats are folded.
One highlight was the contactless tailgate function. I simply had to move my foot below the bumper to open the tailgate — a godsend when I needed to load the car with both hands full.
I used to give MPVs the short shrift, assuming that they could not deliver the driving pleasure I desire. However, the Gran Tourer has shown me that it is possible to marry both space and drivability.
It is ideal for the family man who is a boy racer at heart.
I grew up watching my father drive, and I have inherited his love of cars.
Although I have a driving licence, I don’t have a car of my own, so I was thrilled to get the chance to test-drive the BMW 216d Gran Tourer.
But I was also concerned about its size and width.
To my surprise, when I picked up the car with my colleague Jun Liang, the Gran Tourer did not look intimidating at all.
In fact, you wouldn’t even know it was a seven-seater unless you peeked in and saw the seats in the third row.
After we received a quick lesson on the car’s main functions, I got behind the wheel and adjusted the mirrors and comfortable Dakota leather seat.
The seats can be adjusted electronically, so you don’t need to press or pull levers to move to your desired position.
Once you have found a comfortable position, you can lock in your specific adjustments.
I love listening to music when I drive, so I was itching to try the BMW iDrive system and test the car’s audio capabilities.
I activated the Bluetooth function on my mobile phone, and voila!, I could choose a song from any playlist on my mobile phone and the system would immediately play it and the rest of the playlist.
I didn’t have to turn the volume up too much for the music to play clearly through the surround sound system.
I got used to the feel of the Gran Tourer within minutes.
The car is automatically set in Comfort mode when you start the engine, so the ride was smooth and effortless.
Despite having a torque of 270Nm, it was easy to control the acceleration and braking. I found the acceleration a little slow, but once the car was at a higher speed, it felt more powerful than many cars I have driven.
Parking the car was a breeze, as it comes with Parking Assistant and Park Distance Control (PDC) functions.
When the car was in reverse, its LCD display showed how close I was to any object both at the front and back.
The function was particularly handy during the photoshoot, when I had to wiggle the car into precise positions at scenic spots.
Sometimes, it is the little things that stand out. I enjoyed testing the tailgate, which I could open and close just by waving my foot under the rear bumper.
But if you are worried that anybody can open the door, don’t be — only the person holding the car key can activate this function. After the vehicle is unlocked, anybody can open the tailgate.
I picked up my parents and brothers for dinner in the Gran Tourer, and was met with “oohs” and “ahhhs”.
To impress the men, I switched the car to Sports mode as I cruised down the expressway. Unsurprisingly, they pressed me to stay on Sports mode the entire time.
They loved the sound of the diesel engine and were impressed that despite driving the car the whole day, the fuel consumption (4.4 litres per 100km) was pretty good.
Families with older and taller children may find the space in the third row very tight.
My brothers are above the average height and they struggled to sit comfortably.
Overall, I enjoyed my drive with the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer. The car is great for families and drivers looking to enjoy a little power boost once in a while.
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