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Are BMWs Good Cars? What We Learnt From the BMW Asia Test Fest 2023

In a recent event organised by BMW Asia, we had the unique privilege of test driving an entire range of BMW and MINI cars across the span of one afternoon - hopping from one car to the next in a road trip style journey around Singapore that allowed us to put the various cars through their paces. For anyone who has ever wondered if BMWs are good cars, this was the perfect opportunity to put things to the test. Here is the list of cars that were on offer during the drive:

  1. BMW 216i Active Tourer

  2. BMW 318i Sedan

  3. BMW 330i Touring

  4. BMW X1 sDrive16i

  5. BMW X5 xDrive40i

  6. BMW i4 eDrive35

  7. BMW M2

  8. BMW M3 Touring

  9. BMW XM

  10. MINI Electric Collection

  11. MINI Cooper Convertible

An Incredible Amount of Diversity

We test drive and review a good number of BMWs each year as each new model gets released, and while we are aware that the cars are often available in different variants, it's not always easy to recognise the diversity that each sub variant offers, as we might be testing these cars weeks or months apart from each other. However, when given the unique opportunity to drive these cars back to back in the same afternoon, it becomes quite evident how BMW as a group has taken efforts to ensure that each car they roll out caters to a slightly different consumer. And yet, still conforms to a certain DNA that has defined BMW and MINI cars for so long - and that is their drivability across the entire range.

Good examples are the X1 and the Active Tourer, BMW's entry level cars in this test lineup. While both share the exact same platform and drivetrain, they feel like very different propositions to own through their different form factors. Yet, if you close your eyes and rev up the cars, you'll know you're in a BMW.

Another clear example would be the range of 3 series cars we drove, from the entry level 318i Sedan, to the top of the line BMW M3 touring - not forgetting the very endearing BMW 330i Touring. Put all three cars on a racetrack, and it's obvious that the M3 Touring would obliterate its siblings - but the M3 Touring isn't inherently better, nor it's siblings inherently worse. The cars are just built for different people and for different purposes - but they all do their job tremendously well.

BMW M Cars Continue to Shine

With the introduction of the first hybridised BMW M car in the form of the monstrous BMW XM, there is no doubt that M fans from around the globe will be wondering what the future lies for M cars. During the test, we were able to get behind the wheel of 3 of BMW's latest M cars - the XM, the M3 Touring, and the M2 Coupé. If there was any doubt about the capabilities of today's M car, they were well and truly allayed after very promising displays from all 3 cars.

In the M3 Touring, we finally get to experience a car that we have always longed for, an estate version of the legendary M3 - a supremely well rounded product that captures the imagination in a way that only a few cars like the Audi RS6 Avant can. In the M2 Coupé, we are savouring the end of a chapter, as the M2 Coupé will likely be the last M car to be available in rear wheel drive only. And in the XM, we get a teaser of the future of BMW M cars, where instead of pursuing fuel economy, hybridisation has been employed to create the most powerful car BMW has ever built.

BMW 330i Touring & BMW i4 Impress

In an afternoon filled with some pretty hardcore M cars, it is somewhat surprising, and also somewhat pleasant that "civilian" models like the 330i Touring and i4 stole the show and left the greatest impression among all the cars.

While the BMW M3 is undoubtedly the king of hill when it comes to the 3 series lineage, I couldn't help but feel that the 330i Touring was the more emotional car, delivering a driving experience that was organically joyful - not because it was the quickest or most expensive, but because it was just genuinely joyful to drive. Of all the cars I drove that afternoon this was the one that put the biggest smile on my face.

I'll admit that prior to today I never quite paid much attention to the i4. I had always just seen it as the point of parity electric sedan that BMW had to produce to keep up with the times. However, amongst its petrol powered stablemates that day, I discovered a serenity and comfort in the i4 that I've now come to greatly appreciate. It's also deeply encouraging that despite being an EV, it still retains a uniquely BMW flavour.

The experience was a really eye-opening one to say the least - I started the day excited about BMW's M cars, but I finished the day with the deeper appreciation about what the entire range of BMW and MINI cars have to offer at varying price points, for different consumers.


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