Test Mules and Train Rides

What began as a bet with myself turned into one heck of a day, one of the most memorable solo days in a car not on a track in a long time. The “bet ” or shall we call it a race- was if I could beat high speed rail back home after picking up an unnamed press demonstrator in Munich. Mind you I was taking the Inter City Express, or ICE for short, Germany ‘s version of a bullet train. According to the DB schedule and the website ‘s estimates my trip would be just over 90 minutes including a transfer. ViaMichelin.com estimated my time in the car on the return trip to be 10 minutes longer- hog wash!

I happened to miss the afternoon rush hour escape from Munich thanks to careful planning. This plan centered around my hopes to get on the autobahn when it was after dinner and most Bavarians would be settling down for the night at home after eating a heavy dinner. I ‘d like to think of my plan as a smart one and smart people tend to think alike (or so people say), so to my surprise I saw some headlights I was not familiar with in my dazzle dipped rear view. These lights were insanely bright, looked very white and LED lit, as the car closed on me I saw squared off Angel Eyes. Could this be my first real life encounter with a moving F30 3 Series?

You bet your lederhosen it was! The test engineer had the same idea of hitting the comparatively empty autobahn. Soon after seeing those headlights I had to slow from my rapid pace because there was road work ahead and we were forcibly filed into congestion. Luckily my press car (powered by an N53 DI inline six) was next to an F10 5 Series that was bred with an E90 3er with some strong E46 genes showing through so I could gawk a bit. While the F30 has grown a in size, it is not all that noticeable and the silhouette is very sporty and attractive. The more aggressive overall look is welcomed. The mule was red, with seemingly large wheels (I ‘d guess 19s) and a appeared to only have an exhaust out the left rear bumper. From the looks of it, it must have been a 328i with the sports pack (NOT M Sport) and the camo is coming off so more of the car can be made out.

As traffic began to break free we were side by side and as is typical on A9, where there are no limits you put that right foot through the floor. The inline six and all its direct injection glory was no match for…. a four cylinder turbo. We were side by side for a bit then the driver of the mule seemed to have nitrous button because that thing just left me in the dust- at over 200km/h. The N20 turbo four cylinder has more output than the current six (especially the 28i version the US sees) and it sure did show. The funny thing was that I was so fixed on the F30 I missed the E89 Z4 that was the wingman- also in N20 guise by the exhaust pipes. If I were to guess, there may be some software differences between the two cars and power delivery may be a bit different based on the way they took off.

The F30 was easily cruising at 150 mph when it left me in the dust, because I was stuck at the limiter and could go no more. In reality the inline six was just out of its comfort zone of free revving torquelessness. Forced induction a new design, and chassis reigned supreme- which is the way things should be. I have argued that the F30 will have little to offer as far as launching a new feature goes but there are some possibilities outside of standard fixed caliper Brembo brakes on all four corners. With most of the switch gear and interior coming from other stablemates the F30 is going to have to makes its big entrance with some new flashy software and my guess would be weather overlays within the Navigation, or maybe my eyes were just wanting to see things….

Back to that bet…. Anyone that reads this site regularly it is fairly obvious that there is no way that I ‘d let something with zero road feel beat me. The car won out by 7 minutes, but the real trick will be to see if I earned myself some tickets for the spots on A9 that are not limitless. Great day in car land, stay tuned for that review and some impressive news on BMWi.

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  • Adam

    Lucky you Michael!

    Then again you said it yourself not long ago that with you now in Germany it’d only be a matter of time before you started seeing some test mules.  I feel very positive and excited for the F30 and your comments about it (a heavily cladded test mule no less) reinforce it. 

  • goat

    I think the F30 will be fantastic… the only perhaps-legitimate criticism that may be thrown at it will be that it has grown in size yet again (current e90 is not exactly small, and frankly even the e46 was not that small) but otherwise I think it will be the most dialed-in model we’ve seen in quite some time. 

    The “race” against public transit was fun to read about too… looking forward to the rest of your story Michael!