THE CD PLAYER’S DISCS
The leathered steering wheel has an air-bag fitted for the driver’s protection but the second glove-box on top of the passenger’s side of the dashboard remains just that, a glove-box, rather than containing an air bag for the passenger as is the case with some luxury vehicles. The thickly carpeted boot is rather small _ cramped by BMW’s complex rear suspension.
Fuel use of the large engine is far lighter than expected, which is a tribute to the design. It has all the latest design tweaks to make it both fuel efficient and simple to service, a secondary aim sometimes forgotten. Around the city, the fuel figure on test was a thirsty 16.4litres a 100 kilometres. This dropped in the country to a reasonable 11.9 litres a 100 kilometres.
HOW TO MANAGE THE ENGINE
The engine’s massive torque, as expected of the five litres capacity, flattens hills and makes highway overtaking safer and quicker. The four speed ZF automatic transmission makes its shifts smoothly and definitely. Engine management is linked to it in the usual way today so that engine torque is reduced during gearchanges.
Acceleration feels seamless with only an exhaust note change and the flick of the tachometer to mark gear shifts as the car’s speed rises. There are power and economy gear-change programs combined with a third to allow manual use of the lever. Starting off on ice is something of a bother not often encountered in Australia but the 850Ci will manage it with a combination of using higher gears and its Automatic Slip Control (ASC).
ASC links the anti-lock ABS brake sensors, which monitor wheel movement, to the car’s throttle to form a sort of accelerator override. If the rear wheels slip, the slip is first countered by the ABS system gripping the spinning wheel and then reducing the engine’s power by closing off the throttle. It works. It is also something of a fun-bypass for those who may enjoy a little wheel slip in a sports car. .
As a result, BMW has a switch _ as does Honda with its sports NSX _ which allows the driver to bypass the ASC and have a little fun. The next time the driver turns on the car, however, the ASC is automatically reactivated. There is another nice touch in the speed and grip management systems. If the driver has wound down all the windows and is accelerating, the door windows are wound up again automatically when speed reaches 140kmh.
The driver can override this if desired. Luxury best component speakers differ from those which are less expensive in their level of automation and their provision of driving ease, as much as their luxury finish and equipment. While the 850Ci has ample muscle, it is not in the supercar class. It is obviously fast and it has an impressive reserve of power at any speed permitted in Victoria.
It remains a splendidly detailed grand tourer, a cruiser rather than a wheeled blur. Off the mark, the 850Ci’s 0-100 sprint takes a whisker over eight seconds _ reflecting that this is a 1790 kilogram heavyweight rather than a light sports car. The zoom comes with minimal fuss and plenty of aplomb, the steady push forcing the driver to focus further ahead than usual in order to anticipate trouble. From a policeman’s perspective, the car will cruise lock-you-up fast rather than tap-on- the-wrist fast.