Wednesday, August 07, 2013

BMW Self drive rental in Bangalore- My bimmer experience

A Mercedes Benz ad used to claim: Beg, Borrow, Steal.. or BUY. But there's now an another option to try our hands on luxury cars. RENT. If you can't afford to buy one (or don't want to buy one), you can rent them on need basis. Bangalore based Zoomcars (my earlier review here) has added BMW to their fleet and the brand new 320d s are now available for self drive.

We knew that Zoom had BMWs on their pipeline. I was expecting a rental of Rs 800 per hour/8000 per day. But the launch price was in the range of Rs 1249/12499. I felt it is on the higher side and within weeks rent was lowered to Rs 999 per hour/Rs 9999 per day. Now I was really tempted. I first thought of renting it for just a few hours and testing it out- then I felt that won't help much. In one or two hours can't go out of city and can't take any good photographs. So eventually I gave in to my temptation and booked for a day, which would make me poorer by 10k.

Before I got into the car, I had to set my own expectations right. 320d is the cheapest variant in 3 series family and sans several features deemed standard in much cheaper cars (see the full list here- what you don't get for 33 lakhs). I seriously missed sun roof, Xenon headlamp and DRL, among other things

I reached Blr, went straight to the pickup point and the white new Beamer was waiting to be taken out. It had only 329kms on the Odo and within next 24 hours, I added another 400. I got into the driver's seat, my hands naturally moved under the seat to adjust it. Then I realized that it is electric. In mechanical seat adjustments, it takes just a few seconds to move as per our convenience, but in electric mode, one should wait for several seconds while the motor slowly moves the seat. I found this fairly annoying. Of course the seat has memory function (2 of them in fact) but I wasn't impressed with the maiden feature of BMW that I laid my hands on. Next my attention went to the transmission- which was automatic. I am not a regular user of automatic, but the control was fairly intuitive and one can get used in few minutes. An elevated transmission casing, which also houses a large storage box and a control knob to manage display & entertainment gives a premium feel experience. Additional options exist to toggle between sports and eco mode, enable/disable traction control etc.

My next observation was on the steering wheel. There was no cruise control, but only a limit switch. If set, car will offer resistance once this preset speed limit is touched. I tried the voice command, but for that to work, one should first configure the phone. Didn't have the patience to do that. Out of curiosity I tested if the car can start and stop on voice command (I said "BMW Start", inspired by a movie) and nothing happened.

Now it was time to drive out. Push button start and keyless entry made life simple. I wanted to pick up my fellow passengers and drive out as soon as possible. Didn't want to drive inside city and risk someone hitting/scrapping the car. After several minutes of waiting at the railway cross and some more waiting for a friend to join, we were on the Tumkur road.

My left leg started complaining that it isn't getting any action. Driving in automatic is convenient but is really boring. The joy of changing from 4th to 5th gear or 5th to 6th gear can't be had in an automatic. Soon we took a diversion towards Hassan. Original thought was to take Bangalore Mysore road, but that road has lots of humps and wasn't ideal for BMW. So we took Kunigal-Melukote-KRS-Mysore road. Thankfully the sky was clear when we started and got some intermittent rains, which helped in getting some great photos (Watch BMW photoshoot- first set)

BMW 3 series gets 184bhp of power, highest in its class (more than Merc C class and Audi A4) and it also gives great fuel economy, while being cheaper than competition. Hence it has been a good choice of fleet operators. A micro hybrid like technology stops engine if idle for few seconds and starts it back if gas peddle is pressed. The traction control display was confusion- On left side, an orange colour symbol would display Traction Control off, while another display in centre say Traction control activated. Anyways couldn't test these much. A sports mode button exists, but the difference was minimal.

Instrument cluster also feels traditional. I couldn't understand the 3rd gauge. I checked if putting in sports mode changes colour of display, but it doesn't.

3 series is good for 4 people only. While the car is fairly long, most of the length is occupied by the engine compartment and boot, leaving little for the passengers. 5th person will have to 'adjust' during long drive. Had to be extra cautious negotiating speed breakers

The entertainment system is not touch screen, has no navigation or no reverse camera. It felt fairly basic, with options to select FM stations and so on.

Rear doors get a built in curtain, which can be pulled up. If sun films are banned, use these to defeat the purpose of law. Otherwise the door feels basic.

Though 320d compromises on features, it doesn't compromise on safety. Lots of airbags, traction control, disc brakes on all wheels, hazard lights in case of abrupt braking, rain sensing wipers & auto headlamps ensure safety.  BMW has lots of Auto things, but they don't behave automatically, unless told to do so. I mean, auto wiper, auto light etc should be set to ON to work.
Rain sensing wipers are strong enough to handle extreme rains
Buying a 30 lakh car is one thing and maintaining them is another. Annual insurance for the car would come to 1.5- 2 lakhs, same as the price of Tata Nano. Ensuring that car clears big humps easily, ensuring that some idiot won't damage the car is all a tough task. Luckily all my self drives have been incident free so far.

While our ride was great, the places we visited flopped. In KRS there was no musical fountain. Next morning, entry to Chamundi hills was closed for private vehicles due to an annual festival

Eventually like all good things, my BMW ride came to an end. Had to return the W and get into TC... I mean return BMW and get into BMTC. If you want to try, week day rentals are 35% cheaper. Try

Overall I am not WOWed by the car.  It is nice to drive but misses on lots of things deemed standard in a car of this price range. Of course, higher variants of BMW 3 series come with more features. Chevy Cruze, priced half as much as BMW can offer similar to better experience in terms of power and; features. (Agree that Chevy doesn't command BMW's brand value)

View more BMW 320d photos here  * Read a Kannada article published in Vijaya Next on BMW rental *


Athenas Take said...

BMW is a total drivers pleasure car, the way she responds surely makes you want to go on and on and on.

Shrinidhi Hande said...


varun mishra said...

informative post about BMW self drivers, taxi for jaipur

Meghana Hassan said...

Wow, awesome...

Sanju Kimi said...

Nice log of the experience. Interestingly, there are not many experiences shares online on this.

I have one doubt though, Is there a speed governor on this car? I mean, a speed limiter which doesn't allow you to go beyond a particular speed? That would be a big downer for the overall experience.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

No speed governor on the car. Zoom has a policy on top speed- members are not supposed to drive beyond 125kmph

I agree it is little odd... Sitting in a BMW you need to crawl at 120kmph, while someone in Swift will overtake you and cruise at 150kmph. But such measures might be required as a safety precaution, as inexperienced drivers might end up speeding too much and lose control

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Meghana- Thanks

Sanju Kimi said...

Yes. Precisely the reason I asked.

I have hired multiple self drive cars with Carzonrent in mumbai and they never had any limitations imposed.

So, how are they going to track whether you are doing beyond 120 or not? GPS?

It's still does look odd. These days, almost all the roads going out of Bangalore are good enough for cruising speeds beyond 120 - Be it the nh4 Or the Airport road leading to hyd Or the hosur road leading to Chennai.

I guess that's where a high security deposit like other companies do (like carzonrent) would help. It would filter off most of the reckless drivers.

But, I am still curious on how they would track the speed without a governor?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Its GPS based tracking (distance/time=speed).

I am curious if we drive in small circle at very high speed will GPS be able to track speed (such as race track)

Even on Carzonrent XUV500 last month, I felt some kind of resistance from the engine at 150kmph, guess some speed governor is installed there as well (Ertiga I took in Jan didn't have any, could touch 160-165

Agree on ex blr roads- particularly one towards Kunigal is very good for cruising. If the purpose is reaching from A to B, 125kmph should not be a deterrent, but for driving enthusiasts, it will be. Carzonrent customers should have a credit card and by virtue of it, their identity, affordability and accountability is taken care.

Thanks for the comments