The legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar, takes a look at the 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi in what may be a transcription of a period review.
[The article seems to have been first published in the Clitheroe Morning Register, May 17, 1972. The original photos were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the images stock photos have been used.]
In these increasingly competitive times, it is now essential that manufacturers must offer continual improvements every year on a rolling basis. The time when a car could be launched and left unchanged for ten to twelve years are long past, except at Citroen, whose antediluvian DS goes back to 1955. With an eye to staying ahead of the pack, BMW, the specialist maker of sporting saloons, has had another stab at another revision to their slow-selling coupé, the 3.0. With its awkward appearance and lack of space, BMW need to do all they can to
keep up with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ford and Triumph. Thus last year the 2800 CS (appalling) was replaced by the 3.0 CS which has the same body and a bored-out engine, some chassis revisions (undetectable) and disc-brakes. This year the BMW people have drip-fed another change, fuel-injection. According to the press chap, this gives the car another 31 bhp and an excuse to send scores of journalists on wild-goose tours around southern Germany.
What else is there about the BMW 3.0 CSi? It’s a kind of glorified Ford Consul two-door, I suppose. BMW have used an all-steel monococque (quite conventional now) moved along somewhat by the venerable iron-block, alloy head single overhead cam 2988 six banger, all topped off with a Robert Bosch gmbh D-Jetronic fuel injector apparatus. This device obviates the requirement for carburetors which is a pity as they are great fun to play with. The carbs on my Wolseley never stay fettled for more than a week meaning Mondays are often spent fiddling about with oil, rags, spanners and screwdrivers.
That BMW half-a-dozen engine produces 200 hp at 5000 rpm and oddly, the maximum torque is 200 lb ft at 4400 rpm or so. It’s an even calabash, you could aver. Four forward speeds make up the gear change possibilities. BMW aren’t renowned for their willingness to break new ground with suspension so for this car don’t be surprised when I inform you that it has MacPherson struts at the forward end and, at the rear, semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and an anti-rolling cross brace. ZF provide the steering system, a power-assisted worm-and-roller set-up which seems not to be anywhere as good as Bristol and a lot worse than Mercedes’ attempts at this job. Discs all around slow down the car when a lack of petrol hasn’t done so.
BMW gave us the keys to a startlingly orange test-car and poor Land-Windermere had to be rolled up like a garden hose and stowed in the laughable back seats while my smokes were placed on the passenger seat, as is the norm on these kinds of trips. The seats are nicely bucketed, it must be said so the Craven “A”‘s didn’t fly about too much under hard cornering and so were always within reach.
A slender steering wheel dominates the darkly vinyl cabin and a slather of wood (very fetching) extends across from the left door to the right door via the dashboard. A binnacle effort lodges a bit like a timid penguin ahead of the driver. A big, wide Alfa-Romeo-style console packed with rocker switches takes centre stage. To my mind the interior has not enough chrome and the exterior has far too much. It is a wilfully contrary car.
I turned the key and the iron block sprang to life and off we went, with a plan to do a little autobahn, a little local driving and some general ambling about to see if the BMW was anything more than an over-priced Vauxhall. Initially I took it easy, struggling to get out of Munich in ferocious mid-day traffic (on a Sunday!) and ended up pointed east, to Feldkirchen and carried on to Oberbayern for the rest of the day, stopping now and again for some wheatbeers on this unseasonally hot spring day.
Travelling at normal sorts of speeds, one really doesn’t notice too much that is special or costly about the 3.0 CSi and many Ford customers would not feel as if they were missing out much should they take this model for a test drive. To get anything out of the car one must exercise a lot of effort to stamp hard on the accelerator pedal and even then, it is only when one glances at the dial that one realises how fast one might be going.
We covered a lot of ground this way before a shortage of petrol and hunger drew the car into the driveway of the Hotel Zugspitze. Bavarian noodles for me, topped with a creamy mushroom sauce, and plenty of the local brew. Great stuff and more than enough to take one’s mind off the driving. The more I think about it, the more disappointing the 3.0 is: there is no mallet-to-the-kidneys as you get in a Jaguar or Bentley.
The steering is vague and during moments of opposite lockery on the tighter lanes, it felt like a bit of a handful to keep things in line. I notice that a sudden reduction in throttle doesn’t consistently make the rear end step out. It might, it might not. So you never can quite tell if you either need to wind on a lot more steering or twirl against the tide to correct any oversteer. The 3.0 CSi seems to have the rear end of a Volvo at the front and the front end of a TVR at the back. The brakes work though. Ride quality? It’s not really important for this type of car.
The ashtray is alright as well, by the same token.
After a bit of a late start after a late lunch, I found the nearest “Autobahn” and headed north east with an eye to seeing how this GT of sorts handled such demands. Wind noise, says my notebook. Tyre roar. Deggendorf to Regensburg disappeared in two hours and Nurnburg another one and a half. The six seems to inhale fuel and throw it directly out the back of the car. I recorded 15 mpg on the Autobahn and frequent fuel stops more or less in time for my wish for a double smoke.
I stopped at a lot of service stations. After an evening meal somewhere in the vicinity of Frankfurt, I halted to for the day, still not the wiser about the purpose of BMW’s two door. They already have a two-door, the 2002 which isn´t very much slower or much less spacious than the 3.0 CSi. It is a bit shorter on the outside and there is less wood inside.
The following day we crossed the Black Forest, taking local roads from Karlsruhe to Stuttgart which offered more opportunities to test the torque as well as the brakes. All we did was use up fuel so the car literally rolled downhill into some small town where there was, luckily, a petrol station. The scenery around these parts is very nice, it must be said and the BMW’s big windows afforded a clear view out. Land-Windermere looked up out of the big, rakishly slanted rear window for most of the time. He said it was a good rear window.
I suppose if I had to sum up, I’d say the 3.0 CSi is a bit better than the car it replaces and it has decent seats. However, for the money involved, there are several other manufacturers offering a better deal on this kind of car. Alfa for style and Mercedes for comfort and Ford for value and style and comfort. Even Vauxhall’s Manta can claim a lot of advantages over the 3.0 CSi, even if it is in a different class.
With the competition hotting up for customers, it is smaller firms like BMW who have most to fear and without a doubt, BMW will have to provide something more than these warmed up two-door cars if they are to steal the thunder from Lancia, Triumph and MG.
Note: Due to a transcription error the word “Alvis” was mistakenly used instead of “Triumph” in the initial publication of this article.