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Use this search box to find information, advice and memoirs from my worldwide travels
Car Rental Company: Alamo
Company for Purchase: Expedia
Location: YVR – Vancouver Airport
Very easy to find from international arrivals, just follows signage out of door and walk less than 5 minutes where you enter a lower garage and all car hire companies are there.
Alamo and National share desks and there are 4 counters. Staff were very welcoming and was seen quick. My compact car was confirmed to me with hard sell but I did ask if they had any upgrade offers. They recommended they had a luxury car, a brand new 400km on clock BMW 3 Series for CAD $25 more. Since it was such a new car with built in GPS I went with this. As car was so new I was concerned about damage waiver and they confirmed it was an additional $5 to reduce any excess that would be $500 without. Staff were fast and friendly explaining to me clearly where the US border was, since I was staying down in Washington to go outlet shopping. Overall very friendly with clear directions to car. A great service and upon return asking how the vechile was in a warm friendly manner. Again Alamo prove themselves to be a great option in terms of staff service and pricing.
Other than the original compact car order, they had two upgrade options a family van or a BMW. The BMW was very new in fact on key it said 2017 3 series with only 400km on clock so went with that.
Car Review – BMW 3201 X Drive 2017
My first experience with a BMW and a somewhat premium sports sedan. I found the experience best described as a comfortable smooth ergonomic drive. Great interior look and feel, super responsive steering and handling. But it did have its weaknesses the suspension felt a bit overly bouncy and the car lacks good small storage options like US and Japanese cars. The console monitor looked great with a decent navigation system but there was no way to adjust the sound settings. For driving there is a feel of power but the acceleration lacks what you might expect. It was not say an exciting drive but smooth and comfortable great car for highway driving on smooth roads.
Seating was very comfortable, all side controls with easy to use electronic switches. You can even save your own setting under a number, great if your sharing the driving with someone. Headrest is also easily angled to support neck well. With arm rest on one side and central console storage box on the other, driving is great. At night the door arm rest has a dimmed light on it.
Firstly enjoyed the keyless controls that had a lovely touch of locking the car by pressing the BMW button and opening the boot. A Touch start button with fot on brake to start engine worked well with a auto stop button, handy in saving fuel in traffic.
BMW truly offers a wide angle small console monitor, looks great is not all that functional compared to other vehicles I have driven. Controls though are easy to understand using a circular dial control next to the hand brake with six buttons: Media – offering radio, line in, USB, Bluetooth, etc – all easy to use and Bluetooth was very easy to connect under the options menu. Com connects your phone and making calls using the dial to go thru your phones menu was of no issue driving on an interstate. Sound and volume of calls were good. NAV is the in-built GPS. This was easy to use and is much like Mercedes it shows a colorful display map and can zoom in and out. It does though lack real time information such as traffic and speed cameras that you would get with a Garmin & some other vehicles I have driven etc but however a small side screen shows a folder of your route stage by stage so you can see quite far ahead.
The menu button brings up a display of six choices, such to check the vehicle condition (tyres, oil etc) , notifications, connected drive (unsure what that was), Nav (GPS), calls and Bluetooth media. Unfortunately, you must use this dial as the monitor is not touch screen which kind of made it’s at a disadvantage when driving since it can be distracting since you have to look down which is of no issue compared to touch screen versions. Saying that after a few hours and I got very much used to it.
I did enjoy the automatic gear stick with its one button park on top as well as 3 options, reverse, neutral and drive- however it does offer a side plus and minus for manual control, but did not really figure this out in my day car hire. There is a clear button for sports and eco pro button, plus to turn anti skid off- very clear to see next to gear knob.
There are individual dial auto AC units on each front seat showing exact temperature and control of fan- quite handy, worked fast and warmed car up very quickly. Heated seats are also offered and other buttons such as window heaters are easily seen.
One weakness was the audio function, a CD player is offered and Volume is dial but there was no way, I found to configure the sound, something I like to do due to varied music I listen to. Therefore I found some of my music way too bassy and really wanted to adjust it.
There is a mode button but this just takes you back to media options not sound adjustments. However I am sure it exists somewhere but out of all cars I have hired this was the most unclear vehicle to find this.
The steering wheel feels very comfortable with an ergonomic grips, the controls are one of the most responsive of cars I have hired. It offers volume for music & phone functions on right hand side and also a one of the easiest cruise controls functions on it. The mode button shows the central computer display between the dials clearly showing outside temperature, speed, distance and you can select for immediate GPS or music playing display.
Automatic window screen wiper function was also offered which I have on my own car and find this most useful. The indicator on opposite side had good response with simple to change and not get stuck on which I find I suffer from when using an unfamiliar car.
This car offered a open roof which was nice, a screen pulls back to display the glass screen but you can have the roof just open rasied at back, great when I was driving in heavy rain and wanted fresh air in the car without water getting in. The controls above are very simple to use. There is also a clear SOS button under a cap so you wouldn’t accidentally hit it. In terms of power outputs there is a car power right between cup holders but USB and AUX is located inside the box, kind of annoying if you don’t have a long enough cable and wanted to see your phone etc.
Overall the controls were very good, though the dial looked premium it was not as good as a touch screen control monitor. The monitor though being wide angle was quite visually pleasing meeting a good size and sat navigation worked well. I just was disappointed I couldn’t find any sound setting controls.
Steering wheel and gear stick were excellent in terms of comfort of driving.
Space and Storage
The boot offers adequate space for a large suitcase or two- it does go back quite far. I would say you could fit two suitcases in there at ease.
There were cup holders in front with small laid area in front for your phone but I did find the console storage box quite small but did fit say a phone and wallet in it. This is also where the USB slot and AUX is located. However the side door panels do offer a decent amount of space for documents which came in handy when crossing US border needing all paper work etc. However no additional cup holder like you find on US cars.
The back seating area though did look spacious for two passengers but might be tight for three. Overall compared to US and Japanese cars the BMW did lack varied smaller storage options whether it be for drinks or sunglasses etc.
Driving was very smooth, you could feel the power but acceleration did take a longer than expected while to kick in. It certainly wasn’t slow but by no means did you feel any kick back from flooring it- perhaps because it is so smooth. The responsiveness was excellent of steering especially around corners. Car did have the odd bounce at stages of roads. Most of my driving was on interstate but say driving into tunnels, over bridges where road raises or hitting the central lane separators certainly made the vehicle feel it over obviously.
Generally a comfortable ergonomic car for the main interstate roads especially since the cruise control was so easy to set but certainly would not recommend unsmooth roads or say hills and winding roads. This maybe likely because it was so new meaning the suspension was overly sensitive. City driving though is ok unless there is speed bumps which the car feels roughly at slow speed, giving a huge bump. Braking however was very good and responsiveness was fast.
The audio had the following options: AM, FM, CD, USB, Line In/AUX and Bluetooth. Bluetooth was fairly easy to connect making the music show up on the monitor. However going into playlists was easier just to do it manually on the phone so not that user friendly. As mentioned I never found the audio settings and whilst the sound level was good and loud enough, it was a bit Beats audio in terms of how bassy sounds were even from a range of genres. Low frequencies were defiantly picked up more than high or mids. The sound though was warm but the bass needed lowering. I was very surprised a brand like BMW do not have a easy to find audio setting where as US cars Jeep, Chevrolet and even Japanese cars all had direct buttons to do this. It was certainly the weakness of the BMW.
I drove around 250 miles and it cost me CAD $39 or £24 therefore fuel efficiency is ok for type of vehicle. It was exactly half a tank.
The cost was originally £38 thru expedia for basic car then I upgraded for CAD $25 plus had zero excess for $5 meaning total cost was £62/ $105CAD. This was a very good price for a luxury sports sedan class of vehicle. I did very much enjoy the car though it was not the best car hire I have driven in terms of being a fun car to hire. However it was smooth and felt interesting to experience a BMW.