Journey into the heart of darkness
ODD CARS FOR AN ODD COUNTY
You may never have been to Lincolnshire and it is quite possible that, even should you live to a hundred, you won’t have the need to. Lincolnshire is one of those places… a yawning void of unknowness adjacent to the culturally pellucid counties of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Yorkshire has its Born-and-Bred-Geoffrey-Boycott-None-of-your-southern-bloody-nonsence guise and Nottingham its Shane-Meadows-Robin-Hood-Alan-Silitoe raiment of East Midlands gruff bravura. Lincolnshire, on the other hand, has a fat prancing fisherman in a yellow sou’wester and fields of brussels sprouts – and that’s only to people in the know. For most, Lincolnshire doesn’t exist.
The fact that such a county simultaneously occupies such a huge area of Britain and a cognitive blind spot seems amazing.
It is also, one may be forgiven for suspecting, what draws and keeps a certain type of person there. Let’s not beat around the bush, that certain type of person is a bit, shall we say, outside the normal. You may also be forgiven for believing that what is being referred to here is a sort of American Deep-South Redneck-style snaggle-toothedness where family trees are more like endless figures of eight. But you’d be wrong- Lincolnshire seems to be filled mainly with people who, on the surface, look perfectly normal.
This is a world of retirees, people looking to get away from it all, people who want or need space- a world of witness protection and illegal vodka stills. A world where, behind closed doors, things are going on that are at odds with the wagon-wheel embedded in the front walls and the Dunroamin signs.
A world where, behind closed doors, things are going on that are at odds with the wagon-wheel embedded in the front walls and the Dunroamin signs.
Which brings us to the two BMWs you see here. Both are the sorts of cars that your average person doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about, living as they do in the upper echelon of the marque’s (some might say ‘too’) extensive range. Both are strange beasts with something ‘more’ going on under their panels.
Because make no mistake, with their insane levels of tech, these Beamers are pretty whacko in their own inimitable ways.
Make no mistake with their insane levels of tech these Beamers are pretty whacko in their own inimitable ways.
Let’s start with the 7 series. As anyone knows, the executive limo is always an important car for the Germans. Tradition dictates that these Bertie Big-Potato howitzers are where the next generation of technology gets its first airing before filtering down to the plebs in the 3 and 5 series iterations.
Satnav, keyless entry, Infrared night-vision display and HUD all saw the light of day in the 7 series and the S-Class so when a new car comes out you can rest assured that it’s going to come loaded with a fair bit of tech swag.
Keyfob that can be used as a diminutive controller for moving the car out of tight spaces? No problem.
Tablet PC for controlling the entertainment from the back? It’s there.
Gestural touchscreen, 1400w B&W stereo, cameras on every exterior surface, heated and air-con seats front and rear? Naturally. The list of palatial finery is endless.
And under the skin? A mass of lightweight aluminium structural components for rigidity and mass savings complemented here and there with carbon fibre reinforced polymers. An overhauled suspension and acoustic shielding provide the sort of ride tranquility required by budding Alan Sugars to better hear themselves bellowing at subordinates over the phone.
The engine in this model is a 315 bhp 4 litre diesel that purrs from standstill to flat out- achieving the perfect balance between unobtrusive and get-away-anti-capitalist-thugs motoring.
In short the 740d, with its elegantly understated styling is the perfect car for those looking to operate under the radar whilst demanding a certain amount of luxury.
So that’s the surreptitious CEO covered for business miles but what about a little something for when the weekend rolls around? A car for when it’s time to cut loose, throw off the Saville Row, slip into something by Ralph Lauren or Gant and feel that agricultural Lincolnshire air rushing through the hair. Meet the BMW I8, the barking mad sports car that to the casual observer seems slightly too sensible to be convincing.
First of all, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Tell somebody that you are thinking about a sports car in this class and if you aren’t telling them you’ve been at the Porsche configurator all afternoon they’ll soon be looking at you like you’re wiggling free of your straight-jacket. After all, a hundred grand gets you a very nice 911 kitted out with the sorts of envy-inducing extras that boil the urine of your fellow petrol heads… a hundred grand of throaty, sport-exhaust packing, rear wheel steering automotive excellence. Or you can have this… a quiet, electromagnetic sled that looks like something standing in the corner of a cosmetic surgeon’s consulting rooms.
But hold on – it isn’t time to prepare the rubber room just yet. You see, what we have here is the future, today. And if history tells us anything it’s that those prophets who were a generation ahead of their time were wild-eyed loons ranting into the limitless void of the cosmos until they were proved right by the flow of time.
You see, the I8 is both utterly right for the world we’re about to find ourselves in whilst being a fantastic, albeit unfamiliar, driving experience to boot. Buy this car now and be at the vanguard of the revolution whilst enjoying yourself immeasurably.
And in the case of the BMW I8 there are three very distinct ways in which to enjoy yourself depending on to which level you decide to deploy the car’s 143bhp electric motor and and 231bhp petrol engine. Go for Sport mode and you use both, petrol driving the rear, electric at the front, adding up to 374bhp and 4-wheel drive. Speed is comparable to an M4 but with slightly less drama. Hybrid is a calmer affair but still brisk with the benefit of ludicrous fuel economy. And should you want to travel silently at no more than 75mph then you can opt for the purely electric experience which, by plugging in at either end of your journey, means you’ll never have to set foot on a petrol station forecourt ever again (assuming you never need to go more than 25 miles in either direction.
Whatever your method of propulsion, steering is taut and decisive, eschewing the understeer of the previous iteration of the car.
The 6-speed automatic gearing is silk smooth and the effect as you sit low between the wheel surrounded by deadening thermoplastic panels is like being wrapped in very fast cotton wool. It’s not to everyone’s tastes immediately but it does grown on you over time.
Interior specifications are slim but well considered with a sparse BMW functionality the predominant aesthetic. In terms of driver displays and infotainment, you’ll be familiar if you’ve ever been near a 5 series. One lovely touch is the selectable heads-up-dispay… for when you fancy feeling like you’re piloting a TIE Fighter.
And there you have it, the ideal sporting vehicle for the the driver who wants to revel in having been ahead of the curve when the time comes when we’re all being fitted with iron lungs owing to the acid air.