The man at the entrance of the forecourt gestured to me to turn around. Confused, I lowered my window: â€œWhatâ€™s the problem?â€ â€œItâ€™s a BMW-only night,â€ he said. The Ace
Cafe on Londonâ€™s North Circular road is the only place I know that has a door policy in the car park. Itâ€™s a petrolheadâ€™s venue.
Obviously Iâ€™m not a petrolhead, but I did at least know I was in a BMW 320d SE, so I told the attendant. â€œSorry,â€ he said. â€œI didnâ€™t see it was a Bimmer. They all look alike nowadays.â€
He was right, of course â€” executive saloons do look remarkably similar. And he was on the lookout for â€œclassicâ€ Bimmers, an M3, say, or a 507. Yet, in its own way, the 3 Series is unquestionably a modern classic. The ultimate drive for upper middle-ranking executives, the 3 Series is justly renowned for power, handling, comfort and all-round senior middle manageability. It outscores the competition in every key category.
For all these reasons, the 3 Series has been hugely successful, enabling BMW to claim a fat slice of company car allowances. Its plus points are many and varied.
I like the way the engine cuts out when stationary in neutral, and that if
you happen to stall, a quick gear change restarts the engine. And then thereâ€™s the extraordinary acceleration. Few senior execs, outside the armed robbery business, will ever need to make it to 100kph in less than eight seconds.
But if you should lead a pressurised lifestyle that demands such urgency, there is a handy prompt on the dashboard that signals when to change gear. The only drawback with this gauge is that, in focusing on it, as you shift up rapidly towards top speed, you may become distracted from what youâ€™re actually accelerating towards â€” an articulated lorry, for example.
Enough pedantry. The point is, this car is smart, efficient and it shifts. As with many diesels, the 320d feels â€” or perhaps sounds â€” heavy, even though it is remarkably responsive.
But somehow acknowledgment of the reality doesnâ€™t really compensate for the experience of the perception. In the end I sympathised with that attendant. Itâ€™s a handsome machine: just not meant for my car park. Call it irrational prejudice, I prefer to think of it as an executive decision.