I swiftly booked the car in at the Sycamores BMW in Peterborough and took it along myself to have a look – and I am glad I did.
It felt special from the second I entered the door, which opened into what could have been a bank or an office.
Customer service assistants sat at computer stations, in front of a pristine customer waiting area, complete with nice sofas, coffee facilities and even a BMW bicycle. I simply walked up to one of the staff, handed over the keys, gave him my registration number and all the details popped up on screen, including the problems I had with the car. Behind a glass wall, I could see the service area where the mechanics would give my car the once-over.
They couldn’t have been more helpful – including Trevor, who was just on his way home for lunch when he was stopped to give me a lift back to work. He returned me to the Fleet News office even though his lunch was getting cold – how’s that for service?
After our BMW had been plugged into a computer, the fault codes suggested a new engine control unit was needed and one was promptly ordered from Germany, but it would take a week, so a loan car was offered. Our car was finally returned to the office vacuumed, cleaned and with a new box of technical bits nestling under the bonnet.
But a 200-mile run to Reading revealed that the problem had not been cured. The engine pulled erratically and on my return journey, it stalled every time I stopped for traffic or at roundabaouts.
Rather than take it back to the garage, I decided a bit of trial and error would be in order, so I pulled in at a BP garage and poured in £25 of Ultimate Diesel. Result – problem solved. I will put some normal diesel in at the next fill-up and see what happens.
The stalling may be down to something more serious, such as a faulty sensor that means it can only run on high-octane fuel, but a bit of lateral thinking achieved a lot more than reliance on computer technology. Computers and glitzy waiting rooms are all very well but when it comes down to it, I don’t expect to be in there very long or very often. Fixing a problem first time would be my priority, especially after such a long wait for parts.
Model: BMW 320d SE
Price (OTR): £24,390 (£27,185 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 153
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 40% tax-payer: £137 a month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 49.6
Test mpg: 44.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £11,100/46%
Expenditure to date: £5.50 (half a litre of oil)
Typical contract hire rate: £471
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles