Sunday, November 11, 2007

BMW test drive from Kellie's Castle to Cameron Highlands

Three out of three
By Jay W.M. Wong
Sunday November 11, 2007

With the performance and handling of the BMW 3 Series pretty much a given, it’s time to find out what the real-world experience of having one is like.

SOME time back, BMW Malaysia organised a lifestyle-based drive with its 3 Series range. While the event centred on many non-motoring facets, it was also undisputedly a showcase to reaffirm the E90’s claim to be head of the class in its segment.

Three vehicles were chosen for the job, a 320i Sports Edition, 325i and the 325i Sports. The drive started early in the morning from BMW’s office in Cyberjaya, and with the 320i SE, it was off to our first destination, Kellie’s Castle in Perak.

En route, the the car soaked up undulations and corners with ease, and held its line through tight corners. The 320i, with its 200Nm of torque, hauled its 1.4tonne body around with relative grace.At Kellie’s Castle, we were greeted by exuberant foods and a string quartet playing Bach and Mozart.

We then headed at hyper-speed to Lumut’s Jetty Terminal, where a slow and relaxing boat ride to Pangkor Laut Resort followed.

Three for the road: a trio of BMW 3 Series in their element.
Three for the road: a trio of BMW 3 Series in their element.

There, my room was perched on a hill overlooking lazy waves and soft, sandy beaches.

After two hours of rest, Chapman’s Bar was the meeting point at Emerald Bay. An interesting selection of both land and sea delicacies made up our pre-dinner cocktails and mains. We chewed slowly whilst the setting sun slowly said goodbye to the world.

For our entertainment, 10 interesting finalists of BMW’s Shorties films were featured for our entertainment throughout dinner.

Splashing waves and the scent of sea breeze filled my senses first thing in the morning. Fisherman’s Cove was the venue for breakfast, after which we were transported by helicopter back to the peninsular, to a place called Clearwater Sanctuary.

With the mid-day sun nigh, my co-driver and I were presented with our next chariot, the 325i Sports. Though the suspension may have been tuned for a sportier drive, we calmly made our way to Indulgence’s restaurant in Ipoh, where we were served either Rainbow Trout or Wagyu beef for lunch, which was simply delectable.

With our tanks filled, it was time to crack the whip on those 215 ponies from the state of Perak into Pahang and onwards to the posh Cameron Highlands Resort.

Here, the roads are long and twisty, a veritable delight for those chasing the bends.

Three flavours: (from left) the Sports sedan, Convertible and Touring pose for a family snapshot.
Three flavours: (from left) the Sports sedan, Convertible and Touring pose for a family snapshot.

BMW has always prided itself in building excellent handling cars with great engines, but they have also been well commended for their research and development on their brakes. As I continuously braked late into the corners, hardly any brake fade was present.

Cameron Highlands Resort had a very unique interior in the old English Colonial style. This “little corner of England in Asia,” as it has been known, is certainly a romantic getaway with picturesque greenery.

Dinner at Gonbei Restaurant provided us with a Japanese bubbling pot of salmon and a selection of sushi, followed by an early night.

At 5.30am, we rallied at the lobby with cookies and precious pots of coffee at the ready before we drove towards Gua Musang.

This time, it was in the standard 325i sedan, with its suspension set on the comfort zone. The tail end felt a little bit more nervous than the Sports, but it never did present any surprises along the way.

Our destination was to be an undisclosed location that required a short trek off the road towards a large and wide landing area . Something didn’t seem right, instead of cool mountain air filling our nostrils; we sensed something more appealing in the pre-dawn darkness ? sausages.

The chefs of Cameron Highlands Resort had prepared a nice breakfast selection for us within a large white tent that also sheltered us from the cold drizzle.

Just like a play, the sun illuminated the clouds and they softly lifted like curtains to present a beautiful view of Cameron Highland’s mountains.

After this, the roads tightened and snaked a little more . Care was the operative word on this section. Though the sedan could keep up with its Sports brethren speed-wise, the suspension set-up and tyre choices meant the sedan was slightly twitchier around the bends.

Safely back at the resort, whilst we jawed about the route to Gua Musang, candid shots of us flashed on the projector screen filling the room with eruptions of laughter .

It was time for the journey home, and we had jubilant smiles. The preparation and execution of the event truly deserved a standing-ovation – the drive was magnificent, and the occasion a delight.

As for the cars themselves, they delivered every bit that was expected of them.
-- The Star Lifestyle

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