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Bought a used 221 BHP BMW 320d with Stage-1 remap

I wasa bit sceptical about diesel engines, since my Honda City with the i-VTEC engine is torquey and responds on the word go.

BHPian hey.rudey recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hey everyone,

I am exultant to say that I drive a BMW!

After searching for the perfect car, my parents and I finally took delivery of a gorgeous white E90 LCI 320d. She belonged to a fellow TeamBHP member, riziali, who took sedulous care of her (If you are reading this, a huge huge huge thank you! Let us pull out our cars for a drive real soon  ). It still hasn't seeped in yet; despite taking her out for highway runs, and seeing her in the driveway every day.

The options besides an E90:

When I had begun the hunt for a Beemer, this was the criteria which I had set:

  • Had to come from a home that shares the same sentiments we have for cars
  • Preferably low or medium mileage examples (up to 45k km)
  • Either an F30, E90, or E46 (that is if I find an E46)

Besides Beemers, we also considered the Jaguar XE 2.5t, and the Mercedes-Benz CLA/GLA 200 (Petrol). These cars fitted our criteria of a sporty saloon. The reasons we did not go for these were:

  • Electrical issues in JLR cars and maintenance costs
  • CLA/GLA's compact interior was uncomfortable for us (had this been our second car which Popcorn has now become, we wouldn't have minded)

Within Beemers, we also considered the F10 5er, but it was too big for us to navigate through turns and park. We chose the E90 over an F30 because of the way the car drove, and the lesser electronics found on the E90. The F30 felt too soft and relaxed, while the E90 gave us the sporty feel we wanted.

Initially, I was sceptical about diesel engines; as our previous motors and my current daily driver Popcorn The Fifth, a Honda City i-VTEC, were/are torquey engines that responded on the word go. However, the N42 has completely changed my opinion about diesel Beemers. The engine response I have got from my E90 is something I can closely relate to the current AMG 35 4-pots (and maybe a touch of the whacked-out BMW 4.4 Biturbo V8s).

Big Bazaar or D-Mart:

We are a family that is accustomed to buying all our cars new from a showroom. As Dad and I wanted to take our first step into luxury cars, we thought of going for a pre-worshipped car. We were firm about one thing: we wanted to buy our car from the owner directly. No middlemen, no grandiloquent adverts; just to the point information and honest feedback. Finding this initially was difficult, as there were very few people who sold their cars directly and a few of them kept brokers in between. CarWale started to look like a local garage, and I have no words for the other ones.

STI Classifieds is a good option as well; 5385 was listed on it and I found an E46 there. The only reason I did not continue from there was that I was a bit uncomfortable. These cars seemed like sight unseen kind of cars as there are cars all across the country. Only the ones in Bombay seemed like ones I could go and check out. I ended up using TeamBHP Classified. I connected with riziali directly from here. The information provided was honest and it stimulated a sense of trust; especially when it came from zealous owners.

Example: Dr Reddy's F30 320d Advert

My E90 Communicator... I mean 320d

Getting back to 5385 (yes I'm calling her by her number; I haven't figured out what to call her yet), she is a completely different beast from Popcorn. Here are the pros, cons, and mods on the car:

Pros:

  • Robust engine; very responsive on the throttle
  • Firm ride and easy to move over bumps despite having spacers and 17-inch alloys
  • No nonsense, driver-focused interior; I do not have an iDrive system (something by choice)
  • Impressive mileage (9-9.5 in the city, close to 10 on highways)
  • Stage 1 comes alive on highways, especially in Sports and Manual mode. The car gives you the confidence to press the accelerator and get the maximum out of the engine. On launches, you can hear the wheels spin, even with the DTC on
  • The joy of having a proper German sports saloon. I'm gonna be honest about this. Just seeing 5385 puts a smile on my face

Cons:

  • If you have moved from a manual car, the first 2 gears will feel long for you. Only in manual mode, you can rev-match and shift to your accordance
  • If you are tall and have a broad skeletal frame like me; the driver's side may feel a little snugged at first
  • If your passenger is new to the car, he/she/they may have a bad time getting out of the car. The car is low and you will be used to it if you are moving from an already lowered car like my City, but the front doors are tighter, and mirrors are smaller than the City's
  • The pedal box is at a position further than your typical Japanese car. The pedals are also a bit close to each other
  • The audio system is fantastic but dated. The system does not tell you the volume in numbers, you have to figure it out by ear. There is a USB port, but there is no USB or Bluetooth connectivity on non-iDrive cars.
  • The only fault that I have to fix is *gasp*.... the driver's side cupholder. It is an annoying feature common to all E90s. It has jammed and refuses to come out. The fix is easy and is a DIY procedure

Mods:

  • Superchips Stage 1 Remap (221 bhp and 400 Nm)
  • Pipercross Air Filter
  • 17 inch F30 alloys in Continental ContiSport Contact Tyres
  • Wheel spacers (love the stance, but will be deleting them soon; I have kept them on for the initial fun)
  • BMW OEM Sport Front and Back spoiler kit
  • Tantra Fluke Pro Bluetooth Module

Exploring the car:

1. Engine and Stage 1 Remap

5385 is already tuned, so driving her with care is my primary objective. She has a Superchips Stage 1 remap and a Pipercross air filter which push her above her stock 180 hp and 380 Nm numbers to 221 hp and 400 Nm. I have not dyno-ed the car to confirm the exact numbers, but it does show when you press the throttle. The N42 unit is a torquey 4 pot and can sing even in lower gears. The Stage 1 tune comes alive beyond 2000 RPM, pushing you into the seats and leaving you stunned. The engine is two-faced; one minute composed and in the next a devil. On highways, the car is a dream. 5385 gives an average overall average of 9 km/l. The car in whole honesty has more city running than highways, hence this number.

I would like to allude to a fact: if you are considering any E90 with an N42 unit, do check the timing belt and EGR valves. If the engine is regularly serviced, they will carry on for a long time; else it is an engine out repair, as the timing chain is stationed on the back of the engine with part of it being in the interior/dashboard.

2. Steering, Suspension, Wheels and Tyres

The feel of the hydraulic rack and pinion steering is stiffer than Popcorn's; something which will take time to get used to. It is heavy at standstill and I can hear the tyres as I turn the wheel. However, she is utterly responsive when she is on the move. The reason we chose an E90 is because of the way she corners; a countenance given by many BMW enthusiasts. 5385 has 10 mm spacers on the front and 20 mm spacers on the back, but the ride quality has not dropped. One thing to note is that you do feel the rare road vibrations. The suspension is stock and is adjusted to support the bigger rims. The staggered setup is done according to BMW's guidelines. The tyres are switched to tubeless ones; Continental ContiSport Contact. These stick to the tarmac well and give her the sports saloon feel I desired from a Beemer.

3. Gearbox

When the gearbox is in normal drive mode, you can feel the engine wanting to put out. It is sufficient for daily driving and will shift around the 2000 RPM mark on the first gear, and 2500 in second. I personally find this slow, as I love shifting gears in Popcorn; but this is perfectly normal considering my parents also drive this car. In sports and manual mode, she is a riot. When I tried the manual mode over an empty afternoon street, the engine responded on the fly and reached 50 km/h in 2nd gear itself. Depending on how light you are with the throttle, the manual gearbox will react in two ways: either civil or vulpine. The engine revs a little and then shifts. Shifting a bit early may be key in achieving perfect shifts.

The manual mode is extremely fun to drive as it gives the feel of a sequential shifter. It needs to select when the car is at a halt, as it will not start in the same gear. You will begin at 1st or 2nd depending on which side of the lever you press. But most importantly, it should only be selected by seasoned drivers. The car will spin its wheels if you launch it, even with the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) on. The DTC needs to be on at all times.

4. Interior

The interior initially is like a mirage. The seating position initially feels low, while the dash feels raised. A quick use of the electronic controls, and voila everything is fixed. When I am seated in the passenger side front seat, my feet comfortably go all the way inside the footwell. The rear passenger space is like Popcorn, sufficient but less. If a tall person were to sit behind, they will want to scarper to the front seat as soon as possible. One thing I can say is that I do feel a bit more planted in the cockpit, it feels pretty close to the Porsche 982 Caymans and Boxsters. The boot space is sufficient but will get cumbersome if you have a space saver in the back. There as cargo trays on both sides, and hook points as well. The interior is amazingly quiet as well, save for a light road and tyre noise (due to the enlarged wheels).

The audio system is fantastically balanced. It is user friendly and easy to use. It also behaves as an on-trip computer showing me the economy, range, temperature, and average speed. It is unfortunately dearth of many many features. I do not have the iDrive (out of personal choice as I wanted a Driver's Car); Google Maps and Spotify seem to perfectly do the job. But there is no Bluetooth module present in the car's system. The hands-free call buttons are just for show and need to be retrofitted if you want to use the car's system. There is an AUX port and a power point in the centre glovebox to fit an external Bluetooth AUX device. I would recommend the Tantra Fluke. It is the one riziali fitted in the car originally and is one of the easiest modules I have used.

All this said and done, I can very happily say that 5385 is a proper rocket! She has ameliorated my driving experience; something I did not imagine saying at the beginning of my 20s. After experiencing many sports cars, it is another feel to drive my own. It is a sleeper, and the perfect car to begin my journey into sports and enthusiast cars. BMWs have always had a special place in my heart, owning one is a dream. But driving one feels unreal. It is a perfect choice as a first Beemer and would recommend this to anyone who wants a car to drive. 5385 is a brilliant companion to us and has brought a positive impact. Owning a BMW does do one thing. It gives you the patience to be on the road. There is no need to speed off; the whole drive is exhilarating.

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