We Went on a One-Day Road Trip Around Singapore Driving BMW Group Cars

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As career automotive journalists, it is important that we have as many new car points of reference as possible.

This gives us the ability to benchmark cars against their immediate competitors, so we can provide the readers with sound car buying advice. But a typical car review entails more than just driving the car around. There's also a need to cater time for photo and video shoots. And that's not all, as content, both of the written and pictorial sort, has to be processed and packaged in a format that is suitable for publishing.

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I'm sure BMW took that into account when they sent us the invite for the BMW Test Fest. In essence, this event allows us to focus on having a first impression of each car, without having to worry about any of the other things that go into creating a review article that you know (and hopefully love!).

The idea was simple. An intricate route was planned so we’d get to try out all of the participating cars on a good mix of real-world driving conditions. The cars featured were, as its name implies, BMW-group vehicles.

The Lineup

BMW brought out the big guns for this event. They took the opportunity to “soft launch” some of its newer offerings, including the already-iconic M2, all-new X5, and a new base i4 variant dubbed the eDrive35. Most of the 3 series lineup made an appearance at the event, including the regular and M3 Touring models. Also present were the XM, X1 and the 216i AT.

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In the British camp were a pair of MINIs. A white Cooper Cabriolet shared the spotlight with the MINI Electric Collection.

We were given free reign to hop into any car at any of the driver swap points on our cross island road trip. Whilst the rest of the journos made a beeline for the BMW cars at the start point, I decided to hop into one of the two MINIs for the first leg of the journey. As a fellow journalist from another local publication wanted to sample the Cabrio, I decided to hop into a car that I'm very familiar with, having already done the media test of both the regular and Resolute Edition cars for Motorist.

The first leg of our drive saw us head to an open-air carpark at Gardens By The Bay for a photo op. Slow moving traffic in the city itself allowed us to sample how these cars would behave in a built-up environment. As you’d expect from a BMW-group EV, the MINI Electric was silent yet torquey, and its dinky dimensions made it ideal for darting in and out of gaps in traffic. The refinement on offer was also very much appreciated.

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I hopped into the i4 eDrive35 for the next leg of the trip. This is the most affordable BMW EV on sale today, coming in at just $342,888, some $116,000 less than the range topping i4 M50. On paper, the power difference appears stark (282 bhp vs 536 bhp of the M50). So then, it loses out on a game of top trumps. In reality, 282 bhp is still plenty, and at no point did I ever wish that I had more power. It handled the slippery roads on 99 bends with ease, with the chassis and tyres working in unison to create scarcely believable amounts of traction even though the roads were damp.

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The next driver swap point on our Singapore road trip was the carpark at McDonald’s West Coast Park. I opted to drive the 318i next, curious to find out the difference in the driving experience between itself and its electric twin. The cars aren’t identical by any means, but this was the closest that I’d get to the i4 in the lineup. A 2.0-litre four-banger producing 154 bhp powers the 318i, and as is the case with the i4, the car felt sprightlier than its output might suggest. Aside from less straight-line performance, the cars felt very similar, especially in the corners.

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To keep the 3er/4er theme going, I decided to drive the 330i Touring for the next leg of the journey. With 242 bhp, this is, in theory anyways, the closest in technical specifications to the i4 eDrive35 I drove earlier in the day. Again, this platform doesn’t disappoint, the 330i Touring specifically feeling significantly rawer than either the i4 or the 318i. The steering felt nice and mechanical, and the anchors gave me the confidence to carry significant momentum too.

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It didn’t take us long to reach our next stop. Having already sampled the M3 Touring previously (review will be up soon - stay tuned!), I wanted to try something that isn’t based on the 3er/4er G2X and G8X platform. And what better vehicle for that than the G87 M2? Shoehorning a 3.0-litre straight-six lump in a car as compact as a 2 series is a surefire recipe for a lot of fun, and the possibility of a car that is a handful to drive. BMW’s M division managed to tame the car just enough that it still feels like a riot to drive, but at no point did the car ever feel like it’d want to swap ends on you when unprovoked.

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The next car swap was at Seletar. As our penultimate stop was at one of Changi Airport’s many open-air car parks, and as the route there consisted mostly of chill cruising roads, I decided to hop into the MINI Cooper Cabriolet. It drove well enough, especially considering it is a convertible. Expectedly, noise insulation wasn’t as good as the hatchback MINI models, though I’d happily trade that and the handling for the drop top – chopping the top off a car as iconic as the MINI just amps up its cool factor!

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An honest-to-god vehicle was just what I needed to end the day with. I’ve spent the day driving a selection of properly fun-to-drive and/or cars with a proper ‘cool’ factor. The BMW X1 was a refreshing change of pace (literally as well!). This sensible, family-oriented vehicle comes with a fuel-efficient 1.5 litre three cylinder engine with an output 121 bhp. It’d do 14.7km/l, which means it is as affordable to run as it is to buy, being one of BMW’s most affordable new cars on sale right now.

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A huge thank you to BMW for allowing us to sample their latest and greatest offerings at the BMW Test Fest 2023! There are cars that we did not drive during the event, nor have we actually done a review on them yet (XM, X5), so do stay tuned for our in-depth driving impressions!

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