A Change of Pace: Switching From a Sedan to an MPV

David Foo
3 May 2021
 

A Change of Pace: Switching From a Sedan to an MPV

Anyone who says a white car is hard to maintain, has never owned a black car.

It has been about 2 months now since I’ve traded in my Audi A4 for a BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer. The decision to change car formats was primarily driven by practicality, where my wife and I are planning for another child. Toward the end of last year, it was getting increasingly difficult to load my 3 year old into her car seat in the A4. In tight car parks and spaces, this seemingly simple task often resulted in my wife and I having to twist and wiggle ourselves, and our daughter in various ways to allow for her to be safely loaded into the car. For fear of my wife spraining her back, and for a general desire for more rear seating space, we decided to jump onto the MPV bandwagon. Fortunately for us, the decision making process was quite straightforward, and being the only premium luxury automaker with an MPV option, the BMW Gran Tourer was a clear and easy choice. 

In the initial weeks following the change, there were things that I needed to get used to with an MPV. Some of these changes I liked, and some others, not so much. However, the adjustment to these changes has made me realise a few things about myself and my car ownership experience that I was not previously aware of myself. Here are some of the things that I’ve discovered along the way. 

Image:

My A4 was black, with upgraded 18 inch gunmetal wheels and S-line matt chrome side view mirrors. I now drive a white BMW Gran Tourer with stock 17 inch wheels. The two cars could not look more different and the image they portrayed was quite polarizing. One looked like a big boy’s toy, while the other looks like it is driven by a schoolteacher - No prizes for guessing which is which. As a self professed “ang moh beng” with a left arm full of tattoos, it was odd walking towards my new white MPV and it felt almost unnatural at times - like I was getting into someone else’s car or a rental car. After some of my meetings, my associates and colleagues would often chime in about how my new car did not look like my car. While this didn’t affect me per se, it never once did anything to help the way I felt about the situation. Until one day, a colleague of mine looked at the car and said “got some daddy vibes going on there”. While I have always been a proud father to a very plucky 3 year old girl, I had not previously associated the car I drove to the kind of parental vibes I was giving off - But hey - if my white MPV exudes a more family conscious image than my slight modified A4 does, then I’m totally down with that. That comment from my colleague was meant to be adiaphorous, but I found some benefit to changing my perspective on what sort of image was a good image. 

Wheels:

When I first collected my Gran Tourer, one of the very first things I was plotting in my mind was how to upgrade my stock 17 inch wheels to either a set of 18 or 19 inch wheels. I’ll admit that this desire to change up the set of wheels is aesthetically driven, and on all my previous 4 cars, they were all riding on upgraded wheels and lower profile tyres. I haven’t driven on 17 inch wheels since I got my first car in 2011. However, my better half convinced me not to be wasteful, and to use out the stock set before making a decision on the wheels - and I’m really glad she convinced me to do this. On and off, in the midst of getting used to the car, I’ve been clipping some kerbs with my left rear wheel. Usually for me, such an incident could only mean kerb rash on my rims, but this time, there was none. Running 17 inch wheels meant that when I clipped the kerb, I still had enough sidewall to prevent the rims from hitting the kerb, which is great. Although I still think that upgraded wheels are way more aesthetically pleasing, the practicality or running 17 inch wheels, coupled with my newly appreciated daddy image, makes me think twice about going through with the upgrade. Even if I pass on the upgraded wheels, one change I’ll probably make is to swap out the run flat tyres for regular ones - they are way quieter and much more comfortable for day to day use. 

Fuel Economy:

With petrol prices in Singapore increasing, fuel economy is always at the back of every driver’s mind - including mine. As a benchmark, even though my A4 was driven quite hard, it always found a way to manage a respectable 10km - 11km / litre. So when I got my Gran Tourer, I was expecting it to blow that figure out the park as the Gran Tourer ran a smaller 1.5L 3 cylinder engine. In terms of fuel economy, I expected it to outperform the A4 easily - I was wrong. Despite my best efforts to drive the car as gently as possible, while activating BMW’s Eco Pro mode, my first tank of petrol returned 9.6km / litre. Granted the Gran Tourer is a pretty heavy car, I was still a little disappointed at the figure and started to get obsessed with achieving improved fuel economy figures with each tank of petrol. I’m glad to say that I eventually got there, but not without some odd discoveries. After about 8 to 10 tanks of petrol, I’ve discovered that Eco Pro mode works well when cruising, but it's terrible for economy in city start-stop traffic. In Eco Pro mode, the car essentially controls your revs, and doesn't allow you to drag out your RPMs when moving off the line. This controlled revving in city traffic just doesn’t quite work because you end of overcompensating by revving even harder, thus decreasing fuel economy. After reverting back to the default comfort drive mode, I’m glad to say that fuel economy has risen significantly to between 12km - 12.5km / litre. 

Driving Temperament: 

I’m not entirely sure if I am imagining things, but there is something about driving a white car that seems to make me a calmer driver. Coupled with the fact that I now only have a paltry 107 bhp on tap, I’ve learnt to accept that I won’t be the first car off the line. These days I take my time to launch off the line from a traffic stop, and have been, in fact, honked at three times in the last 2 months for moving off too slowly. Some of my friends speculate that my new found reluctance to gun it comes from the fact that I now drive an MPV - But it's not quite that. The Gran Tourer, though an MPV, is actually decently capable through a fast corner when you need it to be. Perhaps what has gotten me to tone down my driving, is a culmination of a few factors. Firstly, driving a car that gives off sensible dad vibes isn’t the glowing impetus for you to drive aggressively. Secondly, I am now semi-obsessed with fuel economy. And third, there are just too many reckless drivers on the road today for me to join in. Frankly, I’m almost afraid to go toe to toe with those Grab drivers in a Prius gunning it down the outer lane of the expressway. My new found happy space is doing 80km/h in the middle lane. 

Upkeep: 

Anyone who says a white car is hard to maintain, has never owned a black car. Having previously owned 3 black cars, 1 red car, and now a white car, I can safely say that a white car has got nothing on a black car when it comes to how difficult it is to maintain a clean and shining looking exterior. On Singapore’s dust and debris laden roads, a freshly washed black car takes all of 1-2 days to look like it hadn't been washed. If you take a black car through a drizzle or through post-rain wet roads, then you’re done - Every single tiny smidge of dirt and dust is now clearly visible on your car again. With a white car however, regular exposure to dust and dirt on the roads in dry conditions takes about 5-6 days to be visible from afar. Even if you take your car through wet conditions, the resulting watermarks caused by dirt particles drying on your car are barely visible. It takes a proper 10 - 14 days of not washing your car before it starts looking a bit neglected. Aside from a few splash marks on the rear bumper caused by dirt that was kicked up by the wheels, maintaining a white car has proven to be leaps and bounds easier than maintaining black cars. 


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