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View Full Version : Notes on car-watching during my 2-week vacation in France


brave1heart
09-06-2003, 10:32 PM
- Diesels are everywhere. Chug-chug-chug around the farm with Little Red Bear. Even the new ones like the 330d sound horrible.
- Most cars are hatchbacks. An Audi A4 Avant would be considered fairly spacious by French standards. SUVs are almost non-existent, although I did see a Cayenne.
- The French government does not want you driving by yourself. On a 100-mile trip from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, we had to pay 10 euros (~$11.5) in tolls EACH way :D :D :D . That's on top of the 1 euro/ltr (~ $4/gallon) of gas.
- Most 3-series are diesels. The 320d seems to be especially popular. I saw a couple of 330s and they had German license plates. No 325s. I guess they are not economical enough and not fast enough. I'll keep mine, though.
- A car similarly equipped as my '01 325 stickers at ~ $38-39K. I paid ~ $31.5K for mine here in the U.S. We have no idea how good we have it here in the U.S.
- The 3-series compact is hideous. From any angle...
- The new 5-series compact is hideous. From any angle...
- I was surprised to see that the average French driver does not use directional signals on the highway more than the average U.S. driver.
- Rotaries are everywhere (just like in GB) and they work great. No waiting for the green light - traffic flows beautifully. We should have more of these in the U.S., although the one that I've seen in the Boston area (on Rt.2 in Concord) is a nightmare to most drivers who just freeze up at the sight of it.

Matthew330Ci
09-07-2003, 12:11 AM
- Rotaries are everywhere (just like in GB) and they work great. No waiting for the green light - traffic flows beautifully. We should have more of these in the U.S., although the one that I've seen in the Boston area (on Rt.2 in Concord) is a nightmare to most drivers who just freeze up at the sight of it.

no way american drivers will be able to effectively use traffic circles without constantly crashing into each other..

i also saw mostly 320d's during my trip, no 330's, and a few 325's..

xspeedy
09-07-2003, 12:06 PM
Comon guys. They are called "roundabouts". If you are Candadian, they are "roondaboots" :)

The typical American driver is cofused by stop signs. Just get them to try to use roundabouts correctly. The roundabouts are very efficient though, because traffic never has to stop. I wish we had more of them in the States (sans the idiot drivers).

Oh, and I do wish we had more real diesels here in the US. The VW TDI is a pathetic example - too underpowered. Bring us the BMW 320i/330i or the new Honda/Acura diesel (for the TSX).

pdz
09-07-2003, 04:48 PM
i dunno about how it "sounds", but i'd gladly BUY outright, no questions asked, a 330d, if they brought one to the US that could withstand the high levels of sulfur in the diesel here.

that would be a great commuter car.

i think the issue with the rotary at concord on RTE2 and the rotary down at the cape are: way too many people for the roads' capacity anyway; too many damn tourists who are the ones confused and pissing off normal commuters, and the normal aggression of boston drivers. less give, a lot of take.

MMME30W
09-07-2003, 06:47 PM
Comon guys. They are called "roundabouts". If you are Candadian, they are "roondaboots" :)

The typical American driver is cofused by stop signs. Just get them to try to use roundabouts correctly. The roundabouts are very efficient though, because traffic never has to stop. I wish we had more of them in the States (sans the idiot drivers).

Oh, and I do wish we had more real diesels here in the US. The VW TDI is a pathetic example - too underpowered. Bring us the BMW 320i/330i or the new Honda/Acura diesel (for the TSX).

Sorry to disagree (politely) but roundabouts would be a complete failure in the states. You only have to drive in busy areas of the UK to realise this, in which traffic lights have been added to manage the traffic. They're great on rural B-roads and such like but in town, they will always end up with lights.

Of course the great thing about them in the UK is if you miss the junction you want, you can try it again in 30 seconds!

rich

OBS3SSION
09-08-2003, 06:17 AM
We need diesels here in the states. And the VW TDI is actually quite a great little engine. Underpowered? I guess that's subjective, but I've driven my mom's TDI Jetta, and the thing is decent with an automatic. Put a 5-speed in, and it would rock. My dad's B4 Passat was also a TDI, and it had nearly as many balls as my B4 VR6 Passat at the time (that torque is awesome). Give me a BMW diesel, and I'm all over it!

As for rotaries... yes, we call them rotaries here in Massachusetts... and we have them everywhere! They suck! A) People have no frelling clue how to use them. B) Some let the rotary traffic have the right of way (the correct way) and others let the entering traffic have the right of way, adding to problem A. C) Rotaries are good for light traffic loads, letting the cars progress to their destination without delay. All rotaries that I know of are too congested, negating their usefulness. D) Did I mention people have no frelling clue how to use them... even the locals?

Nick325xiT 5spd
09-08-2003, 06:53 AM
I always enjoyed the rotaries in Boston... But that's probably because I'm enough of an asshole to use fear tactics to get through them. :p

Betcour
09-08-2003, 07:45 AM
- Diesels are everywhere. Chug-chug-chug around the farm with Little Red Bear. Even the new ones like the 330d sound horrible.

That's true at low RPMs, however the 330d sounds much better once you press the pedal (the turbo whistle a bit and you hear a low-pitched growl that is not unpleasant). Most peoples also find the 330d interior more silent than the 325i or 330i version.

The beauty of diesel shows up when you see the milage and when the 410 Nm torque kicks in :thumbup:

HW
09-08-2003, 10:50 AM
i'm seeing more and more new "roondaboots" at small uncontrolled intersections.

·clyde·
09-08-2003, 11:01 AM
Comon guys. They are called "roundabouts". If you are Candadian, they are "roondaboots" :)

:nono: They are called "circles." And if something's from DC, you know that it's good. :eeps:

Public skidpads are always a good thing. :thumbup:

·clyde·
09-08-2003, 11:04 AM
i'm seeing more and more new "roondaboots" at small uncontrolled intersections.
"Traffic calming devices" don't calm down anyone.

Kaz
09-08-2003, 11:10 AM
We have a handful of roundabouts in LA, and they seriously suck. I think the biggest one is at PCH and Lakewood in Long Beach, and I cringe every time I have to go through that, especially if I need to get from Los Coyotes to PCH northbound, since there is all kinds of traffic coming off Lakewood.

As for diesels, we get VW's pokey, old-technology ones because of our (once again) poor fuel quality. Their current euro 2.0l does 140hp and somewhere on the order of 320Nm. Not too shabby...

FrenchBoy
09-08-2003, 11:41 AM
Welcome back Brave1Heart,

I hope you had a great time in France. I understand that the heatwave had somewhat subsided when you were there, which was probably welcome since AC is pretty rare in France.

Let me know if you want to get together before the CCA/PCA autocross.

FrenchBoy

Jeff_DML
09-08-2003, 11:57 AM
roudabouts work great when I was driving in the UK around Cambridge.

Most american bad driving is the main problem with roudabouts in the US. :thumbdwn: A

mbr129
09-08-2003, 12:51 PM
Diesels rule. While in das Vaterland for ED, I saw lots of BMW diesels but didn't hear them (my 330i must be too insulated :eeps: :D ). I did walk past a new E-class wagon with a CDI diesel engine and you could barely hear it. Amazing. I'm so glad Mercedes is bringing them over. And we get the big one too! I just hope they put it in the wagon and stick AWD in it. Expensive, but probably worth it.

mbushnell
09-08-2003, 01:29 PM
- Diesels are everywhere.

I just came back from two weeks in France. Had a Ford Focus Turbo Diesel rental from Avis. Actually, not a bad little car. This was the first time I had driven a Diesel, and was pretty impressed by it's power (at least once the turbo kicked in) in the mountains of Alsace.

mbushnell
09-08-2003, 01:34 PM
Rotaries are everywhere (just like in GB) and they work great. No waiting for the green light - traffic flows beautifully. We should have more of these in the U.S., although the one that I've seen in the Boston area (on Rt.2 in Concord) is a nightmare to most drivers who just freeze up at the sight of it.

New Jersey used to be king of Traffic Circles (as they're called here). Most of them have been replaced by overpasses (such as the 202/206 circle in Somerville) due to accidents & traffic conjestion.

mbushnell
09-08-2003, 01:37 PM
While walking past the Four Seasons on Avenue Georges V in Paris, saw a new Rolls Royce, and in front of it, a Maybach.

330d
09-08-2003, 04:50 PM
Not sure what you dislike about the sound of the 330d brave1heart. Non of my pals guessed that my car was a diesel either at idle or on the move. Just out of interest, when BMW fit a particulate filter to the 330d to conform to the latest EU emission laws, will it comply with US emission laws, and would you want it?

andy_thomas
09-09-2003, 03:51 AM
- Diesels are everywhere. Chug-chug-chug around the farm with Little Red Bear. Even the new ones like the 330d sound horrible.


Well, you're in a class of your own, there. The rest of the motoring universe agrees that the engine sounds just like a petrol six, only played through a mildly overdriven Marshall stack :).

Idle is still more noticeable though. The 2.5d engine in the 5 series is apparently quieter. (lower fuel pressure)

andy_thomas
09-09-2003, 03:58 AM
- Diesels are everywhere. Chug-chug-chug around the farm with Little Red Bear. Even the new ones like the 330d sound horrible.
- Most cars are hatchbacks. An Audi A4 Avant would be considered fairly spacious by French standards. SUVs are almost non-existent, although I did see a Cayenne.
- The French government does not want you driving by yourself. On a 100-mile trip from La Rochelle to Bordeaux, we had to pay 10 euros (~$11.5) in tolls EACH way :D :D :D . That's on top of the 1 euro/ltr (~ $4/gallon) of gas.
- Most 3-series are diesels. The 320d seems to be especially popular. I saw a couple of 330s and they had German license plates. No 325s. I guess they are not economical enough and not fast enough. I'll keep mine, though.
- A car similarly equipped as my '01 325 stickers at ~ $38-39K. I paid ~ $31.5K for mine here in the U.S. We have no idea how good we have it here in the U.S.
- The 3-series compact is hideous. From any angle...
- The new 5-series compact is hideous. From any angle...
- I was surprised to see that the average French driver does not use directional signals on the highway more than the average U.S. driver.
- Rotaries are everywhere (just like in GB) and they work great. No waiting for the green light - traffic flows beautifully. We should have more of these in the U.S., although the one that I've seen in the Boston area (on Rt.2 in Concord) is a nightmare to most drivers who just freeze up at the sight of it.

Reading a non-European's view of European motoring is often illuminating. Examples:

A 325i not fast enough? If you'd looked around, you'd realise that a 325i is in the top 3-4% of cars on European roads in terms of speed, power and acceleration. The average European road car has around 120 bhp, gets to 120 mph and will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in around 10 seconds. How does your 325i compare (even allowing for the fact that US 325s are missing a few hp)? I wonder what proportion of cars in France can get to 100 km/h in 7.4 sec (BMW France's time) or better.

On a recent holiday taking in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg, the only 330 I saw was UK-registered. I didn't see any mainland European 3er with an engine bigger than 2.5 litres, and that was an old 328i. The taxes involved in keeping a powerful petrol-engined car on the road price prices it out of most people's pockets. Even a stripped-out 325i - a pauper's vehicle in the extremely wealthly United States - is unaffordable for most.

BTW what's a 5 series compact?

You're right. You have no idea how good you have it in the US :).

pdz
09-09-2003, 07:07 AM
Reading a non-European's view of European motoring is often illuminating. Examples:

You're right. You have no idea how good you have it in the US :).

most people really have no idea, it's true.

but remember, there are often cars for the continent that we NEVER get. such as the euro spec E36M3, the audi RS4 and RS6 (prior generation), the new 911 GT3 RS, the noble, the lotus elise.....the list goes on.

FrenchBoy
09-09-2003, 08:09 AM
On a recent holiday taking in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg, the only 330 I saw was UK-registered.

Andy,

Although you are probably right about 325i's and 330i's not being the most popular 3-Series models in Europe, another factor to take into account is the fact that the vast majority of BMW's in Europe are debadged (and pretty much any option can be ordered on any model). It makes it hard to tell 325i's and 330i's apart from 316i's, 318i's and 320i's.

FrenchBoy

LmtdSlip
09-09-2003, 10:43 AM
New Jersey used to be king of Traffic Circles (as they're called here). Most of them have been replaced by overpasses (such as the 202/206 circle in Somerville) due to accidents & traffic conjestion.

Circles are not working here in west central Florida...but they go right ahead building them anyway. They built a huge one in Clearwater beach. Now what used to be a 15 - 20 minute delay in getting to the beach is an hour.

Tanning machine
09-10-2003, 09:35 AM
A few more thoughts, having just returned from ED:

On cars:

Diesels are everywhere. One fill-up, for $60, reminds me why. Diesel was generally 20% cheaper (and gets better mileage).

Lots of German cars :D . Of course, lots of smaller models not available here. The Audi A6, with a 2.4l engine seemed very popular. Well, not as popular as A2s, A3s, and lots of Smart Cars, as well as the Mercedes A-class. Italy had more italian cars, Alfas and Fiats leading the show (love that Punto). Oh, yeah, and far too many new 5ers. Some say it looks better in person. I disagree -- it does not. I came to like the new 7 much better than the new 5, which seems to have the unattractive parts of the 7, none of the attractive parts, plus its own ugly aspects.

Lots of debadged cars. Often quite difficult to tell what engine size a given body contained (although the M3s and S6s were pretty obvious).

Very few SUVs. A few Honda econobox SUVs. Not too many American or Japanese cars.

On driving:

Generally well-behaved, except in Italy, where no one yields, let alone stays on their side of the road. Could italian streets be any narrower? Hint--we're not driving horses any more.

Don't drive the A8 to salzburg if you want to crack the century. Too much traffic. The autostrada is fine for doing that, though.

Roundabouts/rotaries work well except where congested. Zurich was a madhouse once there was a lot of traffic. Throw in a few street cars for good measure. :eeps:

The signage for directions takes some getting used to. Everything is done by reference to town, but not necessarily the one you're going too. So your navigator has to be very familiar with the map. Worse, it's not always clear which way the sign is pointing. Streets don't meet at 90 degree angles, so it can be complicated. Also, the signs generally are in reference to the main road, which often curves when you come to an intersection. So while it may look like you're supposed to go straight from teh sign, you may feel like you're going to teh right (or left)

One final thought: If you are not a confident driver, or are picking up a car larger than a 3er by ED, I would seriously consider avoiding italy. The streets are really narrow, and the drivers very aggressive. The roads are often quite twisty, and in a new car, without a sense of its size, it can be quite unnerving.