2011 BMW 528i: Pull to Pass
June 07, 2011
Sitting in bumper-to-bumper congestion last night and watching the driver-side mirror, I saw a long gap developing in the next lane. One of those times when your lane is inexplicably stopped, while everyone else is moving around you.
I let off the brake and pointed the nose in one motion, then applied throttle. Nothing happened. Then, not really giving the computer a chance to catch up, I asked for more and got plenty - quickly. Enough to have to lift, straighten the wheels and get back on the gas before the car behind started bearing down, Of course, within a matter of seconds, it was back to the brakes.
Metropolitan traffic. What are you gonna do? But it was a nervous moment that got me thinking.
The car was in Normal dynamic mode. I started in Sport, but as traffic thickened, that mode's shifting and engine braking felt too aggressive and I resorted to the workaround: roll out slightly, flick the downshift paddle, apply throttle. Dropping a gear tightens up response appreciably, and makes it easy to leap from a standstill or swiftly cut through a lazy merge stream.
Not revolutionary, I know. Then it dawned on me that the Outlander Sport needs to be driven the same way (although with far more attention and engagement). The TSX wagon also livens up with this approach.
Yikes. The new normal. No more day-dreaming in auto-pilot or simply leaning into the pedal for instant bursts. Nope. You can still get around the computer committee, but you'll need to start putting your hands into it. As a traffic-breaker or long-range commuter, an automatic 528i with paddles isn't a bad option. Let it shift for you most of the time, then grab a paddle to pass.
Otherwise, viva la manual.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor