Just back from Wiltshire, where I had the chance to try a lot of new BMW model variants. On the face of it what was on show was a range of mid-life updates to the X3, 6 series coupe and 5 series saloon, as well as the new coupe version of the 1 series. Some of this stuff was nevertheless very impressive.
First, the 1 series coupe; I tried two versions of this. The first was the 123d, which despite its name has a 2.0 litre, rather than 2.3 litre diesel engine. It's not just any old 2.0 litre diesel engine though - with 204 horsepower, it's actually the most powerful production 2.0 litre diesel in the world, and, as one of the men from BMW pointed out, provides a specific output of over 100 horsepower per litre, which is the sort of thing you'd traditionally expect from one of the BMW M cars. I also tried the 3.5 litre petrol version of the 1, which was very quick indeed and good value at about £26,000, considering how much performance it provides.
From the most powerful 2.0 litre diesel engine in the world to the most powerful 3.0 litre diesel you can buy, fitted to the misleadingly titled 635d. Wonderful, that's all I can say.
But my personal favourite was the superficially less exciting 520d - this has had its power boosted to 177 horsepower, and when it is equipped with an automatic transmission, as in the case of the one I tried, it is extremely refined. The only drawback of this car from BMW's point of view must surely be that anyone who tries it just won't see the point in buying one of the more expensive models in the range. The same engine does a similarly effective job of powering the X3, which seems to have a much classier interior than it used to.
As well as their impressive on-road performance, these cars all turn in some of the best official fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures around.