Test drive special - Can you get the test drive you want? BMW

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  • No dealers were able to fulfill the test drive request
  • We asked for the 320d with adaptive suspension
  • Dealers tried to talk us out of the car

BMW - Test drive hit rate 0%

Test Drive
BMW 320d 
Efficient Dynamics 
List price £28,410
Target Price £26,381 
vs 
BMW 320d 
Efficient Dynamics
with optional Adaptive M Sport suspension
List price £29,160
Target Price £26,939

Why the test drive?
Luxurious, powerful, economical; all attributes that help make the 3 Series our Executive Car of the Year. Fitted with BMW’s optional Adaptive M Sport suspension, we reckon it’s also the best-driving compact exec you can buy; without it, the dynamics are disappointing. If you want to enjoy best-in-class handling and – whichever trim you opt for – the best balance in terms of control and comfort, you’ll need to shell out an extra £750, so test driving the Adaptive suspension specced car is highly recommended. The question is, how much help will your BMW dealer give you?

Our experience
BMW owners consistently tell the JD Power satisfaction survey they enjoy decent service from their dealers. Indeed, in the first 24 hours all but one dealership responded to our initial email. Even better, seven out of our eight contacted dealers offered us a 320d of some description to drive. However, given that we’d made it clear it was the optional Adaptive M Sport suspension we wanted to try, we were staggered that no dealer could supply a car with it fitted. 
Benham Wolverhampton responded that it did have a car with M Sport suspension, but when we asked if it was the adaptive variety, all went quiet. 
Halliwell Jones in Southport could organise us drives of the 320d in SE and M Sport trims. M Sport suspension is lower than the standard set-up, just like the adaptive version, and does firm things up. However, in terms of suppleness and agility, it’s a long way off the mark. We were advised against paying the extra. 
The same advice came from Berry Heathrow, which also offered back-to-back drives of the 320d in M Sport and SE trims. 
Cooper Chelmsford acknowledged ‘the press raves about’ the Adaptive M Sport suspension, while Grassicks Garage of Perth also said it was aware of the press reports, but both stressed it’s an option seldom taken up. ‘We’ve found none of our customers feel they are missing out by not having this option,’ said Grassicks.

How BMW dealers scored
Promptness of response 
Understanding of buyer’s concerns 
Product knowledge 
Willingness to arrange test drive 
Ability to arrange test drive 
Promptness of test drive 
Overall rating 

Our verdict
Although encouraging that no dealer tried to get us to spend money on an option we couldn’t test, we were disappointed none could meet our request, and surprised none appeared to look beyond their own demo fleets for a car with the suspension we wanted. Given that most dealers did their best to talk us out of the option, we’re not surprised its uptake isn’t more popular. That’s a shame, considering its vast benefits.

BMW says...
‘The 320d ED is sold primarily to corporate customers, the majority of whom are not entitled to add options. BMW places great importance on the value of test drives. We use market intelligence and sales performance to decide on demonstrator vehicles, including which options to fit.’
It adds: ‘We have just launched the BMW Group Experience demonstrator programme, which allows dealers to book centrally managed demonstrators for customers.’

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