BMW's fastest 3 Series on one of Asia's busiest roads? Might sound interesting for a change...
Photos: Azfar Hashim and Leonard Adam (for BMW Indonesia)
You probably have read our Editor Joel’s review of the BMW 335i in the current issue of N.GINE, and by now already know how fast and impressive it is as a whole.
Well to follow up on that, just last week I flew to Jakarta to sample the 335i in a different environment. The task was to drive from Jakarta to Bandung, and back. At this point, I’m sure some of you readers are wondering what the hell on earth was I thinking, test-driving a Bavarian rocket in one of Asia’s busiest road system.
However, I came back learning a lot not only about what else the 335i can offer, but also just how interesting the driving culture is in Indonesia.
Day 1 – 05/07/2012
We arrived in Jakarta at about 3:00pm (Jakarta time) with a chauffeur picking us - a fellow motoring scribe from SGCarmart and BMW Asia’s Corporate Affairs Director - up in a gangsta black BMW X5 xDrive35i (with full tinted windows for added gangsta drama) from the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. As the drive will not begin until 8:30pm in the evening, our chauffeur dropped us off at Plaza Senayan for some R & R; the three of us decided to enjoy some local food at the mall’s food court. Like they say, sometimes nothing beats local food.
At 5:30pm, the chauffeur picked us up again and then dropped us off at the starting point of this drive: Café Aria at the Panin Bank building which is located within Jakarta’s CBD.
After a delicious dinner, an introduction into the BMW 335i and a briefing into the evening’s drive (all hosted by BMW Indonesia), I paired up with Oneshift.com’s Consulting Editor Raymond Lai (he arrived in Jakarta on a later flight) and into car number ‘4’ we went, a silver BMW 335i in Luxury spec. Also joining us in the convoy were several Indonesian motoring journalists.
Well to cut the long story short, we were accompanied by the local police around central Jakarta (for some photo opportunity); really useful to have the police leading the convoy and stopping traffic for us to pass, as the peak hour traffic is, ermm, just impossible. A snail probably crawls faster than this…
Ahh… Finally, we arrived at the toll-booth that leads us into the main highway to Bandung. Surprise, surprise – no more police escort from here on, and our convoy was left on its own, with a BMW X5 xDrive35i leading the group of nine BMW 335i, a sole 520d and 5GT and an X3 xDrive20d support vehicle. All of us got stuck (what else?), along with the rest of traffic getting out of Jakarta. Gee. The silver lining here though, was that I managed to sample the effectiveness of the car’s ‘Eco Pro’ mode: the engine takes it easy here, which lead to petrol savings.
A typical drive in smooth traffic will usually take the trip from Jakarta to Bandung only two hours. Guess what: the convoy was stuck in traffic for a good two hours instead. It really tested the driver’s patience, alertness and of course, bladder.
After three hours of driving along the highway in massive traffic jam (where the average speed was only 30km/h, gasp!), we reached our rest stop – perfect time to run to the toilet faster than Carl Lewis, down a hot cup of coffee, stretch and, err, more photos.
Half an hour later, we set off again. Time check: 11:40 pm. Mode: 'Auto'. It’s obvious at this point that everyone has had enough of the traffic jam; only a handful of cars joined the convoy, while the rest like us in car 4, went on our own. Thankfully traffic wasn’t as bad anymore, allowing me to stretch my right foot even further, pushing the 335i into three-figure speeds… way past the 100km/h legal speed limit most of the times. Here’s the interesting bit though: Indonesian drivers are a surprisingly disciplined lot, giving way without you even having to tailgate them. And heck, they signal in advance too!
A little surprise, even for myself though: In Indonesia, the road shoulder is utilised like a normal lane too, often used by drivers in a rush during traffic jams (yes, they cruise in this lane) and also for overtaking when all three lanes are occupied. Try doing that here…
At close to 1:00am in the morning, we arrived in one piece at our hotel, G.H. Universal Hotel Bandung (in Jalan Setiabudhi). The both of us in car 4 were the first to arrive, so that should tell you how much we stretched the 335i.
Day 2 – 06/07/2012
After a light breakfast (I had to skip the complimentary yoga class… as… let’s just say my alarm clock failed on me), we then drove around Bandung in convoy to take in the sights before proceeding to Burgundy Dine & Wine (in Jalan Raya Maribaya), located up in the valley of north Bandung. The roads leading up were twisty with uneven surfaces, potholes popping up when you least expect it. Not a problem for the 335i – set to ‘Comfort’, it made the ride more bearable.
The highlight here? Besides the beautiful scenery and slightly colder weather, Chef Andhika Maxi and his wife, Pastry Chef Karen Carlotta, prepared our lunch. While some might have heard this name, for those who have not, Chef Andhika is renowned in Jakarta not only for publishing cookbooks, but for his extensive stint at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in New York City. This husband and wife team caters only to private dining events.
Our menu? Rouge French Foie Gras, White Truffle Veloute, Wagyu Rib Eye and for the closing ceremony, Dark Chocolate Torte. Ahh… Only one word to describe this culinary experience: Brilliant.
Before driving back to Jakarta from here, we diverted to Rumah Mode (in Jalan Setiabudhi) for some quick shopping. Now, if you Google ‘Rumah Mode’, the results will tell you that this is “the biggest factory outlet in Bandung”, “arguably the most complete in the city” and most importantly, “where you will be dazzled by collections for men, women and children from many famous brands”. Half an hour, a paper bag of new clothes later and I am one happy camper.
To say the drive out of Bandung uneventful would be a lie, as we were caught in peak hour traffic (again). But once that was over after the toll-booth, it was smooth sailing all the way. The 335i was truly in its element; going fast in the outer lane and exploring all that 306bhp and 400Nm of torque was definitely enjoyable. I chose the 'Sport' mode and shifted my own gears via the paddle-shifters three quarter of the time: not only was the 335i an excellent high-speed machine with such communicative steering driven in this manner, the ride remained pliant with excellent brakes to boot. The vocal exhaust accompanying the drive added more aural drama.
Three hours later, we safely arrived back in Jakarta. Some traffic jams here and there, but hey, nothing the 335i can’t handle. Our accommodation for the night? Grand Hyatt Jakarta. And here, it ends our journey with the brilliant 335i.
All that said and done, I still have one small, teenie-weenie, wee bit of issue with the driver’s seat though: personally speaking, it lacks lower back support. Or probably because I gave the yoga class a miss.