Thursday, January 20, 2005

Auto Service Diary

by Tom Bozzo

8 A.M. Zimbrick BMW’s new home, across the Beltline Highway from the old pan-European location, is not quite finished. They've been in there since Monday. The lounge area features a big HDTV, but offers no Wi-Fi signal. A large balcony overlooking the showroom floor is empty, as are adjoining offices. What will become the real service waiting area looks like it will have wired data ports, but it’s not finished yet, either.

Based on the mug logos, the waiting area coffee should be Ancora. This cold is leaving my taste buds unable to determine whether or not it’s actually Ancora.

I learn that my key stores the car’s mileage among other parameters — didn't realize it could rat me out.

The bright fluorescent lighting makes my screen look dim and very dirty. (It is very definitely the latter.)

The red 325xi in front of me is the most handsome car on the showroom floor IMHO. I can be very conservative in these matters. I’d have been satisfied had the E46 coupe stuck to the mold lines of the E36, though I vastly prefer the current model’s interior.

The 645Ci is sleek, but has amazingly little back seat room for such a large car. A virtue of the trusty 3 is that friends and family of normal height can survive short rides in the back as needed. Headroom in the 6 is limited, too, though the power is off and so I can’t reposition the seat.

8:45. The mobile rings, and Suzanne says I must be in heaven, surrounded by cars and with unlimited coffee, peace and quiet, and a computer.

9:30. I stretch my legs past a 545i on the floor, loaded to the tune of $65,020 on the window sticker but discounted to $58,995 as it’s their last ’04. I’ll break from E60 bashing elsewhere and say it’s looks good to me, though in the slick conditions outside it won’t be going anywhere (sport package, summer tires, can’t safely be driven out of the parking lot). No way it’s worth two Acura TLs. It’s also Black Sapphire Metallic, which doesn’t seem quite as sparkly as the Cosmos Black of my old M3.

Moreover, my post-M3 rule still applies: no more black exterior cars — I don’t want to have to turn over a paycheck to Octopus Car Wash. So that one won’t be the winner in my on-again, off-again search for a family sedan.

Maybe if they make me an offer I can’t refuse.

10:15. 2nd leg stretching break. I do not like the 745Li, even though you could have a pretty well populated party in the back seat. All but the most basic controls are solutions in search of problems (trick gear shift, trick seat controls, iDrive). The matte-finish cherry trim does look like real wood, but it manages to not quite go with even the beige leather of the example on display. A belt of speckly gray plastic or fiberglass trim running from the lower dash through the door panels does not go either. The rear seat ashtray lids feel cheap. All this for $79,000.

Some construction work in the future service waiting area is breaking the peace and quiet.

11:30. Boredom sets in. My car is not visible in the service bay. No internet and no TV (cable not hooked up to the HDTV) make blogger go crazy. I should have gone to the office, even though I’ve written a few hundred words in service of an upcoming deadline in the relatively distraction-free environment.

Maybe they’re trying to break me down so I'll take the 545i to get out of here.

12:10. Nope! They just forgot about me. My service adviser looks a bit ashen. Labor on the iPod adapter is comped for my wasted time. Good, good service adviser! It's interesting to consider the implications for what BMW must do to them if I report an unhappy experience, as the installation was 1.5 hours at $92 per.

The visible sign of the iPod adapter work is a little white wire in the glove box with a dock connector plug on the end — very minimalist.
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