Luxo-misers - BMW 320D Corporate or Fortuner?




By now, you are probably sick of getting those pizza pamphlets that tell you how you can get a micro-medium pizza free when you order a super macro-medium pizza. Some will even tell you that you can pay just Rs 20 more and get that super-small light tub of chocolate mint ice-cream. You could put the BMW 320d Corporate edition in pretty much the same category, except there's no coupon to be given, no cut-off date and you don't have to choose any extra toppings either.

In plain English, it's a cut-price 320d without the not-so-essential trimmings. You won't miss the sunroof, you won't miss the leather seats and if you do, the faux leather trimming will fool even the best of leather deco connoisseurs. There's a single CD player, the fore and aft movement of the front seats is manual, there is no centre arm rest for the rear seat passengers and the blinds from the rear doors have been removed. You get slightly different looking 16-inch wheels and there are high powered halogens instead of xenons for headlamps. But the best bit is this - it costs approximate Rs 8 lakh less than the standard 320d Highline, at Rs 23.95 lakh, ex-showroom.   Somewhat shocked? Don't be, because what's even better news is that it isn't just for fleet services - you and me can buy one too (well, I can't, but you get the idea). What's more, the Corporate Edition still retains all the safety equipment and even the 2.0-litre 170 bhp drivetrain with the six-speed auto. This brought us to the point - would a potential D-segment buyer with a budget of Rs 20-25 lakh take that wee bit extra effort and opt for a BMW instead? To find out, we met three people who have been looking to purchase a
D-segmenter in the next six months or so, or have booked one. The idea being, would they change their mind and be swayed by the BMW or still find solace in the regular D-segment cars? For this purpose, we took the 320d and a Toyota Fortuner as a representative D-segment offering.


Now, the Fortuner isn't something you can scoff at. After all, Toyota Kirloskar have had such a brilliant run with its new SUV that despite delivering over 1000 units a month, it has had to temporarily suspend bookings to meet existing demand. And, in the eyes of most upwardly mobile upper-middle class souls, it is the car, er SUV, to have. What's more, with its 3.0-litre D-4D and 165 bhp on tap, it is no run-of-the-mill machine either. And all three individuals had put the Fortuner on their consideration list, which meant asking them if they were brave enough to try out something new
and take the jump.   Name: Ashutosh Tupule
Age: Early 40s
Occupation: Telecom industry
Currently owns: Honda Civic, Toyota Innova
Upgrade in: Next three months


Ashutosh isn't new to the concept of a Toyota, but to a BMW he is. So as soon as he saw the black 320d, he made a dash for it and wanted to try it out instantly. Two minutes after we'd belted up and driven out of his apartment building, he made his first comment -  'This drives just like my Civic'. He found more to like, such as the build quality, which he thought was pretty good, and the power delivery. 'It's very easy to drive and refined', he said and when told about the price tag and service costs, he was very interested. But since Ashutosh spends six of his seven days in the back seat, he just had to try it out. He found the seat okay, but found getting in and out of the rear seat difficult. At which point, he finished his deal with the BMW and headed for the Fortuner. The moment he did, said 'I feel at home'. For him, the Innova, based on the same IMV platform as the Fortuner, has been his daily driver for the last few years and while he found the space a touch short of his MPV, he found it much better than the BMW. The familiar interiors apart, Ashutosh said that he wished Toyota brought changes to its vehicles quicker and even went on to say after driving the Fortuner that Toyotas need to become more refined too.

After some more discussion, he kept nudging me about the BMW. He was interested even when told that the 320d would turn out to be around Rs 29 lakh on-road Mumbai, unlike the seven-seat Fortuner at Rs 22 lakh. 'It's the better package here', ending the discussion and making it one-nil in favour of the Bavarian.   Name: Sanjeev Mestry
Age: Mid-40s
Occupation: Automobile workshop owner
Currently owns: Skoda Octavia, a couple of classic Fiats
Upgrade in: Next six months


It was easier dealing with a motorhead like Sanjeev. After all, he has seen all kinds of cars and SUVs in his lifetime, and while he had booked a Fortuner as far back as September 2009, his car is only expected to be delivered in August this year - which goes to show how high the demand for the vehicle has become. He could be the ideal candidate to cancel his booking and look for a change, but has held on to his decision so far, despite never having driven the Fortuner. So we weren't surprised when we found him angling for the big T for a drive first. Ten minutes later, the otherwise quiet Sanjeev started to speak, 'I don't understand why Toyota are charging Rs 10 lakh extra over the Innova. There isn't even as much space in here'. Was he changing his mind? Maybe not, but he found it not very different from what he termed 'an upgraded Innova'. He found the power and acceleration to be quite decent and even found the four-wheel drive 'advantageous'. Stepping next into the BMW, he instantly reacted that it felt 'better' and found the refinement levels and power to his liking too. He said that most people might find owning this car the better idea and when they wanted to ferry more than four people they might want to hire an Innova.

So is that enough for Sanjeev to make the switch? 'Not one bit', he says. He will stick to his Fortuner booking because at the end of the day his own cost analysis sheet showed that the Fortuner worked out best for him. The Japanese has now made it a deuce.   Name: Samir Kale
Age: Mid-40s
Profession: PR professional
Currently owns: Toyota Corolla
Upgrade in: Six to eight months


Samir Kale is yet another professional on the run for whom the duties of a chauffeur are essential. His priorities are rear seat legroom and underthigh support, apart from no-nonsense mechanicals and after-sales service. With his last-gen Corolla doing  sterling duty, he's now looking for a car in the Rs 20-22 lakh bracket as a replacement in the coming months. So when the BMW and Fortuner turned up, he was more than surprised by what the BMW had to offer. For one, he liked the overall handling, refinement and the quality of interior materials. While he appreciated the fact that the car runs on diesel, he was quick to add that a petrol Corporate Edition should be made available (are you listening, BMW?). But after a quick spin his attention was drawn to the rear seat and somehow the overall room at the rear fell a bit short of his expectations. His experience in the Fortuner next did give him some relief in terms of room, but he found the overall refinement and build quality a bit disappointing. He did find the seven seats a boon, but a bit impractical for his use.

So what would he choose? Actually, neither. He wasn't happy with the overall comfort levels of either and ended up feeling that a Skoda Superb would suit him best, given his requirements. So in the end, the two walked back home with a point each, but all three did feel that the BMW is a strong contender for anyone in the market looking for a vehicle in that price range. You could say that the round has yet another winner on its hands.