One benefit of owning a BMW is its no-cost maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles—which covers service calls for engine oil, engine filter, brake fluid, cabin micro filters, engine air filters, fuel filter, spark plugs, smart key battery, and all vehicle checks.
Of course, cynics will say such costs are built into the transaction price. But there’s still something nice about going to a dealership for a comprehensive service and not having to reach for your wallet.
In dealing with the local BMW dealership—which handles an astonishing volume of business though an overwhelmed service drive—I was initially informed no service loaner vehicle was available, despite having made a reservation several days in advance. Calling an Uber was offered, but this was midday, so I’d be stranded at work.
After I protested mildly (with nary a “Do you know who I am?” to be uttered), the dealership discovered a no-cost Enterprise loaner, but it was a Nissan, not a BMW. As I was waiting for that paperwork to clear, it appears someone likely ran the VIN and discovered mine was a press-fleet vehicle belonging to BMW. Suddenly what should roll up but a gleaming 2018 BMW 530i with fewer than 10 miles on it—clearly dealer stock and not a service loaner. I have a feeling that, were I not working for Motor Trend, I might have been exchanging our $72,000 long-termer for something far less luxurious or nothing at all. Not the sort of experience Joe Public would expect when owning a Bavarian autobahn-stormer.
In addition to the routine 10,000-mile service, the dealer conducted diagnostic tests to check our overly sensitive passenger seat belt warning (no fault was found) as well as our erratic low-coolant warning (air pockets were found in the cooling system).
There also was an open service bulletin (B130217) to check the routing of the fuel line (it had been correctly installed). And the full-system inspection found an as-yet-unnoticed fault in the sunroof software, which was fixed.
Back on the road, the Bimmer rotated through our staff—including a long weekend with copy editor Mary Kaleta. Mary is new to the idea of free cars, and therefore isn’t jaded like the rest of us. But that also means she spots things we take for granted.
Among her positive observations: the immediacy of the seat heaters coming up to temp, clarity of the head-up display, and helpfulness of the parking assist system. But Mary also bemoaned the lack of a place to stash her cellphone, the relatively small size of the visor mirrors, and the occasional passenger-door-versus-curbside scrape due to the low-slung sedan’s door cutout.