2014 BMW 328d to New York
2014 BMW 328d to New York
2014 BMW 328d to New York
2014 BMW 328d to New York. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Catch up on Part I here

After leaving Ottawa for New York City in early January and encountering weather that closed our preferred route south, my partner Susan and I were making surprisingly good time despite a long detour. Having left late at 11:00 am, we were on track to arrive at our hotel by a very civilized 6:30 pm according to the GPS.

Our vehicle, the 2014 BMW 328d, is new to the Canadian market this year, being the first four-cylinder diesel offered by the company here. Very common in Europe, journalists have driven them there and raved at the power and low fuel consumption. “Why don’t we get such a model,” was the familiar refrain. Well, now we do. The 2.0L diesel makes 181 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Base price: $47,700 with standard xDrive all-wheel drive. Our as-tested price: $58,395.

The BMW GPS, which, after some difference of opinion, we mutually decided would be better on than off, monitors traffic flow and adjusts its route accordingly, a feature of the company’s latest system. As we approached New York City, the GPS suggested that delays on the George Washington Bridge could be avoided by taking the Lincoln Tunnel. Apparently we would drive further, but we’d save time.

GPS systems have the effect of turning me into an obedient drone, especially when coincidentally The News is reporting something to do with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie closing two lanes on the very bridge we wanted to cross. We thought that meant, like, today, which made the tunnel appear the prudent route.

Nonetheless, Susan was skeptical. “It would take us the wrong way” was the idea she couldn’t shake.  But we were tired; we were weak; resistance was futile.

“Turn… NOW!” barked the GPS as we approached the exit for the Lincoln Tunnel.

“Yes, ma’am…”

To digress for a minute, the island of Manhattan is divided into three general areas: Downtown, Midtown and Uptown. Actually, there’s kind of a fourth, which is the area between Downtown and Midtown. Then there is east and west (lower east side; upper west side, and so on).

I mention this because we were heading to the Franklin Hotel, whose East 87th Street location is at the southern boundary of the Upper East Side. The Lincoln Tunnel, however, enters and exits Manhattan at West 40th Street, below the traffic zoo that is Midtown. Few voluntarily drive in Midtown – well, maybe Jerry Seinfeld when he’s showing off a car to a fellow comedian – but most folks avoid it like the plague.

2014 BMW 328d to New York2014 BMW 328d to New York
2014 BMW 328d to New York. Click image to enlarge

Entering the tunnel turned out to be an experience in automotive anarchy; a snarl of traffic – what felt like thousands of cars – converging into two lanes. Courtesy will get you nowhere in situations like this; it’s survival of the pushiest, so you’d better find your inner jerk.

Head north after the tunnel and you encounter groups of tourists ogling zombie-like in the middle of the road at the lights of Times Square. You could tell we were from out-of-town; we seemed to be the only private vehicle around; all the others were taxis, police, fire trucks and ambulances.

While avoiding the tourists, we learned that the bridge scandal happened months ago, and the George Washington wasn’t closed at all. Too funny. We did make the hotel without incident, however. Arrival time? 7:45 pm. Not bad, I thought. About 730 km total. In time for supper!

There would be no more driving in New York City; it’s just not the smart way to get around. You walk, you take the subway or you take a cab (I only saw one of the new Nissan cabs; mostly it was Ford Escape Hybrids, Toyota Camrys or Ford Crown Victorias, with both of the Fords interestingly no longer in production).

The Franklin Hotel is an affordable little establishment that has a funky olde-fashioned elevator with a manual door festooned with art deco metalwork. The hotel’s little rooms offer nice beds and bedding, but the sink in our bathroom was in an area that was so small you had to approach it sideways. If you’re okay with quirky, the Franklin has a good feel to it.

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