Beamer in blue

Alex Ford

GET used to seeing highway cops in souped-up Beamers.

The latest addition to the Highway Patrol stable is the M5 sedan, providing modern safety features and a bit more oomph.

Wellington Highway Patrol Sergeant Luke Banwell took the Gippsland Times out for a spin, and was full of praise for the new ride — for those playing at home, it’s an eight-speed automatic V6 twin-turbo diesel.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said.

“The handling is second-to-none, I’ve told a lot of people it’s the best handling vehicle I’ve ever driven.”

But why are police cruising around in $130,000 sports cars?

“The process for selecting a suitable replacement for Holdens and Fords, which have been our mainstay for almost as long as we’ve had cars in the Victoria Police, was a long process, and it was based on performance, but moreso based on safety,” Sgt Banwell explained.

“Victoria Police, as an employer, are obliged to provide a safe working environment for us.

“There was a committee formed of people from road policing to make the decisions for us, there’s a lot of criteria like ANCAP ratings, they came back with x amount of candidates, and asked those candidates to tender, BMW must have come up with the best deal.”

The cars are leased, and once their service is finished, the modifications will be removed and they will be sold on.

Wellington is the third region to get one of the BMWs, as they slowly replace other patrol vehicles.

Sgt Banwell was particularly impressed with the sensors, on top of all the other police gear.

“This one’s got a hell of a lot more safety features — collision avoidance, automatic cruise control, lane deviation systems, it also reads speed signs, even roadworks, it’ll read it, it doesn’t guess based on GPS, it actually reads the signs,” he said enthusiastically.

“It has infra-red and heat-sensitive vision, so at night, when you have your lights on, you can see (on the dash) in black and white, greyscale imagery, showing you a possum or a car, or people in the distance — if there’s a kangaroo up the side of the road, you’ll be able to see it through a heat signature and a visualisation.”

Many of the officers were still getting used to the car — it’s a diesel, for starters, and there’s a lot of bells and whistles that are being uncovered.

“There’s an alert button here that goes direct to BMW 24-hour service, so in case you might have broken down — once you push it, they ring you back in the car,” Sgt Banwell said.

“I know that because I was looking for the fuel card and we used to keep it in the console, I thought it was the button to open it, and I hear this ‘hello, hello’ on the dash, with my coordinates, there’s a bloke from BMW service asking if I’m alright.”

Putting the car through its paces, Sgt Banwell explained how the drive was slightly different, with smoother takeoff, better control in sharper turns, an

“You feel more confident, safe, and secure on the road,” he said.

The BMWs follow the Mercedes AMG demonstration vehicle that toured the state last year, showing how new safety technologies can help keep drivers safe.

Eventually, the advanced systems will be available in consumer cars, which is something Sgt Banwell said is essential — anyone in the market for a new car should be looking at the ANCAP safety ratings before anything else.