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BMW 3 Series


Volkswagen ARTEON

Summary

BMW 3 Series

Is the 330e the best of both worlds?

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), it’s a part-time electric car for the city and a full-time sports sedan for everywhere else.

Sound familiar? BMW’s been down this path before, back with 2012’s ‘ActiveHybrid 3’ and then its first 330e-badged successor four years after.

Both were based on the previous F30 3 Series shape. However, this year’s all-new G20 iteration improves the breed with a bigger boot, up to 50 per cent better range and brawnier performance.  

The thing is, it shares showrooms with the 330i and M340i xDrive, which represent a powerful return-to-form for the 3 Series.

So, the question isn’t so much ‘Is the 330e a good enough PHEV?’ more so than ‘Is the PHEV worthy of the BMW badge?’ Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency2.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Volkswagen ARTEON

Never judge a car by its name, unless, say, it’s the Ford Probe or the Suzuki Mighty Boy - in which case, go for it.

But when it comes to Volkswagen’s Arteon with a name that’s derived from ‘Art’ meaning, well, ‘Art’ and ‘Eon’ meaning ‘the highest class’, don’t be put off because this is new King of Volkswagens. 

Yes, the Arteon is a new model and it sits at the top of Volkswagen’s entire car line-up (but keep in mind, an Amarok V6 Ultimate is more expensive!)... so it must be good, right? Is this a car worthy of that crown? The expectations were high. Is this just a pretender to the throne? We found out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

BMW 3 Series9/10

You know about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right?

Well, its themes of too little or too much apply for buyers of an eco-focused luxury sports sedan. If a hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h isn’t electrified enough, and a pure EV such as the Tesla Model 3 is going too far, then a PHEV like the 330e plugs the gap just about perfectly.   

Yes, prices are high (and especially so with a few choice options), boot capacity is on the low side for a 4.7-metre long sedan and that lusty four-pot turbo is sonically no match for a turbine-smooth BMW inline six as per the M340i, but the 330e does most of the expected things well and some of the ones you might not exceptionally.

Pay the price and you can have your cake and eat it too.


Volkswagen ARTEON8.3/10

The Arteon deserves its rank as the flagship of Volkswagen cars – it’s luxurious, modern and excellent to drive, but retains Volkswagen's utilitarian feel of being hardy and practical and easy to use. A king for the people. 

Is the Volkswagen Arteon worthy of being the King of Volkswagen cars? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

BMW 3 Series

Remember when BMW 3 Series were compact three-box sedans that looked like nothing else? Today’s version seems so close in size to a 5 Series that only an anorak can instantly tell them apart. In fact, at a glance, differentiating the current G20 from the old F30 generation isn’t so easy, either.

It’s no surprise, then, to learn that both the 3- and 5 Series share the company’s scalable, light but super-strong ‘Cluster Architecture’. Imbued with a large-car feel, the 330e is elegant in silhouette and handsomely detailed, its imposing stance highlighted by the M Sport lowered suspension (by 10mm) and bi-colour five-prong double-spoke 19-inch alloys and (optional) Laser-light LEDs.

Flying under the radar for an eco-warrior, there is nothing other than two ‘filler’ flaps to give the PHEV game away externally. It’s all business as usual.

The same cool insouciance permeates our 3 Series’ leather-laden and metallic-accented cabin, that is now properly spacious for four adults. It still retains the signature-BMW driver-centric dashboard angle, but the style certainly isn’t retro, with twin large digital displays and a myriad of personalisation and vehicle configuration choices underlining the 330e’s modernity.

Aided by plenty of eco incentives to go PHEV, in Europe, BMW expects the 330e to be the best selling version; that said, given the inherent conservatism of premium medium sedan buyers globally, there is virtually nothing about this model’s overall execution that is too futuristic, intimidating or oddball.


Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

The Volkswagen Arteon may look like an Audi A5, and it absolutely uses the same MQB platform, but the dimensions are quite different. At 4862mm end to end the Arteon is 189mm longer than the Audi, 25mm wider at 1871mm and at 1435 high is 64mm taller. It's a pretty big car.

A low, broad bonnet, that super sharp character line joining the front guard to the rear haunches and that fastback roofline cut a sleek almost muscle car profile. The look is made even tougher with the R-Line body kit made up of beefy air-intakes, the side sills and boot lid spoiler. Those 20-inch optional wheels fill the guards to the brim, and give the car great stance.

Somebody once said the headlights and tail-lights are the windows of the soul of a car. No, they didn’t, but I think they determine a certain attitude, and the Arteon’s segmented LED headlights are stunning, so too are the tail-lights and the strip indicators which flow to the side the car is moving.

The Arteon’s cabin is much like the top of the line Passat’s with its long slab-like dash. It’s a refined super modern cockpit with its giant touch screen, ‘virtual’ instruments and a choice of three different ambient lighting colours. The fit and finish is superb and that aluminium trim running through the door and onto the dash looks beautiful. It’s a luxurious place, but not overly so, more Business Class than First.

Pure White is the only non-optional colour for the Arteon, the other hues include Pyrite Silver, Manganese Grey, Turmeric Yellow, Chilli Red, Atlantic Blue and Deep Black.

Practicality

BMW 3 Series

For a swoopy sports sedan, the 330e’s interior is pleasingly practical and – after a little familiarisation – user-friendly. As the biggest-ever 3 Series, four average-sized adults can fit in easily, while a smaller fifth person can crowd in on the rear-centre cushion. For short periods, anyway.

One surprise is the lightness of the doors due to them being partly aluminium, which means while they close with a reassuring thud, they’re might feel flimsy at first.

No such misconceptions await once inside the cocoon-quiet cabin, thanks to solid and lush materials everywhere the eye lands and hands touch. Even the plastics seem expensive.

As the 3 Series is famous for, the 330e’s dash is driver-centric, with ample adjustability of the fat-rimmed wheel and unimpeded reach for most of the important switchgear. Sat low and cosily ensconced between door and bisecting centre console, the mood is definitely grand-touring sports sedan.

For this generation, BMW has honed the once-controversial 'iDrive' controller into an artful yet logical example of on-the-move multimedia interface and data retrieval, with a concerted effort to simplify what is a mountain of available information.

Of course, familiarisation is essential, but even a short tuition will open up a world of configuration and customisation of every single facet of the car – chassis, powertrain, climate control, audio, communication and media being the main platforms. Sounds intimidating but isn’t.

To help relax (or energise), there’s even a ‘Caring Car’ feature in the sub menus with appropriately chilled ambient lighting, audio and climate control.

Indeed, the Germans have made strides in improving the perceived quality and functionality in other areas of the latest 3 Series, such as the gear lever operation, thoughtful storage and effortlessly effective ventilation.

However, the digital instrumentation has ignored decades of classy analogue style for a messy computerised multi-view layout that is just too Space Invaders.

Sure, it’s multi-configurable and includes a less-cluttered basic screen, but where’s the sophistication and beauty here? Notice to carmakers: would you wear a watch this ugly?

Moving to the back seat, the optional sunroof might eat into rear headroom, and really long-legged travellers need to ensure the front-seat occupants are as far forward as comfortably possible, but otherwise it’s the same story of well-sculptured cushions and backrests, set within a business-class style environment.

Twin USB-C ports, a 12V outlet and temperature controls are a bonus, hungry door pockets can take a large drink bottle and the essential cupholders are set within the centre armrest.

The only giveaway that this 3 Series is hauling extra electrification is inside the boot. Somewhat shallower than the regular 480-litre item, a higher floor than usual cuts that by 105L to 375L.

But at least the battery doesn’t intrude to the point where you can’t use the cabin load-through with the tri-sected backrests folded down (via a handy lever if you’re standing behind the vehicle). A through-loading system is part of the standard 40/20/40 split-fold backrest.

The floor itself is stepped half way, but if you require a flat surface, it can be lifted to even out the area. And remember, there is no spare wheel – just tyres that can be driven ‘flat’ as required to drive you to the nearest garage.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

The Arteon’s cabin is spacious up front with good head, leg and shoulder room. Legroom in the back is excellent. I’m 191cm and I can sit behind my driving position with about a 10cm gap between my knees and the seatback. It been a long time since I’ve could say that about a car – and the Arteon’s legroom is verging into limo territory.

That swooping roofline looks amazing but it does reduce headroom in the back row. I could only just slide my hand into the space between my head and the roof-lining – I wouldn’t want it to be any closer than that. I’d advise anybody thinking of optioning the sun roof to make sure they can sit under it first as it’ll surely reduce the ceiling height further.

The Arteon’s boot capacity is 563 litres, that’s more than 100 litres bigger than the A5’s cargo capacity and even more than a BMW 5 Series wagon.

The gesture-control liftback hatch is a massive help if your hands are full, and even a klutz like me can get it to open with a foot-kick first time.

You’ll find five cupholders all up in the Arteon and bottle holders in all doors. There’s a deep centre console storage area under the armrest and a smaller pull out bin under the dash on the driver’s side.   

Price and features

BMW 3 Series

It’s clear that electrification will become the norm in the not-too-distant future, from hybrids combining internal combustion engines (ICE) with electric motors and batteries, to the full battery electric vehicle (EV) and eventually hydrogen EV experience.

Somewhere along that spectrum, and nestled between the 320i (from $68,900) and 330i (from $74,900), is the 330e.

Arriving from Germany in either racy M Sport or dreary Luxury grades from $81,900 (before on-road costs), it features an electric motor and battery pack for up to 60km of pure EV propulsion, before a four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine kicks in for in excess of 1800km between refills, officially. Range anxiety be damned.

Mind you, the similarly-engined 320i but minus the electrification is almost 300kg lighter. Blame all that extra electrification swag like an 83kW synchronous motor, 10.3kWh lithium ion battery and a five-metre 1.8kW charging cable.

Being a PHEV means it needs up to six hours to recharge from a regular 10-amp household plug, down to a minimum of around 3.5 hours from a larger power source.

In contrast, a non-plug-in, series-parallel hybrid like the Lexus IS 300h barely manages 2.0km of sub-40km/h-only EV range, before its ICE takes over to replenish a much-smaller battery pack, and relegate the electric motor to mere performance and/or economy boosters only. That’s why the Lexus is some $20,000 cheaper.

This leaves the Mercedes-Benz C300e and Volvo S60 T8 Hybrid from $82,300 and $84,990 respectively as the BMW’s only true equals, as they’re PHEVs, too.

Though both promise slightly less EV range than the 330e, the former is comfort-biased while the latter is a bit of a Swedish hot-rod, blitzing all for sheer oomph while scoring all-wheel drive into the bargain.

Note, however, that from $75,425 (before tax and on-road costs) will buy you the mouthful Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus RWD (rear-wheel drive). As a pure EV, the Yank has kicked the ICE habit with a silent and furious need for speed. 

Not that our 330e M Sport Package isn’t hot to trot, with its M Sport-enhanced suspension, brakes, aero body kit, 19-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres (so no spare wheel), steering wheel, Alcantara/Sensonic vinyl upholstery and ‘Shadow Line’ gloss-grey trimmings. Menacing.  

The BMW’s list of goodies is barely good enough for a sedan that’s over $90K drive-away. You’ll find adaptive dampers that switch seamlessly from firm to soft depending on how stiff/supple you want the ride to be, auto entry/start, stop/start, heated/folding/dipping mirrors, two USB and a single 12V ports, tri-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, three-year subscription-based in-car emergency and concierge services, Apple CarPlay (but still not Android Auto at the time of publishing), 12.3-inch digital instrumentation with head-up display, a 10.25-inch central screen, satellite navigation, extended Bluetooth connectivity, an unreliable ‘Hey, BMW’ voice-activation system, digital radio, 205W amplifier audio, a 32GB hard drive, wireless smartphone charger and a personalisation function in the key saving all your preferred settings.

On the safety and security front there’s also autonomous emergency braking (AEB), warnings and active assistance/intervention for steering, lane-change, lane-departure and front/rear cross-traffic (with braking) situations, full-auto parking with surround-view 3D cameras and sensors, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go, auto high-beam LED headlights with delay/off, rain-sensing wipers, low-speed EV-mode acoustic warnings for pedestrians and localised recharging info including range radius. Handy.

Still, a sunroof is optional, as are our car’s trick 'Laser-light' active/adaptive LEDs, ambient cabin lighting, motion-sensor electric bootlid, seat and steering wheel heaters, galvanised trim, and other goodies, amounting to over $10,000. All blow out pricing towards $100K. Ouch.

At least you can pre-set the climate control in your 330e via a BMW app. Cool!


Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

Okay, $65,490 seems like a lot to pay for a Volkswagen, but don’t forget the Arteon is the King of Volkswagen cars and the Passat on the next rung down costs up to $59,990. Remember too that while other countries have several variants of Arteon from the base spec to the priciest and fanciest in their ranges, Australia only gets this model in one, grade but it’s the fully decked out one – the 206 TSI R-Line – which is also why it’s costs so much.

Standard features include: leather upholstery; a 9.2-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; an eight-speaker stereo; a 12.3-inch virtual instrument display for the speedo, tacho and sat nav; a reversing camera with 360-degree view; a head-up display; auto parking; the two outside back seats in the back are heated and so are the 14-way power adjustable front seats; there’s adaptive LED headlights; kick-open auto tailgate; 19-inch alloy wheels; and some damned impressive advanced safety equipment.

The options list is tiny. This tiny. You can option a sunroof, different 19-inch alloys and a higher-end stereo system with more speakers. For some reason the wheels and stereo are packaged together. Oh, word of warning: if you’re thinking about a sunroof sit in an Arteon with one first – headroom is already tight and the sunroof may make it tighter for you.

So, is the Arteon good value? Yes. The features list is huge, and it and the Audi A5 Sportback are cousins being built on the same platform and using much of the same technology - but the equivalent Audi 2.0 TFSI quattro costs $81,500.

As for the real rivals to the Arteon, there’s the top-of-the-range Kia Stinger GT-Line for $59,990, Infiniti’s Q50 Sport Premium 2.0t is $62,400 and Jaguar’s XE 25t R-Sport costs $66,500. 

Engine & trans

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s modular (B48) 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine delivers 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed automatic. The latter is regarded as one of the best transmissions of its type in production today.

That transmission also houses the 83kW/105Nm synchronous motor, while the 10.3kWh battery pack is located underneath the back seat. Total outputs are 185kW/420Nm.

Each power source works together to create a smooth and quiet EV experience up to a published 60km, before the 2.0-litre takes over the main driving function, but powering down again when coasting or under very light throttle, to help eke out maximum mileage between refills.

There are three modes to choose from ­– 'Sport', 'Hybrid' and 'Electric' – with the latter allowing for pure EV driving as long as the batteries are juiced up enough; otherwise the default Hybrid setting kicks in, where both propulsion options are used to maximum efficiency.

Back in Electric mode, in Battery Control mode, the driver can pre-select a minimum battery charge level for use later on where conditions are better-suited to EV driving – such as in downtown.    

There’s also a so-called ‘XtraBoost’ function, providing up to 30kW of extra power (topping out at 215kW) for short periods, and is accompanied by a fake/enhanced exhaust note. It’s a bit of a scorcher, actually, revving hungrily to the redline and reeling in the horizon like a proper BMW should.

Don't go searching for an evocative in-line six-cylinder soundtrack, however. Instead, there's simply a zingy metallic snarl as the tacho swings swiftly upwards. S mode loves holding on to each gear ratio, aided by a thoughtfully placed set of paddle shifters.

Overall, the 3 Series PHEV is surprisingly rapid – clearing the 100km/h marker needs just 5.9 seconds – but subjectively actually feels even faster. BMW limits the 330e's EV top speed to 140km/h, or 230km/h in dinosaur-fuel mode.    


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

A four-cylinder engine is probably not what you’d expect the King of Volkswagens to be packing, but the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line’s 2.0-litre turbo four makes an impressive 206kW and 350Nm. That’s enough grunt to shift this 1.6 tonne sedan from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, and that’s quick. Combine this with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed wet clutch DSG and you have a formidably capable driveline – the same one that’s in the Golf R.

I’d like to have seen a V6-powered Arteon in the line-up in the same way the Kia Stinger is available with both four and six-cylinder engines. For a car that’s supposed to sit at the head of the Volkswagen dinner table there should be a variant that offers more shove.

Fuel consumption

BMW 3 Series

On the flipside, BMW reckons over 1800km is possible, thanks to the official combined figure of only 2.2 litres per 100km. That’s outstanding range, especially considering the fuel tank is a teeny 40 litres.

Maybe it was the addictive allure of all that XtraBoost oomph, or perhaps it’s the porky 1740kg throwing its weight around, but we could not better 6.3L/100km during our week with the Bavarian wunderkind.  

BMW recommends either premium unleaded (95 RON plus) or E10 ethanol, so no standard stuff, please.

Meanwhile, in EV mode, less than 40km is the real-world range, and that can drop dramatically with amenities running like the AC. The EU electricity consumption figure is 15.4kW/h/100km, which is reasonable for the 330e’s size and weight.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

Volkswagen says the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line will use 7.5L/100km of premium unleaded over a combination of highways, country roads and urban streets. Our test route started in Hobart, Tasmania, and headed north along the coast, and while those were great driving roads, it was hardly going to use as much fuel as a city commute which was reflected in the 8.0L/100km average our trip meter recorded. 

It’s a fuel-efficient engine, obviously, but it’ll be good to see what mileage we’ll get after a week of bumper-to-bumper traffic and a weekend fully loaded up with gear.

Driving

BMW 3 Series

The good news is that the 330e is designed for built-up and urban environments, since it benefits from a quiet electric motor to whoosh you along almost silently and always serenely for up to that 60km official range. Acceleration is instant, punchy and remains strong as speeds quickly rise, making the BMW ideal for darting in and out of traffic gaps.

In the real world, with the climate-control switched on and other drains on the car, that drops to under 40km, though that can often be more than enough for most commutes. If there’s access to a normal 10a socket, the BMW will be fully charged to get you back home in fewer than six hours.

Of course, the beauty of a PHEV is that the main form of motivation is a brilliantly muscular and responsive BMW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which really gives the 330e wings as a fast and fluent open-road grand tourer. It just laps the miles up.

Still, running on petrol, the Bavarian is as impressive around town, too, since there’s a hefty lump of low-down torque on tap for prompt throttle responses. The superb eight-speed torque-converter auto provides an almost supernatural ability to select the right ratio at the right time, and in a most harmonious manner too.

Perhaps this is a one-off blip in our test car, but a concerning powertrain jolt was discernible from somewhere in the transmission at step-off, as if the 330e is struggling to reconcile electric and petrol power seamlessly.  

Every aspect of the BMW PHEV’s powertrain and chassis – engine, transmission, steering and suspension – can be altered from a cushy softness to a muscular firmness, according to the mood of the driver (or passengers).

Although never heavy, there is substance to the steering even at slower speeds, and the upshot is an engaging and involving experience. Switching to Sport intensifies everything, for an edgier, more athletic experience.

Great for keener folk seeking the 3 Series’ enthusiast’s machine reputation. That said, the turning circle is tight for easy manoeuvrability, while the auto parking feature helps getting the sedan into tighter spots, and generally works reliably.

Adaptive dampers do a great job in helping to smother out most of the bumps and ruts of suburbia’s roads, though larger speed humps can expose the limits of available suspension travel as well as ground clearance (147mm).

Out on the open road, the steering is a boon, working with the taut chassis for sharp handling and balanced roadholding. Displaying towering levels of roadholding, the 330e simply remains glued to the road, even at speed.

One small observation is that the 330e lacks a mechanical limited slip differential, so there isn’t quite the surgical handling crispness that elevates the latest 330i into the dynamic stratosphere.

That, plus the extra mass of the PHEV, do dull the steering’s sharpness and BMW’s overall agility slightly. Never stodgy, just not supernaturally athletic. That’s the price you pay for parsimony.

Finally, in the sportier settings, with the stability and traction controls’ hold loosened, the tail can be made to swing out, meaning the driver must remain alert and ready to reel it all back into place.

This isn’t as much a flaw as a playful aspect of the 330e’s very broad dynamic bandwidth. There’s something for everyone.


Volkswagen ARTEON8/10

The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is as good as the King of Volkswagen cars should be to drive – it feels beautifully balanced and light, it’s quick off the mark and the traction from the all-wheel drive feels unshakeable. 

As I said earlier, a six-cylinder variant would have been even better - the blow a V6 turbo diesel such as the 180kW/550Nm unit in the Touareg delivers would have made the Arteon a beast. Better yet, why not the 4.2-litre V8 diesel with 250kW/800Nm?

But, that said, the driving experience is still rewarding, with excellent handling and a comfortable ride courtesy of the adaptive chassis control system. It allows you to firm or soften the suspension in increments, which is nice.

I did notice more than expected tyre noise filtering into the cabin, but my drive was on coarse-chip roads. 

Safety

BMW 3 Series

As part of the G20 3 Series line-up, the 330e achieved a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating in October, 2019.

There basically isn’t an active or passive safety item left unticked in this grade, meaning AEB (operational from 5km/h to 210km/h), stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control and brake-assist, active lane-change and lane-departure warnings and intervention, front and rear cross-traffic alert with braking and blind-spot monitoring.

Eight airbags are fitted – front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and head airbags for all outboard seat occupants.

There’s also adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, as well as a low-speed EV-mode acoustic warning for pedestrians and cyclists to get out of the way. That’s set to about 20km/h.

BMW fits a pair of ISOFIX points for the outboard back seat positions, as well as top tethers for strap-fastened child seats.


Volkswagen ARTEON9/10

You’ll be hard pressed to find a car in this price bracket with such an impressive armoury of advanced safety equipment as the Arteon 206 TSI R-Line. It doesn’t just have AEB, it has AEB which works from 5km/h to 250km/h. For speeds under that there’s a low speed AEB system called Manoeuvre Braking (forward and reverse), which is especially for car-parks. And the Arteon knows the difference between a pedestrian and another vehicle.

There’s also rear cross-traffic and blind-spot warning. A combination of adaptive cruise control and Lane Assist which will keep you in your lane and a safe distance behind the car in front, although if your hands leave the steering wheel for too long the Arteon will alert you. If you don’t take hold of the wheel most impressive safety feature springs into action: in a situation where you have passed out and your hands have fallen off the wheel the Arteon will brake sharply several times in an attempt to get your attention. If you don’t respond it will check its surrounding for cars and then change lanes all the way across to the emergency lane where it will bring itself to a halt. Amazing.

The Arteon has not yet been given a safety rating by ANCAP, but it did score the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP equivalent.

Oh, and it has a full sized spare alloy wheel – which I reckon is a must-have safety item in Australia.

Ownership

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s warranty is one of the worst in the business. Its meagre three years/unlimited kilometres matches Audi’s Scrooge-y efforts but is two-years shy of arch nemesis Mercedes-Benz.

The 330e’s servicing is condition-based, depending on how it’s driven and other factors, with a dash warning appearing to let the driver/owner know when it’s time. In the UK, a two-year/30,000km interval is advised, if that helps.

No capped-price servicing regime is offered, but the 'BMW Service Inclusive Basic' packages cover scheduled servicing from three years/40,000km to five years/80,000km, and start from $1350.


Volkswagen ARTEON7/10

The Arteon 206 TSI R-Line is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km and is capped at $433 for the first, $570 for the second, $637 for the third, $740 for the fourth and then back to $433 for the fifth year of ownership.