The all-conquering 3-series from BMW arrives in a brand new, and even more impressive, avatar. Just what is it that makes this car so special?
The 3 series range from BMW has quite an accomplished history. Introduced at the time of the 1973 oil crisis, the 3 was simply loved by the buying public – who were drawn to its compact size and sporty driving appeal. So, it came as no surprise that shortly thereafter it took over the mantle of the largest selling model in the BMW product range – a distinction that it’s held ever since.
What also helped the 3 series along – despite rival automakers doing their very best to compete with it over the years – is the fact that it’s quite a versatile machine that’s offered in various body styles (coupe, cabriolet, and estate). It’s also been blessed with a halo car unlike any other – the M3. Designed and built by BMW’s Motorsport division, M3’s have been the driving connoisseurs’ vehicle of choice for decades, and have also helped BMW claim various important titles on racing tracks worldwide.
Therefore, every new generation of the 3 series is a massive event for BMW and its customers alike. For the company, it holds its fortunes in its hands as it continues to be the largest selling model, and for customers is hold the promise of yet another generation of a superb sports saloon. And the latest gen F30 3 series does not disappoint.
Right from the refreshed styling, with a rather menacing/aggressive front end, to the updated interiors, the 3 is a successful styling exercise that’s managed to retain familiar BMW cues such as the double-kidney grille and Hofmeister kink, while also giving the new 3 an air of aggressiveness that the previous generation lacked. The interiors too feature the latest technology and gadgets, with standard equipment (at least on the 328i) including a Head-Up display, Satellite navigation, a bigger iDrive screen, and other goodies. The bigger changes, however, come under the hood, where the earlier 6-speed automatic transmission has been replaced with the latest ZF-sourced 8-speed transmission. The engine options carry forward the earlier 2 liter diesel engine, which, in revised form, puts out 181bhp and 380Nm of torque. Combined with the new transmission, the acceleration figures for the 320d improve to 7.6 seconds to 100km/h.
The bigger difference, however, comes in the petrol engine lineup, which, instead of BMW’s trademark 3 liter straight-six engine, is powered by the new range of direct-injection turbocharged petrol engines. The 328i is now fitted with a 2 liter, twin-scroll turbocharged engine with direct injection. This raft of the latest technology results in an output of 241bhp and 350Nm of torque, which, given the engine size, is highly impressive. Even more impressive, however, is the way the engine delivers its power. With the quick-spooling twin-scroll turbo, there is virtually no lag in the power delivery, and power is available throughout the power band. This makes the new 3 a fantastic point-and-shoot device, with the engine delivering serious grunt on demand. In conjunction with the slick shifting 8-speed gearbox, this makes overtaking a breeze. The most impressive aspect of the new engine-plus-gearbox combo, however, is the increased efficiency it offers. In fact, where the older 3 liter car wouldn’t average over 8-9 km/l in city driving, the new car delivers an easy 11-12 km/l.
The other improvements come in the quality of the interiors, which is a serious upgrade compared to the last-gen machine. And one of my favourite elements of the interiors are the sports seats, which are just right for a sports saloon. They are set low, have a wide range of adjustment, look gorgeous with the contrast stitching and, most importantly, have brilliant side bolsters that really hold the driver and occupant in place during some really hard cornering. I wish all cars came equipped with seats like these.
The result of all these improvements is that the new 3-series once again provides a product that’s versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of buyers. It has all the sporty elements that an enthusiast looks for in a car, as well as all the niceties that a luxury car buyer wants as well. In short, it has everything it needs to be the class-leader once again, and is a worthy addition to a long-lineup of the 3 series family.