The BMW 3-Series holds pole position as the biggest selling premium car in the world. But the Munich based carmaker is never one to rest on achievements and it has further improved the 3-Series, writes Padraic Deane.
With design modifications and a further refined interior, that includes the new generation common rail diesel power as well optional operating concept BMW iDrive, made a test drive in both the new BMW 3 Series Saloon and the new BMW 3 Series Touring well worthwhile.
A combination of the rear-wheel drive, with more harmonious axle load distribution and outstanding steering precision as well as highly sophisticated chassis technology, deliver the best drivability in its segment.
But now the driving pleasure has also been combined with an awareness of economy and minimised pollutant emissions. Thanks to BMW EfficientDynamics the new BMW 3 Series achieves significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emission levels in all 3-Series engines.
My choice was the 320d, a super 2.0-litre diesel engine that blends smooth power delivery with wonderful frugality. Indeed this 177 bhp engine emits just 128 g/km of CO2 in the saloon and 130 g/km in the Touring (Sports Estate ). The saloon returns a remarkable combined fuel economy of 59 mpg with the Touring just one behind at 58 mpg.
My 320d models came with Stop/Start, meaning the engine is switched off every time I come to a halt and engage neutral. This excellently engineered system is very quick and refined – the engine starts up again as soon as you engage first gear. It works very well but you will only appreciate it if you do most of your driving in urban/city environments.
The new BMW 320d Series Saloon and BMW 330d Series Touring are also equipped with a smooth six-speed manual gearboxes.
The exterior contour edges of the side skirts have been set higher and modelled in a more distinctive fashion. Another new feature is the exterior mirrors with two distinctive character lines, and they also offer an enlarged field of vision.
The sporty and tight rear has a new lighting design. To achieve a more powerful and sporty character effect, the rear bumpers, rear lights and luggage compartment handle have been completely redesigned. The dual section rear lights are now structured according to the characteristic BMW L shape. The two LED rear light clusters and the direction indicators in LED technology are designed to create a striking, high-quality appearance.
The widened track of the new BMW 3 Series especially contributes to its powerful appearance. Depending on the model, the track of the rear axle has been widened by up to 24 millimetres by means of a new wheel carrier and other modified details.
One feature that attracted attention at the announcement was a 'hard drive' for audio files. It comes with anyone opting for the 'Sat. Navigation'. The storage medium with a capacity of 80 GB provides outstandingly fast access to digital maps for navigation purposes and can also be used for an extensive collection of music files. The system enables music files to be transferred to the hard drive from a CD, MP3 player or USB stick.
Aside from the obvious badge appeal, build quality and residual value that the 3-Series offers, you now get performance with economy and you are greener than many smaller cars.