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New BMW 3 Series has all the ingredients to make it feel special

S.Muralidhar | Updated on October 17, 2019 Published on October 17, 2019

With the roofline reaching farther back and with a shorter, tighter boot lid sporting an upturned lip, the new 3 Series’ is so much closer to a sportback design

With the roofline reaching farther back and with a shorter, tighter boot lid sporting an upturned lip, the new 3 Series’ is so much closer to a sportback design

The instrument cluster in Luxury Line variant was an all digital unit with the speedo and rpm-meter generated on either side in the trademark half hexagon shape

The 330i gets the 8-speed sport steptronic transmission with steering-mounted paddle shifters for manual gear selection

The re-done cabin features a driver-focussed cockpit with a new range of controls and functionality

With an improved ride, more seating space at the rear and premium bits in cabin, there are now more reasons to like this sedan

Diesel is still alive and kicking. Certainly seems to be the case in the luxury passenger car segment, at least, as yet. What’s not to like if you can get all that low-end torque while driving in the city, if it can meet all the regulations and if it also saves you some loose change at the pump!

An agile, quick diesel in a luxury entry sedan can be great fun. So, if one gets a chance to paw the wheel of the sharpest handling diesel sedan, one doesn’t think twice. The BMW 3 Series has always been the sportiest in the entry luxury sedan segment. It has held on to that label for years. Those who complained that its ride was too harsh in Indian road conditions should have by now warmed up to the experience of driving the car themselves, and luckily for all of us, BMW has also tweaked the ride quality to suit conditions in markets like ours. Also going by the amount of LEDs, chrome and leather used in the new seventh generation 3, I’d say that this is now much better positioned to take on the likes of the C-Class and the Audi A4.

Design

The 7th-gen 3 Series arrived in BMW showrooms during the first week of September this year. And this new model looks sharper and sportier than it has ever been. It has obviously grown in size and sports a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs — both front and rear. In fact, with the roofline reaching farther back and with a shorter, tighter boot lid sporting an upturned lip, the new 3 Series’ is so much closer to a sportback design. It is about 76mm longer than the predecessor, and the longer wheelbase also expectedly translates into more room in the cabin. Despite its increased proportions, the car does look sharp and nimble thanks to chiselled panels, a lowered hood and a busy front design that draws your eye to the details.

The new headlamps wrap around the edges with LED DRLs creating a new signature fascia for the 3 Series. They continue to merge into the brand trademark kidney grille. The grille itself is larger than in the predecessor but is not as dominating as in some of the newer models from the German luxury brand. A single chrome surround adorns the kidney grille and active louvres sit between the vertical slats. The horizontal Y-shaped chrome housing for the LED fog lamps sit on either side of the front fender and the design feature is mirrored in a pair of similar units with stop lamps on the rear fender. A reinterpretation of the Hoffmeister kink, a compact tailgate, dual exhausts and the 3 Series’ signature LED tube brake lights are the highlights at the rear.

Cabin

I was test driving the 320d Luxury Line variant and one of the first impressions I got after stepping into the cabin was the improvement in the quality of the interior trim. The leather seats were inviting and the quality of materials used was clearly better than in the predecessor. As is to be expected from BMW, the new cabin features a driver-focussed cockpit with a new range of controls and functionality. There is more shoulder-room at the front and more legroom and headroom at the rear. There is polished wood trim and smooth aluminium inserts and surrounds. The classic, chunky BMW steering wheel has multiple controls set into it. The instrument cluster in my Luxury Line variant was an all digital unit with the speedo and rpm-meter generated on either side in the trademark half hexagon shape. The digital display is sharp and also offers multiple other read-outs, while also throwing up the NAV in the middle. The anti-clockwise needle ascent for the engine-rpm maybe a bit disconcerting at first.

The new 3 Series’ cabin also gets a 10.25-inch control display at the top of the centre stack. In addition to features like gesture control, the new 3 gets the BMW Virtual Assistant for the first time. There is a whole bunch of features that can be controlled or accessed by voice commands; just say “Hey BMW”. It is supposed to have set a new benchmark for voice recognition, though, in my experience, accent recognition and catching on to Indian names, still needs some perfecting. Ambient cabin lighting and the welcome light carpet that is projected from the side sill give the new 3 Series some much needed premiumness. Some of these features may not be available in the base Sport trim.

Performance

The new 3 Series is being offered with two engine options (one each for petrol and diesel) and in three trim variants - Sport and Luxury Line for diesel and M Sport for the petrol. Both the engines are 4-cylinder units and employ BMW’s proprietary TwinPower Turbo tech to help generate excellent low-end torque and impressive performance numbers from relatively compact two-litre engines. The petrol engine in the 330i produces 258hp of peak power and 400Nm of torque from 1,550rpm. The car is said to be capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 kmph in 5.8 seconds. Like the two-litre diesel in the 320d, which I was driving, the 330i also gets the 8-speed sport steptronic transmission with steering-mounted paddle shifters for manual gear selection.

The 320d’s engine delivers a much less exciting 190hp of power and peak torque of 400Nm — similar to the petrol engine. But even this has got enough shove to keep you interested in the game. This BMWs diesels haven’t been loud, so I wasn’t expecting it to be raucous, but this engine is surprisingly quiet and even the mild clatter at lower rpm-levels evens out once the needle passes the 2,500 rpm mark. While I was driving the 320d around Delhi and its neighbourhood, I found the engine to have a measured character. But since power delivery too starts early and it is easy to make quick overtakes even with short jabs at the throttle. The sporty 8-speed Steptronic gearbox’s shifts are imperceptible. There are also four driving modes to choose from — Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. With increased use of aluminium, for example in the engine subframe, bonnet and front side panels, the new 3 Series is 55kgs lighter, the chassis is also about 25 per cent more rigid and the weight distribution is a clean 50:50. All said, the 320d feels sharper on the road and the steering set up makes it even more precise in Sport+ setting. The steering is still light and easy to use in city driving conditions; weighing up nicely at highway speed. New damper control measures means the suspension setting is also more pliant and the ride is comfortable at cruising speeds with road undulations and the average pothole being soaked up nicely. The ride at slower speeds is a bit firm despite the 17-inch rims and taller profile tyres, but it doesn’t get jarring or uncomfortable.

Bottom Line

The new 3 Series’ cabin feels much better to be in compared to the predecessor, though it is still clearly in its place in the model hierarchy of the brand. Some of the new bits like the virtual assistant, customisable in-cabin lighting and the reversing assistant that will let you retrace and reverse the car hands-free over the last 50 metres you took, make the new 3 special. It is also still the sharpest handling small sedan. Ex-showroom prices start at ₹41.4 lakh.

Published on October 17, 2019
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