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BMW 3 Series – 3 is the Magic Number

Accounting for a fifth of all total BMW sales worldwide there is no underestimating the importance of the 3 series saloon.

The sixth-generation 3-series, long the benchmark for performance saloons is lighter, longer and faster than its predecessor. Equipped with a range of new engines and gearboxes the new 3 series charts a different course for the Bavarian automaker.

Test Car
Our test car was the BMW 320d SE, likely to be one of the most popular choices in the new range. There are three other diesel engines available ; a 316d and 318d, powered respectively by 87kW (116bhp) and 107kW(143bhp) variants and  the 320d Efficient Dynamics with an output of 122kW(163bhp).

On the Road
The new 3 features a stiffer body and all new chassis based on a longer wheelbase  (now 2,810mm an increase of 50cm on the previous model) and wider tracks (by 37mm at the front and the rear). Press the start button and instantly you are reminded why this is such an iconic car, it is a seamless blend of driving dynamics, great pulling power and optimised ride comfort.  On the road the 320d is an intoxicating drive; it is perfectly balanced with a super refined engine. The steering is incredibly accurate, the gear shift smooth and there are high levels of grip and body control.

The 3 series also features Drive Performance Control as standard. This is a system that allows you, at the flick of a switch, to choose between four driving modes, ECO PRO, Comfort and Sport. They range from sport to economical and when selected make a significant difference in the set up of the car adjusting everything from steering and throttle to stability control settings all while monitoring  the driver’s performance.

Economy
Although larger and more spacious than the model it replaces the sixth generation version is also more fuel efficient. This is mainly due to innovations such as auto Stop-Start that is fitted to all versions, manual and automatic, along with Brake Energy Regeneration, on-demand control of engine ancillary components and tyres with less rolling resistance. Weight has been reduced by up to 50kg compared with the previous model, while the drag coefficient (Cd) is down to as low as 0.26 thanks to optimized aerodynamics. The combined fuel economy is a very impressive 4.5 litres per 100 km or 62.8 mpg. Emissions are just 118g/km so the motor tax bill is the lowest possible at €160 per year.

Six trim levels are on offer, the ES, SE, M Sport, Sport, Modern and Luxury models. In addition all models including the ES have high levels of standard equipment, including 17-inch light alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth, BMW Professional radio with 6.5-inch colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB, a multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening.

Interior
Inside the increase in space is immediately apparent. The seats are extremely comfortable and the driving position almost perfect. The interior is typical BMW, minimalist and simple yet purposeful. Thanks to the iDrive system all controls are easily accessed from one point. Front and rear accommodation is good and there’s loads of storage room. Boot space has been boosted by 20 litres and is now up to 480 litres.  

Toward the end of 2012 BMW will introduce fourwheel drive and hybrid powertrains to the 3 series saloon for the first time in Ireland. BMW xDrive all wheels drive system has been available on the 3 series in some markets previously but it has only recently been engineered for right hand drive cars.

Verdict
The new 3 series is a perfect combination of dynamics and economy and is the best one yet. BMW have maintained the driver’s appeal of the 3 and have successfully nudged it forward in every aspect allowing previous grumbles to be resolved and ultimately the sixth incarnation of the 3 series leaves its rivals standing.

Competitors:  Audi A4 2.0 TDi; Mercedes C-Class C220 CDI; Lexus IS200d F-Sport; Volvo S60 D3

Why you’ll buy one? Outstanding efficiency; driving dynamics; rivals feel like yesterday’s car

Why you won’t? Extensive options; Expensive options

Last word: The new 3-series is a convincing all-rounder and the best one yet

BMW 320d SE Saloon
Engine:
1995cc diesel putting out 137kW(184bhp) @ 4,000rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1,750rpm
Max speed: 230 kms
0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds
Emissions (motor tax): 118g/km (€ 160)
Starting price: €35,600
Model price range: €35,600 – €58,590  (Test car  €46,007*)
No of Doors:  5
Euro NCAP: 5
Fuel type:  Diesel
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 4.5 litres per 100 km  (62.8 mpg)

*Options included Automatic Gearbox, Servotronic Steering, Reversing Assist camera, Seat Heating, Brushed aluminium trim, Extended interior light package, Headlining, Anthracite

 

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