The sixth generation of four decades-worth of BMW’s 3 Series has just arrived in South African auto showrooms with a choice of six engines for now – among them two diesel units.
The thing about BMW vehicle launches is progression. It takes a second glance, sometimes, to identify the new model when it and previous generations happen, as it does sometimes, to be in the same car park at the same time – though purists, of course, will pooh-pooh that and claim to be able to identify year models through thick fog at midnight.
Progression, however, is good – it makes owners of previous models of any brand feel better about themselves. A radical change in body style, I believe, cheapens brand history, emphasises that the previous model perhaps wasn’t that good-looking (whether rightly or wrongly).
Jaguar, Mercedes, Audi, Rolls-Royce – they, too, evolve rather than shock, morph from rather than marginalise their forebears. BMW and Mercedes – arch-rivals, of course – have also tended to grow dimensionally: a modern Threes feel close to the size as early Fives; sometimes, driving a Three over the past 20 years or so, I’ve yearned for the simplicity of the early models: classic, functional, and oh! the thrill of being one of the first in South Africa to drive the first M3 way back when.
So what was said about 3 Series Mk.VI (ver.1) this past week (Oct 1 2015)?
BMW SA reminded (as it has, if I remember correctly, at each of the past four or five launches) in its media pack that the Three “is the founder of the modern ‘sports sedan segment’.” New word needed there guys, makes the car sound like a slice of cake.
The media release (such from Beem can run to the length of a short novel) tells: “The BMW 3 Series has set the standard for dynamic excellence, efficiency and design, forging an emotionally rich connection between a sporting driving experience and unbeatable everyday practicality.”
Fact is, the range pretty much keeps BMW going, saleswise if not necessarily cashwise: one in every four BMW units sold is a 3 Series sedan.
Showrooms will carry four petrol and two diesel-powered versions (in various equipment levels) capable of 100 to 240kW and claiming fuel consumption / CO2 emissions of 3.8 to 6.5 litres/km /152-106g/km. The Corner will be happy to know what buyers achieve…
Gearbox choice: six-speed manual or eight-speed Steptronic (the latter standard on the 330d and BMW 340i sedan) sending torque to, of course, the rear wheels.
The body design, BMW says, “stands out with even greater precision and detail improvements”: a new nose apron with revised air intakes (the central one housing the cruise-control radar, if fitted); the rear apron includes model-specific trim element; diode rear lights “emphasise the car’s width and sporting appearance”.
Diode headlights are available, diodes standard in the daytime driving lights.
The cabin gets “an even classier impression” with “chromed” highlights (well, things do come back into fashion!) on the controls, air vents and central control panel. The centre console has a sliding cover for the cupholders (nothing new there).
As with every BMW, there’s a range of personalisation options with choices as numerous as cellphone contracts; also new wheel rims and exterior colours and various equipment options.
But back to the engines… three (yes, three) four and six cylinders. They come, BMW says, from a new and modular EfficientDynamics engine family that uses revised turbochargers.
The three-cylinder petrol engine (wonder how many young execs are going to brag about that over a frostie on a Friday evening?) is an addition to both BMW 3 Series ranges and, BMW says, to the “segment”.
Debuting in the 320i Sedan is a four-cylinder petrol engine (claiming 5.9–5.3 / 6.3-5.5 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 138–124 / 147-129g/km).
Celebrating a premiere is a four-cylinder in the 330i Sedan (6.1–5.5 and 143-129g/km) to join the six-cylinder petrol engine in the 340i Sedan (6.5 litres/100km and 152g/km). Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, BMW says, are down by as much as 11%, the new transmissions are said to contribute to the increased efficiency of all variants.
On cars specified with the six-speed manual gearbox, the engagement speed control function automatically blips the throttle on downshifts, for example. The eight-speed Steptronic transmission allows multiple sequential downshifts; a coasting function hones fuel efficiency.
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Improved shock-absorbers, a stiffer suspension and “even more precise” steering “ensure a clear elevation in dynamic potential, combined with the impressive ride quality as that of its predecessor”.
BMW’s ConnectedDrive products and services “offer a unique selection of web-based services and innovative driving assistance systems to enhance comfort and improve safety”.
Among them, a full-colour windscreen display carries information in the driver’s field of vision through which the driver can focus on the road ahead.
Automatic parallel parking will take the embarrassment out of street manoeuvres, parking radar will prevent dings and replacement of the front and rear aprons.
Go to BMW SA’s website for prices and full specifications.