Aussie Beemer slip­ping through the net

The new BMW has a host of gad­gets but our one’s off­line, writes KEITH DID­HAM

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

THE first ship­ment of BMW’s restyled 3 Se­ries cars will ar­rive just in time for Christ­mas and the com­pany says this time it has it right.

A boot­load of elec­tronic gad­gets, more ag­gres­sive styling and one of the best diesel en­gines to come out of Ger­many will give BMW the fire­power it needs this sum­mer to win back lost ground in the lux­ury sedan class — and to throw out a fresh chal­lenge to the bench­mark Mercedes C-Class, which leads the BMW on value and sub­stance.

But techno-savvy Gen­er­a­tion X buy­ers will not be get­ting the best from BMW.

The new 3 Se­ries sedan and wag­ons will ar­rive in Aus­tralian without a sig­nif­i­cant world first — the abil­ity to link their car di­rectly to the in­ter­net to send emails or search for web­sites. The sys­tem is part of BMW’s re­vamped Con­nect­edDrive pack­age, but BMW Aus­tralia says it won’t be sold here— a de­ci­sion based on a less than a 2 per cent take-up rate of a more lim­ited ver­sion of the Con­nect­edDrive sys­tem on its larger and more lux­u­ri­ous 5 and 7 Se­ries mod­els.

‘‘We don’t think there is a de­mand for it based on our ex­pe­ri­ence with the 7 Se­ries, but th­ese things are cus­tomer-driven,’’ BMW spokesman Toni An­dreevski says.

Still, buy­ers of the new 3 Se­ries will get BMW’s lat­est in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that in­cludes 12GB of free space on the car’s 80GB hard drive to al­low au­to­matic rip­ping of up to 100 CDs or stor­age of MP3 files. The hard drive is also used to store an up­dated satel­lite-nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem that al­lows quicker ac­cess to maps.

The new 3 gets a slightly wider track front and rear, thanks to a repo­si­tion­ing of the wheels. And there’s a host of cos­metic changes, a bolder scal­loped bon­net, new grille and new L-shaped tail-lights.

The man in charge of 3 Se­ries de­vel­op­ment, BMW vice-pres­i­dent Klaus Borgmann, says sub­stan­tial feed­back from buy­ers made it clear they wanted a more pow­er­ful, sporty look to the sedan and wagon.

‘‘So we gave the car more stance, more pres­ence on the road and a more el­e­gant in­te­rior,’’ he says.

BMW in­sid­ers say the 330 diesel will prob­a­bly cost a lit­tle less than the 335i, which sells for $107,290.

BMW will still hold a price ad­van­tage on two ri­vals when the new 3 Se­ries ar­rives in deal­er­ships. An- dreevski says he ex­pects min­i­mal in­crease, which should see the big­gest seller, the 320i, at a lit­tle more than $56,000 — about $1000 less than the com­pa­ra­ble Benz C200 Kom­pres­sor au­to­matic and the Lexus IS250.

DRIV­ING

THE 335i is the bench­mark in the 3 Se­ries thanks to its ter­rific and po­tent 225kW, 400Nm in-line six­cylin­der en­gine. Matched with a crisp sus­pen­sion and six-speed gear­box with pad­dle shifts, it’s the car that de­fines the 3 as a driver’s car.

But the 330d raises ques­tions and it could ac­tu­ally be a bet­ter, more liv­able choice.

That’s some­thing you would not nor­mally say about a diesel — they are sup­posed to be slug­gish, lowrevving with a short­fall in power but com­pen­sated by oo­dles of torque. But this diesel is bet­ter and more re­ward­ing than that.

It pro­duces 180kW at 4000 revs and 520Nm from 1750 revs to 3000 revs, but it will wind out well past 5000 revs. At 60km/h it ticks over at 900 revs and at 110km/h the ta­cho shows it pulls a mere 1700 revs.

The stop­watch shows the real story here: the 335i petrol sprints from zero to 100km/h in 5.6 sec­onds and takes 24.6 sec­onds for the stand­ing kilo­me­tre. Its fuel con­sump­tion is rated at 9.1 litres for 100km and it pro­duces 218g/km of CO2 at the ex­haust pipe.

The 330d does 0 to 100km/h in a re­spectable 6.1 sec­onds and the kilo­me­tre stand­ing start in 25.8 sec­onds, but its fuel con­sump­tion is only 5.7 litres for 100km and ex­haust emis­sion is lower at 152g/km.

Both cars weigh the same, thanks to some clever use of an all-al­loy diesel en­gine, and both are gov­erned to a top speed of 250km/h. The diesel meets the new Euro V emis­sion stan­dards but can be op­tioned to meet even tougher Euro VI reg­u­la­tions from 2014.

The Euro VIT op­tion won’t be avail­able here be­cause it won’t work with the poor qual­ity of our diesel fuel. Af­ter driv­ing two 3s in Ger­many I know which I would take. The re­al­ity check here, of course, is whether fuel con­sump­tion and emis­sions re­ally mat­ter to a typ­i­cal top-end 3 Se­ries owner. Per­haps not.

Power play: BMW vice-pres­i­dent Klaus Borgmann says buyer feed­back prompted a more pow­er­ful and sporty-looking 3 Se­ries.

Three cheers: the 3 Se­ries has crisp sus­pen­sion and a six-speed gear­box

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