Aussie Beemer slipping through the net
The new BMW has a host of gadgets but our one’s offline, writes KEITH DIDHAM
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.
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