Top performance from series sequel
Even for motoring journalists, European luxury cars are a luxury.
When the initial adulation wears off, familiarity sets in.
Some vehicles, however, hold something in reserve to keep an automotive world-weary scribe interested.
Such a car came into my possession recently. With time, the BMW 320d could quite easily have become a Euro Camry. It didn’t.
The latest iteration features sharper exterior design, the interior uses new material to create a premium impression, ergonomics have been upgraded and advances in BMW Efficient-Dynamics technology have led to gains in performance, efficiency and carbon emissions across range.
After 40 years, with about 14 million examples delivered to customers, the 3 Series now accounts for a quarter of BMW sales worldwide. In Australia, more than 110,000 3 Series models were sold in the past five years.
Of the seven variants, in Sedan and Touring (station wagon) forms, on offer in Australia, I had the lone diesel, the 320d Sedan, on short-term test.
Great attention has been paid to making the new 3 Series appear wider, hence sportier, with a front end gaining new aprons with revised air intakes. New-design headlights and striking LED daytime running lights only go to emphasise this.
Once again, the sculpted rear apron and standard LED rear lights emphasise the car’s width.
New wheels, exterior colours and equipment options, round off choices for the new 3 Series buyer.
BMW continues to focus on the driver, with easy access to all the main functions.
Ergonomics have been improved further and additional chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces give the interior an even greater look of luxury.
For example, the central control panel in the centre console comes in high-gloss black and features an ambient lighting surround given by additional chrome applications.
Connected-Drive is standard in the new BMW 3 Series.
A SIM card built into the system gives access to a wide range of services from BMW Connected-Drive without the need for a smartphone.
Smartphone apps that have been optimised for BMW, such as Audible, GoPro and Spotify, can be used via the car’s display and control concept.
All three four and six-cylinder petrol engines, including the fourcylinder diesel unit in our test BMW 320d, are from the new mod- ular BMW Efficient-Dynamics engine family and are equipped with the latest BMW Twin-Power Turbo technology, which combines good performance with excellent fuel efficiency. Carbon dioxide emissions are Euro 6 rating.
The output of the new BMW 320d benefits from further improvements in internal friction and responsiveness through the use of anti-friction bearings instead of plain bearings — up from 135kW of its predecessor to 140kW at 4000rpm.
With peak torque of 400Nm, between 1750 and 2500rpm, the new BMW 320d sedan with eight-speed transmission returns a zero to 100km/h time of 7.2 seconds, twotenths of a second less than the previous 320d sedan.
Intelligent Emergency Call, another standard feature, comes to the aid of the occupants if the airbags are triggered in a crash.
The built-in SIM card automatically transmits details on the severity of the crash, the potential risk of injury to the occupants and the vehicle’s location to the BMW Connected-Drive Call Centre.
This information is then used to arrange emergency response.
Ride and handling are improved via the latest developments in damper technology, more rigid body shell mounting and a retuned steering set-up.
BMW’s Driving Experience Control can shift between four driving modes — Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro — which alters throttle response and transmission shift points.
The test vehicle recorded 7.8 litres per 100km in town and around 4.0 litres per 100km on the open road.
At $63,800, plus on-road costs, 320d is not cheap and, with the options, could be even more.
A wider stance puts more ‘sport’ in the BMW sedan.
BMW’s Driving Experience Control can shift between four driving modes.