Biggest engine still favourite
One of the big motoring debates of the year is which new BMW3-Series is best: the new-age small-capacity four-cylinder version, or the single six-cylinder model in the fleet. Rob Maetzig argues for the big engine.
It used to be that the BMW 3- Series cars were synonymous with in-line six-cylinder petrol engines. Granted, when the original 3-series, the E21, was introduced in the mid-1970s the model was exclusively powered by fourcylinder engines of various cubic capacities, but that didn’t last long.
By 1977 new variants were getting bigger straight-six engines under their bonnets, and it was those models that sparked a surge in demand for what is now the world’s most popular BMW.
But things do change, and the new sixth- generation 3- Series, launched in New Zealand a few months ago, is again more of a four-cylinder car than a six.
That’s because BMW has become very much a part of the European trend to offer a product with engines that might be small in capacity, but big in power thanks to twin-turbocharging and supercharging.
These engines really work, too. For example the 2.0-litre four that powers the new 328i (yes, I know the numbers in the badging are strange) can accelerate the car to 100 kilometres per hour in just over six seconds, yet boasts an average fuel consumption of 6.3 litres per 100km.
And consider the dieselpowered 320d. It is powered by an improved version of the engine under the bonnet of the previous 3-Series which offers better fuel consumption but no loss of power. Its sprint time to the open road speed limit is 7.6 seconds, and average consumption is just 4.5 litres per 100km.
In each case these BMWs offer really good drives, not the least because their lighter engine weights translate to superbly balanced handling. Personally, I’d be very happy to own either of these two models.
But my favourite remains the one model powered by a sixcylinder engine.
It’s the 335i, which boasts a 3.0- litre direct injection twinscroll turbocharged engine, which offers 225 kilowatts of power and, perhaps more importantly, 400 newton metres of torque from just 1200 revolutions a minute.
That’s sufficient to get this car to 100 kilometres per hour in a low 5.5 seconds and on to a top speed – if we were allowed – of 225 kilometres per hour.
And it does it so nicely, too. It has a beautiful exhaust note when under power, and I’ve got to admit that during a recent few days behind the wheel of the 335i I spent quite a bit of time powering up through the eight-speed automatic’s gears just so I could listen to the gear change.
The thing is that this new 335i is a superb car, and the exhaust note simply adds to it all. The car carries many performance and handling-oriented features, and our test vehicle was also fitted with optional Sport steering and Adaptive M suspension, all of which combined to present a great drive.
A new standard feature is ‘‘driving experience control’’. The driver is able to select one of four driving programmes that range from very economical to ultra-sporty.
This new BMW 3-Series has to rate as one of the most accomplished vehicles I’ve driven, my favourite the 335i simply because I just loved the power, the torque, and the exhaust note.
Six of the best: The BMW 335i, the only six-cylinder model in the new sixth-generation 3-Series fleet.