A class of their own
THE scene was set for the launch of the new BMW 3 Series, gorgeous drop-down convertibles and sleek coupés to the fore.
But for all their alluring qualities, it was the utilitarian, functional saloon body style that took top billing.
More precisely, the star attraction was BMW’s 320d EfficientDynamics (ED) saloon. Technology per se is hardly sexy, but the effect and impact of the “groundbreaking” EfficientDynamics is compelling.
Yes, the 3 Series remains the volume leader in the premium segment, but BMW’s efficiencies have moved the game on. The 320d ED is the new green king of the compact execs.
The figures speak for themselves – combined fuel economy of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km, which makes it the first premium exec to break through the 110g/km barrier.
On their own, they represent an attractive financial case for all buyers. The retailer, for instance, knows it is in VED Band B, so pays nil for the first year tax, £20 in subsequent years. Company car drivers are taxed at a lowly 13 per cent BIK and corporate owners are entitled to a 100 per cent first year write down allowance, so better cash flow and the possibility of lower contract hire rates. Benefits all round.
But this is not a detuned car. At the heart of the 320d ED is a new 2.0-litre diesel engine which develops 163bhp, torque is a healthy 380Nm and the sprint to 62mph time is a brisk eight seconds – classleading statistics all. Low running costs allied to dynamic performance sounds like a case of having your cake and eating it.
As well as brake energy regeneration and using low rolling resistance tyres, BMW engineers have lowered and revised the suspension to provide an improved ride on 16-inch wheels, and measures taken to reduce friction.
In addition, a new engine feature is a sophisticated flywheel which reduces vibration at low speeds.
The mid-cycle refresh of the 3 Series brings with it subtle design changes and a boost in specification.
Some of the aesthetic upgrades include, at the front, new headlights with LED corona rings and a new air dam. At the rear, there are all red light clusters and new-look bumper. BMW says these modifications give all body styles a more planted and athletic appearance.
The SE trim specification comes with auto air conditioning, extended lighting, Park Distance Control and the unique aerodynamic wheel. The price – £27,245 on the road – mirrors that of the 320d SE. No surcharge for EfficientDynamics.
Among other new engines are the 318d in Saloon and Touring body styles, which meets the 120g/km threshold.
A touch of class all round in the new 3 Coupé and Convertible as all models come as standard with Dakota leather. The coupé is sufficiently roomy all round, always smooth and refined. The 320d is a gem, adequately fast, yet frugal enough to return 60mpg.
The auto Start Stop function and optimum shift indicator should help with economy.
A six-cylinder petrol powerplant – the new “halo” engine – propels the 335i model, a hoot and ideally mated to the seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT). Rev happy, fast enough to hit 62mph in 5.5 seconds. Whoaar.
The Convertible, roof down at a touch, is gorgeous to look at and, vanity permitting, gorgeous to be seen in. Fast yet comfortable, and priced at £40,720.
Prices are up by £900 to £1,040, or 2.6 per cent to 3.7 per cent, but given the improved specification and efficiencies, should be well worth it.
Other changes include the introduction to the M3 Coupé where, in M DCT trim, CO2 is cut considerably, 22g/km lower at 263g/ km. For enhanced performance, there is now a M3 Competition Package. For a premium of £3,315, you get the likes of damper control and lowered suspension.
The 3 Series continues to rule the roost in the compact executive class, its green credentials adding a more than acceptable face to the, sometimes, red hot performance bias.
GOING DOWN: BMW engineers have lowered and revised the suspension to provide an improved ride.