A class of their own

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Motors Today - john kralevich mo­tors cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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