New BMW 3 Series : First Drive

The sixth generation BMW 3 Series Sedan is set to redefine benchmarks in the premium car category. Built upon a rich history that is deep rooted in BMW's DNA, the new 3 Series promises outstanding attributes that are bound to set it apart. It's an enticing car that loves to be driven as we found out from Adil Jal Darukhanawala and Vikram Gour who got a chance to experience the new 3 Series range first hand in Barcelona, Spain



New BMW 3 Series sedan




If you were to go looking for the quintessential BMW, it would have to be the 3 Series. Now in its sixth avatar, and doing away with the ‘Bangled’ lines, the new 3 Series is the amalgamation of 36 years of history and five generations of a car that has the distinction of being the world’s best-selling premium car. No doubt the new 3 Series has a lot to live up to, but the wizards at BMW have now made it an art form in developing the best and then making it even better! The BMW 3 Series Sedan has come to symbolise the aesthetic appeal, dynamics and sporting capability of BMW. It has grown in size as compared to its predecessor; however the genes remain intact in offering you one of the best drivers’ cars available off the shelf today.


The sixth generation model has done away with the flame surfacing introduced by Chris Bangle; however it still sports dynamic elegant lines. The basis of the design is governed by the sweeping bonnet, short overhang, long wheelbase and the set-back greenhouse which is now symbolic of all BMWs. The front is dominated by the new face of BMW featuring flat headlights, with LED accents above the twin corona rings, which stretch all the way to the large kidney grille. The snout is raked to give the car an aggressive look and the multi faceted character lines add the element of movement and width to the front. It’s an intense stare, almost as if the 3 Series is looking ahead with a purposeful look hunting for prey and smug in the belief that it would do so and take it down! The single central air intake on the predecessor has been done away with and has been replaced by two larger intakes positioned under the headlights and run towards the outer edges of the body. Apart from their aesthetic appeal, these air intakes also work to improve airflow around the front wheels and thereby enhancing overall aerodynamics and thus reducing fuel consumption at high speeds. The marriage of engineering and aesthetics is a BMW norm and the new 3 Series is a testament to this line of thought. While you can spend all day staring at the front end, BMW has ensured that aesthetically the new 3 Series is sense and sensibility personified from any angle.






When viewed in profile, the silhouette of the 3 Series is unmistakable. The strong shoulder line, pronounced wheel arcs filled with those gorgeous 225/50 R17 tyres (205/60 R16 for the diesel variants) and the typical BMW slant to the entire roofline give the 3 Series its family look. Despite the car being extended by 93mm and an increased wheelbase of 50mm, the proportions remain slick and sporty, which are again attributes that are well associated with the 3 Series. The clean lines run all the way to the back and the flanks feature the ‘double swage line’, essentially two character lines that run alongside each other. While the higher line adds an element of length, the lower one ushers in a sporty overtone which in turns draws attention to the car’s aggressive stance. The rear has received more of a family look and is rather similar to the current 5 Series sedan, however the strong lines and typical BMW touches to the surface ensure that the rear sums up the entire exterior design package with élan.



In order to increase the new sedan’s sporty appeal, BMW has also widened the front and rear track by 37mm and 47mm respectively




In order to increase the new sedan’s sporty appeal, BMW has also widened the front and rear track by 37mm and 47mm respectively. While the body width remains the same as its predecessor, the slightly protruding wheels add the final touch in terms of sporty aesthetics in establishing the sporty aura of the new 3 Series. The wider track also has healthy repercussions in the ride and handling department, but more on that later.




The BMW ConnectedDrive system offers a plethora of functions including infotainment, driver assistance and safety



Step inside the new 3 Series and you will be greeted with a familiarity that is typical across the BMW range. The treatment to the dashboard is clean and uncluttered. Unlike the earlier 3 Series, the new car doesn’t have a double dome on the dash as the second dome which housed the multimedia screen has been replaced by a flat screen fitted on the hood. This element in design is a translation of screens that are now part of our second nature such as smart phones and tablets. It doesn’t fold away, which is something we hoped it would do. However it is a classy touch and gels well with the overall treatment to the interiors. Fitted with fine materials that are pleasing to the senses, the surfaces found inside the 3 Series are elite and there is absolutely no place for any riffraff stuff. Elegant design and functionality dominates the thought process and you will find a number of neat storage places in the doors as well as large cup holders in the center console right in front of the gear lever. With the increase in length, boot space has gone up by 20 litres compared to its predecessor and should you still need more space for your luggage, the rear seats offer you a 40:20:40 flexible folding solution.




New BMW 3 Series sedan





As far as ergonomics go, the new BMW 3 Series sedan is spot-on. Positioned in the driver’s seat, you will find that everything you reach out for is right where it should be. It’s almost intuitive and has a lot to do with the fact that BMW has built a cockpit around the driver with the typical BMW focus. Seating comfort is great and the front seats offer you the right amount of support to keep you in place while enjoying a spirited ride, should you feel the need to unleash those horses under the hood. The rear seating has benefited from the increase in length as well and now passengers get an additional 15mm of knee room. This was a major grouse with the earlier model and to a fair extent this issue has been addressed in the new 3 Series. The car also boasts an increase in headroom by 8mm which is also a result of sculpting a bigger car.




The rear seating has benefited from the increase in length as well and now passengers get an additional 15mm of knee room




Needless to say, while all the elements have been put together to offer the world a brand new 3 Series; it is the drive and chassis technology that defines this car and in this area of expertise, BMW are second to none. For India the 3 Series is set to come in with two engine options, the first being the 2.0-litre diesel and the second a 2.0-litre petrol. Incidentally, we are already rather familiar with the diesel, which is probably the most popular engine in the BMW range available in India currently as it powers the 320d, the X1 2.0, X3 2.0, and 520d. The petrol engine though is a revelation and this techno marvel is being pencilled in right from the very launch of the 3 Series in India come mid-2012.





The BMW 328i comes fitted with a 2.0-litre displacement engine (1,997cc) that boasts of TwinPower Turbo




The BMW 328i comes fitted with a 2.0-litre displacement engine (1,997cc) that boasts of TwinPower Turbo. The four-cylinder petrol engine develops 245bhp at 5,000rpm and a peak torque of 350Nm from as low down as 1,250rpm all the way up to 4,800rpm. It’s essentially a petrol engine that drives like a diesel! This engine catapults the BMW 328i from standstill to a hundred kilometres per hour in just 5.9 seconds and thanks to its small capacity, it also manages to offer a healthy fuel economy which hovers around a company claimed 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the 328i is actually a rather brutal machine when it comes to laying the power down on tarmac. It performs better than the current 330i, which incidentally features a larger engine! Like I said, the 328i is a technological showcase that offers a heightened level of practicality as well.




On the diesel front, the 2.0-litre diesel unit has been further refined in order to offer an even more efficient outcome




On the diesel front, the 2.0-litre diesel unit has been further refined in order to offer an even more efficient outcome. The engine is fitted with a TwinPower Turbo that helps this cutting edge diesel unit develop 184bhp at 4,000rpm and a very impressive 380Nm of torque between 1,750rpm and 2,750rpm. This engine is also mated to an 8-speed gearbox (the first in the world in this segment of car) and can hustle up to three-digit speeds in absolutely no time at all while offering an exceptional mileage, which in numbers translates to a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5 seconds and an average fuel consumption of just 4.5 litres for every 100 kilometres driven. It really is no surprise that this diesel has such a strong fan following.


While the figures are droolworthy on paper, it’s behind the wheel where all the real action is. Playing a first hand witness to what the 3 Series is capable of unleashing also sank in the fact that this car isn’t just all talk. Its dynamism could be felt on winding roads we drove on around the outskirts of Barcelona and one came back impressed with its ‘big car’ feel. However to really feel how the chassis, suspension geometry and electro wizardry on board come together to offer a thrilling drive experience, we took the cars out on to the Catalunya circuit for a number of hot laps. Whether you piloted a petrol or a diesel, the sedan showcased its sporty genes in true sportscar fashion. Even as a novice, I found the confidence to push this machine through corners, knowing very well that the electronics on board would work in conjunction with the mechanical elements to ensure I kept my line.




The steering input was great, body roll was limited, the 50:50 weight distribution added the element of perfect balance




The steering input was great, body roll was limited, the 50:50 weight distribution added the element of perfect balance. The new 3 Series body structure offers a high level of torsional rigidity. It’s a lightweight body construction that allows for optimised airflow under the body to further streamline the car in terms of overall aerodynamics. The overall improvement directly translates to sporty handling and a solid level of agility. For a car that is larger than its predecessor, this is quite amazing, and adding the icing on the cake is the fact that the new 3 Series is 40 kilogrammes lighter than the outgoing model which also has its role to play in overall vehicle dynamics. At the end of the day, the 3 Series needs to achieve a very simple task, and that is to offer an engaging drive experience. And after having driven the car around the countryside as well as on the track, I can definitely state that the 3 Series delivers the joy of driving complete with no lack of adrenaline inducements and comfort.


With all the ingredients in place to deliver sheer driving pleasure, BMW has also ensured that the BMW 3 Series comes packed with ample safety equipment. There are airbags all around, including side airbags for the front passengers and head airbags for the front and rear seats. There is a belt latch tensioner for improved strength on the inertia reel seatbelts and the head restraints are crash activated to lower whiplash injuries. Apart from this, the standard list of abbreviations can be found on the BMW, including DSC (dynamic stability control), DTC (dynamic traction control), ABS (anti-lock braking system),DBC (dynamic brake control),and CBC (corner braking control).  Adding to this are elements that are available through BMW’s ConnectedDrive system which is a new age driver aid and mobility system.



New BMW 3 Series sedan




The BMW ConnectedDrive system offers a plethora of functions including infotainment, driver assistance and safety. The system allows you to have internet access, Bluetooth audio streaming, Google local search, BMW routes, local weather updates and a number of other services. In terms of driver assistance, the system offers park assist which includes surround view, side view, and top view. It also comes with parking assist, lane change warning systems, collision warning systems, real time traffic information. As a safety feature, the ConnectedDrive can place emergency calls in the event of an accident. Using the ConnectedDrive takes a little getting used to; however it’s an offering that has redefined onboard driver information.


Set to debut in India by mid-2012, the 3 Series is definitely a car worth waiting for. It has matured as a product and is now an even better offering. The major issues have been addressed and the new car remains an engaging drive as always. BMW has kept the genes alive and this car is a package that is hard to pass over. In fact, the others have their work cut out for once again the 3 has set the benchmark in class.



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