Far from having a mid-life crisis, BMW’s refreshed 3 Series is powering ahead with a (slightly) new look, new engines, more technology and more standard kit along with sharper prices on some models.
The current generation has been with us for a few years and underwent some tweaking last year countering the arrival of a new Mercedes C-Class.
The latest enhancements include a new generation turbo six-cylinder petrol in the range-topping 340i as well as a new three-cylinder turbo petrol model called the 318i.
Two body styles are available: four-door sedan and five-door Touring (wagon) along with five engines in the line-up; a 100kW three-cylinder turbo in the 318i, two turbo petrol fours in the 320i (135kW) and 330i (185kW), the 140kW diesel 320d and the 340i’s six-pot 3.0-litre, which produces 240kW and a V8-like 450Nm of torque.
2015 BMW 320d
Fuel consumption ranges from 4.4L/100km in the diesel to 6.8L/100km in the 340i. which qualifies for a luxury car tax discount for using less than 7.0L/100km. The six-cylinder is a completely new engine from BMW. It retains similar technology as the previous 3.0-litre with a twin-scroll turbo, direct fuel injection, variable cam timing and valve lift. That allows it to clock a 0-100kmh sprint in a slick 5.1 seconds. But even the 330i is quick at 5.8 seconds with the others not far behind.
All the engines have improved in both performance and economy terms.
Part of the reason for this is an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift across the entire range. A six-speed manual can be ordered if requested.
Prices start at $54,900 for the 318i rising to $89,900 for the 340i. The wagon is only available as a 320i or 330i, starting at $65,300 for the 320i. The 330i adds $800.
The styling changes are subtle but include LED headlights, a more aggressive front end, new LED tail lights and a revised interior with more chrome and better ambient lighting.
There has been some tweaking of the chassis as well, with two-way dampers on some models, sharper steering and four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ (on the 340i.)
BMW’s ConnectedDrive multimedia set-up has more functions and better connectivity, including new concierge and traffic information apps and remote services that allow you to lock, unlock and ventilate your car from your phone.
ON THE ROAD
We took the stylish, range-topping 340i for a spin in the NSW North Coast hinterland and came away impressed.
The car is unashamedly a luxury sports sedan offering up stupendous engine performance and sharp dynamics with a large measure of comfort thrown in.
The sound of the potent straight six at full throttle is reminiscent of earlier M3s with a metallic rasp piercing the well-insulated cabin as you approach the redline.
Flick it into the next gear on the paddle shift and away it goes again with small increments between each of the eight cogs.
The handling and dynamics in general are right up to the engine with sharp steering response and well controlled suspension giving the 340i a rock solid feel through turns, even on poor surfaces. It’s an engaging car to drive. Better yet is the fact that you can dial it up to near track-ready calibration simply by scrolling through a few menus and selecting the correct sport modes.
Then there’s the luxury side of the equation which leaves little to be desired. Premium audio, soft leather upholstery, electric adjustment to many functions, multi-zone climate control and a good helping of driver assist safety features.