It has changed. Honestly, it has. A second, or maybe third glance, reveals this as the revamped BMW 3-series, fresh from one of the lighter mid-life facelifts you’ll see. New LED lamps and slightly different bumpers front and rear are the main visible updates, while altered suspension, rejigged power steering and a fresh family of engines lie beneath the surface. Oh, and a new cover for the cupholders.
Well, if you were in charge of updating a car that makes up a quarter of BMW sales worldwide today, you’d probably tread pretty carefully too.
So the new engines are the big news – what are they?
Apart from some carry-over six-cylinder diesels, all of the range is built around BMW’s new 500cc-per-cylinder modular Meccano set.
In a first for the 3-series, the line-up now kicks off with a three-cylinder unit, the 1500cc petrol 318i. Then it’s up to two litres and four cylinders for the 320i and 330i before reaching the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder 340i summit. The long-awaited plug-in hybrid petrol-electric 330e won’t arrive until 2016; click here to read our drive of an early prototype.
Diesel power, of course, is where it’s really at commercially for the fleet-king 3-series, and there are five choices: the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 316d, 320d and 325d, along with the stalwart 3.0-litre six-cylinder 330d and 335d. Four-wheel drive is an option on all but the base engines; the 335d comes with it as standard.
That’s by the by, of course, because everyone’s going to buy the 320d. The Efficient Dynamics edition dips under the all-important 100g/km CO2 threshold with the optional eight-speed auto (102g/km without it) although BMW believes most company car buyers (and, after all, that’s exactly who the bulk of 3-series buyers will be) will be more tempted by the larger-wheeled, bodykit-clad 320d Sport which makes up for its higher price and CO2 output with healthier residuals.
At the launch, the only engine available for us to drive was the 340i. And actually, as it turns out, it’s a bit of a cracker.