Let me begin by saying that my tardiness with this article is by no means a reflection of what I thought of the new BMW 3 Series.
I’ve had a very 3 Series centric couple of months, spending a good portion of my own time researching E30 BMW convertibles to buy, attending the BMW Show and Shine at Rushcutters Bay, joining the BMW Drivers Club NSW Facebook page, and spending a day in the Byron Hinterland last month in two very exciting new 3 Series models, the 340i and the 330i Touring (Wagon).
For those that didn’t know, 2015 marks 40 years of the BMW 3 Series, the brand’s top selling model, and what better way to celebrate then to launch a series of revamped vehicles. The 2015 line-up showcases new engines, new (not brand new*) model names and more impressive specifications, starting at a very reasonable $54,900 for the 318i. The introductory 318i is only available in Sedan, as is the top of the range 340i, whilst the 320i and 330i come in both Sedan and Touring format. There’s also a 320d for diesel fans.
What the line-up offers now, in terms of standard features, compared to the price customers paid 10 years ago, is mind boggling. The value of these cars continues to get more attractive, most notably the range topping 340i which drops in price and gets $9000 worth of extra value, up from $2500 on the previous top of the range 3 Series. The new 3 Series boasts a shopping list of standard features including rear view camera, head-up display, lane change warning, driving assistant, surround view, LED headlights, ConnectedDrive and real time traffic information. Complementing the new standard features is a sharper design with sportier front end and newly designed LED headlights, rear LED taillights and bumper, making the car appear wider, and giving it a greater presence on the road.
The new cabin features updated materials and trims across the M Sport, Sport and Luxury lines. Thoughtfully appointed chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces give the interior an elegant and classy feel, whilst ambient lighting ads warmth to the surroundings. Cross stitching and piped leather seats are also a lovely new option, again enhancing the sophistication of the cockpit.
For the first time ever, a 100kW three cylinder engine graces the line-up, taking the reigns of the 318i and replacing the 316i. Brand new 2.0-litre four-cycline in-line engines, with improved performance and fuel economy, debut in both the 320i Sedan and Touring, developing 135kW, and the 330i Sedan and Touring, developing a tasty 185kW.
Capable is an understatement, the 330i Touring was awesome. Even following a stint in the 340i, I was stoked with the car’s acceleration and poise through the bends. The refined steering set-up, stiffer suspension, and two way damper system, which acts to minimise both transverse and longitudinal body roll, ensures that, even through tightest bends (ascending steep climbs!) the Touring is precise, composed, and a shitload of fun.
If you gauged my enthusiasm for the 330i Touring, you’d be right to assume I enjoyed the 340i – an indubitable weapon. Replacing the old 335i, the new straight-six produces 240kW, up 15kW on the previous model. It’s becoming scary how quick family sedans are getting, and the 340i is the prime example. It sounds brilliant, the power delivery is seamless, the chassis is great, and it’s blistering fast, laughable in fact. Throughout the drive it felt so focused, so precise, combining thrilling performance and the level of luxury you’d come to expect from a range topping 3 Series. Then once you’re done driving it like you stole it, dialling it back is as simple as adjusting the driving mode and the adaptive dampers. There’s a noticeable and pleasant contrast between comfort and sport, letting you settle back down and appreciate the 340i for the wonderful machine that it is.
It’s interesting to imagine what progression looks like for the current car industry, and driving both these cars really made me wonder. While the 330i Touring appeals to me tenfold, and will inevitably be the volume seller from the new 3 Series range, I can’t go past the stupendous 340i. What you’re getting for your money is pretty incredible. BMW has refined an already proven formula, delivering a handsome, subtle and thrilling 3 Series that is absolutely everything you’d ever want, or need, from a Sports Sedan.