Sunday, June 26, 2022

For Fleet and Transport Professionals

BMW 3 Series – refined engineering

The 3 Series, is the definitive BMW. It revolutionised the company car market 30 years ago and decades later, although it is now a fairly common sight on our roads, it has retained all that aspirational kudos. At the same time, fantastic residual values mean that it represents a sound financial choice and huge technical developments mean it leads the way in lowering environmental impact and increasing safety.

Coming completely up-to-date, if the latest 7th generation version ticks so many boxes, does it lose anything along the way? After all, there are a great many cars out there that are virtuous is so many ways but fail to deliver on excitement and desirability.

Changes to the exterior design, in particular the reshaped grill, distinguish the new model. Otherwise, the lines further emphasise the expectation of performance. It is always difficult to describe exactly how this is achieved without falling into a copious use of clichés, so suffice it to say “pictures in this case paint a thousand words”.

On the interior, perhaps stating the obvious, the high quality of build and materials is palpable. There’s a marriage of leather with metallic sporting cues and high-tech dash, forming a package that is both tasteful and in keeping with the demands of technical excellence, ergonomics and luxury. I-Drive and console buttons control the huge amount of technology, with the information viewed on the large 8.8 inch screen. As each generation of BMW is released, control of functions through what is now termed “Live Cockpit Plus” becomes simpler. This is important because as expected this system includes sat-nav, entertainment and vehicle settings but much more besides, especially in this M-Sport derivative.

It is no longer unusual for vehicles in this category to have a number of driving modes and this is no exception. Briefly; Sport sharpens throttle response and stiffens the suspension, Comfort for everyday driving and Eco Pro that shuts down certain functions, adjusts throttle response and gear changes to allow the most frugal fuel use. However, on models with an Adaptive setting, the driving mode can be tailored to individual requirements. For example, if you find the steering is too heavy in Sport, you can retain all the other aspects of the mode whilst lightening the steering. The combinations are vast and ultimately, the 3 Series is capable of delivering a truly “bespoke” experience.

In many ways, the technical developments in any new model at this level are to be expected. To be successful, they must both offer real benefits, but at the same time increase simplicity. Without simplicity, technology can be a frustrating distraction from what the car is really about which, regardless of whether this is 2019 or 1999, is a great driving experience. Throughout its history, the 3 Series has traded successfully on this: it is the whole point! Otherwise, there is a vast choice of perfectly capable compact saloons, but for me the 3 Series continues to lead the way. Around town, it is quiet and refined, keeping stress levels to a minimum. On the open road, fantastic agility, sharp responsive steering and a fantastically eager engine combine for a fabulous experience and without any of the discomfort associated with vehicles with the emphasis on handling.

In reality, the natural habitat for a 3 Series in the UK will be the motorway. Comfort and refinement, combined with the quietness derived from the acoustic windscreen and foam filled cladding around the windows, in addition to the usual sound-proofing. Powerful engines and effortless performance ensure safe overtaking. The ergonomics, easy controls and adaptive systems also mean that driver fatigue is kept to a minimum, even on the longest journeys.

Across the range there is new powertrain technology with higher output, greater pulling power and optimised efficiency. Six engine variants were available at launch: four-cylinder petrol models, four-cylinder diesels, plus six-cylinder diesel unit – with outputs ranging from 110 kW/150 hp to 195 kW/265 hp (fuel consumption combined: 5.8 – 4.2 l/100 km [48.7 – 67.3 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 132 – 112 g/km).

Intelligent all-wheel drive will also be available in the BMW 320d xDrive  (fuel consumption combined: 4.8 – 4.5 l/100 km [58.9 – 62.8 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 125 – 118 g/km). 

Over the course of the year, an ultra-sporty BMW M Performance version and an extremely efficient model with plug-in hybrid drive system will be added to the range.

The new 3 Series has noticeably sharper driving dynamics courtesy of extensively upgraded chassis technology, new damper technology, stiffer body structure and suspension mountings, wider tracks, minimised weight, a low vehicle centre of gravity and even 50 : 50 weight distribution.

BMW 3 Series The range of chassis options has been expanded to give extra sporting ability: M Sport suspension with lowered ride height, Adaptive M suspension, variable sport steering, M Sport brakes, electronically controlled M Sport differential for fully-variable locking effect in the rear differential and up to 19-inch light-alloy wheels.

Standard specification gains full-LED headlights and stylishly darkened LED rear lights. LED headlights with extended features, Adaptive LED headlights with BMW Laserlight for non-dazzling high beam (with a range of around 530 metres) and LED front foglamps available as options.

There is a greater emphasis on driver focus and refined premium interior ambience and clearly structured controls and more elbow room in the front seats and rearward visibility has also been significantly improved. With the rear compartment easier to get into and offering greater legroom and a boot capacity of 480 litres. Folding rear seat backrests split 40:20:40 as standard.

A newly designed sports leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons has been incorporated with a new panel of buttons for light functions. There is also a new design for the gear selector and the control panel around it on the centre console, including the iDrive Controller, start/stop button, the buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch and the electrically operated parking brake.

The new 3 Series has an extensively expanded range of driver assistance systems that pave the way to automated driving: Collision and Pedestrian Warning with Braking function and Lane Departure Warning system are now standard. Optional Driving Assistant Professional comprises systems including Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Steering and lane control assistant (which helps guide the car through narrow channels), Lane Change Warning system, side collision protection, evasion aid, Cross-Traffic Alert, Priority warning and Wrong-way warning systems. The new generation of the BMW Head-Up Display is also available.

BMW have added systems designed to make parking and manoeuvring easier and unmatched by any rival: Parking Assistant with automated longitudinal and lateral guidance for moving into and out of parking spaces, Reversing Assistant, Park Distance Control, rear view camera and 360-degree cameras.

This 7th generation 3 Series, has a thoroughly revised control and display system: Standard specification includes instrument cluster with screen size increased from 2.7 to 5.7 inches and Control Display with screen diagonal up from 6.5 to 8.8 inches. Optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional comes with a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch Control Display with consistently designed, situation-linked and customisable displays. New BMW Operating System 7.0 also optimises intuitive operation through multimodal operation (by touch with the Control Display, using the iDrive Controller or steering wheel buttons, and with gesture control or voice control).

In summary, the new 3 Series reinforces BMW’s position at the top of the compact executive market. It retains and class leading driving dynamics, prestige and quality that we have come to expect over decades and combined with state-of-the-art technology and engineering, delivers the most complete package in the segment. Predictions are that the 320D will remain near the top or at the top of the list for higher mileage drivers. However with concerns over diesel, the petrol 320i is a very sound choice and the 330E will continue the rise of the              plug-in hybrid.

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