On 2 May 1975 BMW produced the first E21 model 3 Series sedan. Now into its sixth generation, some 14 million examples have been sold and the 3 Series remains one of the world’s benchmark sports/luxury sedans.
Celebrating that 40th anniversary BMW Australia has just launched a mid-life update for the 3 Series which is sportier, more efficient and more refined. A new all-turbocharged range of engines headlines the updates – an all-new six-cylinder for the 340i, turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants for the 330i and 320i and the three-cylinder engine debuts in the 318i.
The updated 3 Series kick-starts a phenomenal last quarter of the year for new BMW models in Australia. In the wings are mid-life updates for the M3 and M4, a 35d version of the X4, the all-new X1 and all-new 7 series range.
BMW 3 Series Overview
While styling changes are minor it’s the new engines, extra equipment and sharper prices which make this update (or ‘Life Cycle Impulse’ in BMW-speak) great news for BMW buyers. No better example than the range-topping 340i sedan which is now priced at $89,900 – that’s $3,140 less than the outgoing model but the newcomer adds some $7,785 worth of extras.
Now standard across the range are: rear-view camera, head-up display, land-change warning, Driving Assistant, surround view camera with top view and side view, LED headlights, ‘ConnectedDrive Lifestyle’ and real time traffic information for the satellite navigation.
The lineup (with comparisons to the outgoing models) looks like this:
|318i sedan||$54,900 (-$1,000 but with $1,700 of extra equipment)|
|320i sedan||$61,900 (+$400 but with $1,000 of extra equipment)|
|320d sedan||$63,800 (unchanged)|
|320i Touring||$65,300 (+$400 but adds an automatic tailgate)|
|330i sedan||$69,900 (-$500 but with $723 of extra equipment)|
|330i Touring||$73,000 (-$500 and adds automatic tailgate)|
|340i sedan||$89,900 (-$3,140 but with $7,785 of extra equipment)|
BMW 3 Series Engine
Entry-level BMW 318i scores the terrific turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine we know from the 2 Series Active Tourer. Of course, for the 3 Series the engine has been turned around for a longitudinal installation.
It’s a true gem of an engine and delivers maximum power of 100kW from 4400-6000rpm and peak torque of 220Nm from 1250-4300rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption with the eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is 5.4l/100kms.
For the 320i it’s a 135kW/290nm version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
The 330i steps-up with its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine good for 185kW/350Nm.
The six-cylinder BMW 340i gets an all-new turbocharged engine code-numbered B58 which has the intercooler mounted to the engine for more efficient turbocharging. Maximum power is 240kW from 5500-6500rpm and peak torque if 450Nm arrives between 1380-5000rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption (eight-speed auto) rates at 6.5l/100kms.
Naturally turbo-diesel power comes in the 320d with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder delivering 140kW/400Nm and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.4l/100kms.
BMW 3 Series The Interior
Only very minor changes inside the updated BMW 3 Series – for example some new materials and ambient lighting.
BMW 3 Series Exterior & Styling
Similarly exterior changes aren’t massive. There’s a new bumpers front and rear (with some cues from the 4 Series, M3 and M4), new bulging L-shaped tail-lights and adoption of the all-LED headlights sees an extended rod of light going to the kidney-shaped grille – the combination looks imposing for sure.
BMW 3 Series On The Road
BMW always plays to its strength so the route for the national media launch – from Byron Bay through Bangalow, Grafton and onto Armidale – turned-up some sensational driving roads. Over some 400kms we tried the 318i, 330i, 340i and 320d.
We were intrigued at the prospect of the 318 with BMW’s first turbocharged three-cylinder engine. This engine was mighty impressive in the 2 Series Active Tourer – but how would it perform in the larger 3 Series sedan?
The answer of course is very well. That shouldn’t surprise as ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ is ingrained in BMW’s DNA so there was never any question the German brand would compromise it’s biggest-selling sedan model.
With zero to 100km/h in 9.1 seconds (eight-speed automatic) the BMW 318i accelerated spritely. Naturally this propulsion was accompanied by the tell-tale three-cylinder ‘growling’ exhaust note.
At the other end of the scale, the 340i delivered the traditional BMW six-cylinder excellence. The turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder was a delight with abundant acceleration and that hallmark six-cylinder sound.
The turbo-diesel 320d was a gem – very impressively refined and with the expected strong torque delivery. In comfort mode we did notice a little bit of lag when accelerating in the mid-range.
But all things considered the 330i (the biggest volume-selling model don’t forget) was the pick of the bunch. The turbo 2.0-litre was smooth and fast with handy acceleration (5.8 seconds zero to 100km/h which is faster than the Mercedes-Benz C200).
For ride and handling BMW offers its variable dynamics and we switched between ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ in the twisty stuff with very satisfying results. The rear-drive BMW 3 Series is again right at the front of the pack for precise on-road performance.
The 340i with its 19-inch wheels was a tad ahead in the tautness department but we’re talking a miniscule difference there. And those tyres did get a bit noisy on coarse-chip roads.
But regardless of the engine you’ll find the latest BMW 3 Series again rewards with precise turn-in, sublime mid-corner balance and lots of poise even when pushed beyond the limits.
BMW 3 Series Issues
The 19-inch wheel/tyre package on the 340i did create some noticeable road noise on the coarse chip bitumen sections of the drive route. And some of the options prices raised eyebrows – like $1,415 for metallic paint and $2,245 for the glass sunroof.
BMW 3 Series Verdict
As usual there is not a weak model in the latest BMW 3 series range. And the extra equipment included in this latest updated certainly delivers added enticement.
Never underestimate the technology BMW brings to the table. The entry-level 318 with its turbocharged three-cylinder engine is a cracker – the best three-cylinder engine we’ve driven by a fair margin (and with significant fuel consumption savings to boot).
But the volume-seller, the 330i gets out vote. A sticker price less than the car it replaces and that sensational 2.0-litre engine all add-up to a great buy.
BMW 3 Series The Competition
This segment is dominated by the hot-selling Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The C-Class lineup kicks-off a bit pricier at $60,900 but the all-turbocharged four-cylinder lineup (if you exclude the twin-turbo V8 AMG models) is terrific. Style, substance and brilliant driving dynamics…the C-Class has it all.
Audi’s A4 is also a favourite of the www.carshowroom.com.au team. Sharp looks and punchy turbocharged 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre engines match the top-notch driving dynamics of the latest A4. Stretch to a Quattro all-wheel-drive model if you can.