by Tim Barnes-Clay, the man behind the wheel.
Date: 28 May 2012
THE NEW BMW 3 Series Saloon is a car of contradictions: larger and more spacious than the model it replaces, but lighter, quicker in many cases, more fuel-efficient and more nimble and agile, while even safer.
The EfficientDynamics technologies which gave the previous BMW 3 Series Saloon such a competitive advantage remain very much in place, and have been supplemented with new ones.
Auto Stop-Start is fitted to all versions, along with Brake Energy Regeneration, on-demand control of engine ancillary components and tyres with less rolling resistance. Weight has also been reduced by up to 50 kg compared with the outgoing model.
What is immediately apparent to you when you enter the new BMW 3 Series Saloon is the significant improvement in trim quality and ambience. Befitting the 3 Seriesí renowned driving dynamics, the interior control and switchgear layout is totally driver-focused.
The elegant and vibrant new interior design language, with twisting and merging surfaces arranged in a series of layers, all angle towards you. The centre console itself is slanted at seven degrees towards you too.
And, so that your passenger does not feel excluded, the iDrive controller used to access many of the carís functions and the 6.5Ē display monitor which accompanies it are arranged centrally, within equal reach and view of both of you.
All engines in the new 3 Series Saloon feature BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. They include an improved 2.0-litre 184 bhp 320d Sport, on test here. The ride, as you might expect from the sporty turbo diesel model, is firm, but the drive, especially with its slick manual gearbox, is addictive.
The oil-burner has it all: itís big enough for the family, itís sexy enough to be an enviable executive motor and it handles the twists and turns of British roads like a racing car.
All versions of the new 3 Series Saloon feature Drive Performance Control as standard: a switch which allows you to swap between up to four driving modes, varying from sporty to economical.
The four modes are ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport +. In ECO PRO, the throttle mapping changes so that a firmer push of the accelerator pedal is needed to extract the power that is delivered with a lighter touch in the other three modes - consequently encouraging a more economical driving style. ECO PRO also alters the manual gearshift points advised by the Optimum Shift Indicator and even adjusts the power consumption of features such as the climate control, heated mirrors and seats.
The new BMW 3 Series Saloon not only sets new standards of driving pleasure in the premium segment of the middle class - the level of safety it provides is also first rate. In the latest Euro NCAP (new car assessment programme) series of crash tests, the 3 Series achieved the top rating and was awarded five stars.
On the subject of safety, new options on the BMW also include a full-colour Head-up Display. It was fitted to my demo car Ė and itís worth having. It shows current speed limits, the carís speed and turn-by-turn instructions when a BMW navigation system is fitted.
I have to say, I felt pretty secure behind the wheel of the 320d Sport. It made me enjoy every minute and every mile of every trip I took. Thatís because, above everything else, this is a true driverís car Ė and despite the supposed ostentatious image of the brand, which still puts some people off, I would buy one in a heartbeat.