BMW has equipped the sixth-generation 3 Series with all sorts of intelligent aids to encourage people to drive more thriftily.
The gizmos fall under BMW's EfficientDynamics umbrella, a package of mild-hybrid technologies such as stop/start and brake energy regeneration that blends twin-turbocharged power with eight-speed automatic gearboxes for improved fuel use and cleaner exhaust emissions.
New to the package is Eco-Pro mode, part of the standard Driving Experience Control system which also includes Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings.
These optimise powertrain, steering, throttle and stability control settings while keeping watch on the driver's performance.
Eco-Pro "is a tool you can use to try and improve your driving habits", says BMW New Zealand training manager Lance Roskilly. It will compare the most recent journey with a previous one and either reward the driver or tell them they need to shape up.
It monitors brake use, too.
"If you brake too hard it will tell you, 'Hey, ease up on the brakes'," said Roskilly.
BMW launched the new sedan and its rich list of standard equipment on a wet day this week at the Taupo motorsport park.
Three models are available now: the diesel 320d and the petrol-powered 328i and 335i, all up to $4000 cheaper than the outgoing car. A fourth, the 320i, is here in August.
The new car is called the F30 in BMW-speak. It is bigger inside and out and slightly heavier than the outgoing E90 model. The wheelbase is 50mm longer, the track is wider and the overall length is up by 93mm.
The cabin looks and feels more upmarket, rear passengers especially have more room (a weakness in the outgoing car) and the rear seatback splits 40/20/40. Boot space has been boosted too.
The range is now also available in a trio of trim and equipment variants - Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line - largely identified by different design elements around the grille and headlights.
There is also a lighter interior colour scheme designed for wider appeal.
"We have lost customers in the past because we haven't had the lighter option,"said Roskilly.
"But it is not a car [for those with] children or dogs."
The new model introduces leading-edge technological features, including the optional rear view and surround view cameras, full colour heads-up display, lane change warning, parking assistance and lane departure warning.
The heads-up display is fully integrated into the ConnectedDrive package, which links with the internet.
Heads-up once pretty much showed only vehicle speed. But the new unit, once tethered to a smartphone, can project phone numbers ahead of the driver's eyes. "Features such as these have previously been seen only in 5-Series and above," said BMW NZ managing director Mark Gilbert.
"There is considerable demand for such innovative additions in the new 3-Series so we listened to customer demand and made these available in the new model," he said.
"The combination of powerful yet economical engines, a high standard specification and the competitive entry-price-point makes the 3-Series a standout in its competitive segment.
"It's been hailed overseas as the best in its class both in terms of value and performance and we expect New Zealand customers will agree."
Headlining the F30 range is the six-cylinder 225kW/400Nm TwinPower Turbo 335i that benefits from a claimed 17 per cent improvement in fuel economy. It delivers the same power output as the outgoing car but CO2 emissions have been cut by 33g/km to 169g/km.
The 328i is one of two models that feature a new 2-litre, four-cylinder TwinPower turbo engine. It's a four-cylinder version of the 335i unit; BMW just chopped off two cylinders.
The new powerplant replaces the previous 325i's six-cylinder unit.
It delivers 180kW/350Nm, substantially more power and torque than the straight-six's 160kW/300Nm mix, while cutting fuel consumption by about 30 per cent to 6.3 litres/100km. CO2 emissions have been cut by 47g/km to 147g/km.
The 2-litre engine in the 320i is a lower output version of the 328i unit. It generates 135kW/270Nm, again a substantial hike in output compared with the previous generation 320i.
BMW claims town-and-around fuel use in the 320i of 6.2 litres/100km, or 45mpg, and CO2 emissions of 144g/km, down 32g/km.
The fuel-efficiency leader in the new range is the four-cylinder TwinPower turbo diesel 320d. Maximum output of 135kW/380Nm for the 320d remains the same as the previous model, but fuel use is down to a claimed 4.4 litres/100km, or 64mpg.
BMW says its CO2 emissions of 117g/km - down 23g/km - is best in class.
The wet Taupo track brought out the best in the new model. The chassis is a gem, all the while balancing the 50:50 front-rear weight distribution with precision and poise.
The F30 range offers sharp and linear steering and surefooted body control. The 320d is a sparkling example of the modern diesel engine. It's acceptably quiet but gets up and goes - recording the same 0-100km/h time as the 320i petrol unit.
The rorty six-cylinder 335i sounds the best as it hangs on to a sweet rev range, but the lighter 328i was particularly impressive, boisterous on the throttle with zero turbo lag, sharp turn-in and a unique elegance.
BMW believes the 328i will be the volume seller in New Zealand.
The 3 Series first appeared in 1975 and since then more than 12 million have been sold worldwide.
BMW 3 Series Sedan drive-away pricing:
BMW 320i 8-speed sport automatic $74,300
Lines Package: Sport, Modern or Luxury $77,300
BMW 320d 8-speed sport automatic $74,700
Lines Package: Sport, Modern or Luxury $77,700
BMW 328i 8-speed sport automatic $85,900
Lines Package: Sport, Modern or Luxury $87,900
BMW 335i 8-speed sport automatic $106,900
Lines Package: Sport, Modern or Luxury $108,900
Manual is $4100 less than the base price of the autoBy Alastair Sloane Email Alastair