BMW'S 3 Series is the brand's biggest seller for good reason. But can the sixth generation improve on an already talented car?
A muscular new body is 93mm longer, 9mm taller and with a wheelbase stretched 50mm to increase cabin room and boot space, up 20 litres to 480. This 3 Series is almost identical to the late 1980s 5 Series in size.
But the big news is under the bonnet, with an eight-speed auto transmission plus steering wheel-mounted gear-change paddles and a four-cylinder motor for the 328i alongside its six-cylinder 335i sibling.
BMW says that in effect it is the same as the six minus two cylinders, with direct fuel injection, a twin-scroll turbo, and Valvetronic variable lift and timing to boost power until the turbo spools up. The less powerful 320i gets essentially the same engine with different programming. The 320d and 335i motors feature the same power and torque as before, but better acceleration and fuel economy.
An electronic diff lock is standard, as is Driving Experience Control, with EcoPro, Comfort, Sport or Sport-plus settings to tune the powertrain and suspension.
All variants use features such as brake energy regeneration to cut thirst.
The cabin is instantly identifiable as BMW but with a less ascetic design.
There are three lines available. Sport, with its different wheels and trim plus sports seats, is likely to be the most popular.
The company line
The advertising campaign uses Billy Idol's Dancing with myself, which may have BMW detractors sniggering into their beer but is intended to convey the car's dynamic talents. Prices have dropped despite an expanded list of standard features. The range opens $2900 lower at $74,300.
Private importers will be discouraged by shipping, tax and residual value adjustments, says BMW NZ.
What we say
The best 3 Series yet. more space, grace and pace while using less fuel and picking up features and options from the more exalted model ranges. But BMW remains cheeky with specification, charging for features like lumbar support now commonly standard in lesser cars.
On the road
These 3s are faster and more agile than ever while the 50-50 front-rear balance, rear drive and spot-on set-up deliver incisive handling whatever your speed or engine choice, without compromising ride comfort.
The 335i's six-cylinder motor has the most evocative soundtrack, the 328 is almost as talented and the diesel exchanges top-end power for a mighty torque kick. You can cruise or commute in these cars, but take a twisty road at speed and they come alive.
Why you'll buy one?
The 3 Series is handsome, practical, frugal and fun to drive and backed by cutting-edge technology.
Why you won't?
Diesel a tad noisy, top-drawer prices and the best bits are cost options.