She is beautiful in a classical way. She doesn’t have a swoopy silhouette or sharp chiselled lines or a sloping roof … features which define the design language of the new crop of luxury cars. But in her ordinariness, she is stunning.
The 3 Series has been BMW’s best-selling model globally ever since it was introduced in 1975, accounting for around 25% of total BMW vehicle sales. The sedan is in its sixth generation now. In India, too, it’s the most popular face of the company. Last week, we drove the 2016 version—showcased at the Auto Expo and launched earlier this year—and found that it remains a perfect combination of an ageless design, unrivalled agility and excellent everyday practicality.
Changes include full LED headlamp clusters, LED fog lights and redesigned LED daytime running lights. There are subtle changes on the bumper and tail-lamps have been tweaked. The 17-inch alloy wheels, too, sport a different look. The new 3 Series is a perfect example of the classical three-box design in a modern interpretation—long bonnet, short front overhang, long wheelbase and rightly proportioned rear-set glasshouse (comprising of rear windscreen, side windows, pillars separating them, and the roof). The mildly sloping roofline, from some angles, gives it coupe-like appearance.
The M Sport variant we drove is available only in diesel. It comes with the M aerodynamic package, M leather steering wheel, M Sport suspension, front sports seats and an additional Sport+ driving mode. It is one seriously sporty-looking variant.
(There is a difference between the M Sport trim and BMW M cars, which are genuine sports cars. Among other things, M cars come with very powerful engines. For a 3 Series there is the M3, for a 5 Series there is the M5, and so on.)
Changes inside the cabin include new materials, chrome highlights for air vents and central control panel, high gloss surfaces and ambient lighting. One snazzy feature is the heads-up display with 3D graphics—driving information is displayed, in full colours, on the front windscreen, right behind the steering wheel, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to check out speed, fuel consumption or even maps. Even though it is a small Bimmer—the accepted slang word for BMW cars is Bimmer, not Beemer, which is a slang for BMW motorcycles—the sedan is quite long for Indian road conditions, and so there is a park-assist feature for convenience. However, there are no rear-parking cameras, not even in the top-end M Sport variant we drove. The centre console gets a sliding cover for cup-holders—this enables better usage of the storage surface in front of the gearshift lever. There is space for one-litre bottles in the doors. All controls face the driver and are within easy reach, creating a cockpit-like feeling.
You don’t need to press any button to open the boot—just wave your foot below the rear bumper and it will activate the opening mechanism of the tailgate, which then unlocks and swings open automatically.
The capacity of the diesel engine is 1995cc—so it can be registered in Delhi NCR. It produces a maximum power of 190bhp and a massive torque of 400Nm, propelling the car from 0-100kph in just 7.2 seconds. The responsiveness of the engine is excellent and power delivery agile at all speeds.
The petrol is a 1998cc motor. It produces a maximum power of 184bhp and a torque of 270Nm, taking the car from 0-100kph in 7.3 seconds. It has a top speed of 235kph.
There are several efficiency-enhancing features. For example, the automatic start/stop function ensures that fuel is only used when the car is actually moving; brake energy regeneration harnesses the coasting energy generated whenever the driver brakes or takes foot off the accelerator, and turns it into electricity, which is then used to charge the car battery; optimum shift indicator changes gears at just the right speed so that the car uses less fuel.
Best driver’s car
Ex-showroom prices for the BMW 3 Series start from Rs 36.9 lakh for the entry-level Prestige trim, going up to R45.9 lakh for the top-end M Sport trim. The BMW 3 Series, which created the modern sporting sedan segment 40 years ago, has come full circle—it is sportier, even more efficient and the best driver’s car in its segment.