New BMW 3 Series reviewed: Luxury and tech-laden sedan
GOLDILOCKS be damned. BMW took a stand with the new 3 Series rather than serving up mama bear's lukewarm porridge in hope of being all things to all people.
Lighter and tauter than before, this car - so says the brand - is for people who love driving.
The approach makes sense when you factor in ever-rising sales of luxury SUVs with compromised dynamics. Then you consider the sort of folks prepared to drop dollars on a prestige sedan might be those who aspire to something like BMW's M3.
So here we are, driving a new 330i sedan with optional 20-inch wheels and torque-vectoring differential, lowered adaptive suspension, powerful monoblock brakes and deeply bolstered sports seats. It looks and feels like a budget M3.
Low-profile Pirelli P-Zero rubber bites into the bitumen when you assert yourself on the thick and squishy steering wheel, pitching it into a bend. The sedan responds accurately, showing uncommon poise on a back-country run at its Australian launch near Albury.
It makes strong first impressions. The 3 Series delivers sporting prowess beyond that of key rivals. But that agility and engagement comes at a cost to ride comfort, which is less than pillow-soft on firm suspension and licorice-strip rubber.
Sports mode lends precision in the bends but jiggles over bumps. Its comfort setting is a touch floaty at speed.
This mid-range 330i is the brand's sole petrol 3 Series, its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder (190kW/400Nm) turning the rear wheels via a smooth and intuitive eight-speed automatic transmission.
It's a sweet and willing engine, serving as the default choice until six-cylinder and hybrid variants arrive later this year.
The only other option for now is the 320d twin-turbo diesel (140kW/400Nm) claiming superior 4.5L/100km fuel economy, or 30 per cent thriftier than the petrol version.
It's also $3000 cheaper than its $70,900 sibling. But the sportier 330i wears larger 19-inch wheels as standard, adding LED headlights, multi-mode suspension and more at no extra cost.
Smart tech includes a colour head-up display, customisable 12.3-inch digital dash and clever 10.25-inch central touchscreen with satnav, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging and virtual 360-degree camera.
It also has BMW's new Intelligent Personal Assistant, which lets you adjust the temperature with simple phrases such as "hey BMW, I'm cold", or set the navigation by saying "take me home".
The strong suite of safety features includes autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, cross traffic alert, speed limit assistance and more. Motorway time reveals the tech is a welcome ally in a quieter than expected machine.
Our test car's black leather and aluminium trim feel well-executed if a little cold compared to some rivals. The longer and wider body lends more space for all occupants and driver ergonomics are among the best in class.
The 330i drives as well as it looks, delivering on the brand's promise of dynamic excellence and first-class technology, even if it isn't the most relaxing car in its segment.
Price: The 330i remains at $70,900 and the 320d rises$2100 to $67,900 plus on-road costs.
Tech: The 3 Series gets a 12.3-inch digital dash and 10.25-inch widescreen display with voice assistance, gesture control, inductive phone charging and wireless smartphone connectivity (but not Android Auto). You also can have laser headlights and, using NFC tech, unlock the car with Samsung phones.
Performance: Power for the 330i increases by 5kW/50Nm, trimming its 0-100km/h time to 5.8 secs. Diesel outputs are unchanged.
Driving: Riding on a platform that's longer, wider and stiffer than its predecessor, the 3 Series trims up to 55kg from the previous model. Reworked suspension geometry adds a sportier character.
Design: Handsome if evolutionary looks include the latest interpretations of BMW's trademark double-kidney grille and "Hofmeister kink" side-window treatment.
BMW 3 Series vitals
Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km, $1565 for 5 years
Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 190kW/400Nm;
2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/400Nm
Safety: Not yet rated, 6 airbags, AEB, active cruise control, lane keep assist/departure warning
Spare: None; run-flats