The car that we are testing has got a very strong lineage of 37 long years and 6 generations. We are talking about none other than the BMW 3 Series. The 3 Series has been playing a major role in BMW Group's success story right through the years. Let us get you into the brief history of the best seller from BMW Group worldwide.
The first generation of the 3 Series (E21) was introduced in the year 1975 and was built at the Munich plant. The second generation of the BMW 3 Series (E30) came in the year 1982. The third generation (E36) was introduced in 1990. The year 1998 saw the introduction of the fourth generation of the BMW 3 Series (E46) and the outgoing fifth generation BMW 3 Series (E90) was introduced in the year 2005.
The BMW 3 Series have been a runaway success and been a big hit with the public along the years; the BNW 3 Series M version has earned a strong reputation and name on the motor sport race circuit. Regarded as a sporty sedan, the BMW 3 Series has been a sign of athleticism and is known for its high level of comfort, engineering and drive pleasure; all combined in one package.
We drive the latest avatar of the BMW 3 Series, the 320d Luxury in its diesel version to bring you this extensive road test of the best seller from Munich.
First things first, the New BMW 3 Series has grown in dimension by about 93mm in length as compared to the outgoing 3 Series while the overall weight has been reduced by around 40kgs than its predecessor. The BMW 3 Series or the Ultimate3 as BMW terms it, has maintained a few signature design elements right through the generations that the world has seen. The key signature design elements remain on the New BMW 3 Series as well, but get personified in a big way. The face of the New BMW 3 Series has gone more modish and sharper. The signature BMW kidney grill has also got sleeker and wider and now is at a slight forward slanting angle. The kidney grill is in chrome with the vertical slats also getting similar detailing.
The New BMW 3 Series headlamps also get revised styling and now get broader and flatter. The signature BMW white xenon glowing Corona rings in the headlights are now flat instead of the round circular ones seen on the older BMW 3 Series. The new stretched headlights get the LED accent lights that are positioned as the eyebrow on the head lights. The front bumper has a wedge styling with a dash of chrome lines above the integrated round fog lamps and a thick chrome band just below the lower air dam under the front number plate.
The bonnet on the New BMW 3 Series gets smooth flowing wedge lines that run down from the A-pillar and mate with the sleep headlamps. The front fenders have also got a lot leaner and sleek which make the car look very sporty, going with the overall stylish and young front profile of the New BMW 3 Series. With the new sporty face and the long bonnet along with the slender fenders, the New BMW 3 Series flaunts its wide sporty stance and these make the front appear low slung. The fenders sport the Luxury emblem in chrome. The New BMW 320d Luxury drives on 225/50 R17 tyres that are mounted on a very sporty looking multi spoke alloys.
The side profile is clearly signified by a strong chiselled out waist line that runs smoothly across horizontally, starting at the fender and ending on the tail lamps. The wing mirrors too get a new design and are much larger in size. Integrated LED turn lights look nice on the new design wing mirrors. Like with the car, the body coloured door handles also have got larger in size on the New BMW 3 Series.
The window gets the blacked out effect on the rims along with a neat sporty chrome strip that runs all around. This strip thickens out just behind the quarter glass on the C pillar. This design element looks very neat on the side profile. This again is a signature BMW design element that they call as the BMW Hofmeister kink and is seen on all the BMW vehicles. A thin contour line runs across from the roof to the boot lid that makes the roof appear lower than it actually is. The roof gets an electrical sun/moon roof and a larger body coloured fish-tail antenna.
The rear profile of the New BMW 3 Series is flanked by the signature BMW L design tail lamps that are placed at the extreme edges of the rear end. The tail lamps get an all-new sleeker and broader sporty design with the double piped glow effect that resembles the BMW 5 Series tail lamp. The boot lid on the New BMW 3 Series is much sharper in design with integrated rear spoiler. The rear bumper like the front bumper gets sharp wedge designing that makes it appear very sporty. A neat touch is the placement of a pair of reflectors on the bumpers along with a thick band of chrome insert on the lower section.
The exteriors of the New BMW 3 Series remains traditionally BMW but there is a lot of fresh sleek inputs and visual sporty emphasis that make it stand apart from the previous generations and grab your attention instantly. And we need not mention the build quality is typical BMW.
Like on the outside, the New BMW 3 Series gets a fresh new cabin area as well. Step inside and you’ll immediately notice the difference if you have been inside of the old BMW 3 Series. The dash is in dual tone soft plastic material in black and beige colour shade. Wood and aluminium inserts enhance the dash board’s visual appeal. The instrumentation is more inclined towards the driver. The speedo cluster retains the round dials but now they get an all-new black panel display with silver lining around them. The speedo is calibrated to 260Kmph. The steering is a 3 spoke design with leather wrapping and placement of the multi-function control buttons for the audio, telephony, speed limiter etc. A thick band of silver insert on the steering makes it look very fresh. The steering is manually adjustable for height and reach.
The centre dash is taken up by an all-new large colour BMW iDrive display unit. This display unit measures 16.5cms of screen size. The screen displays the various menus and options and one can run through them using the iDrive control dial. The New BMW 3 Series gets a Live GPS system which worked remarkably well even when we drove the New BMW 320d on remote by-lanes of our city. Redesigned AC vents sit below the display screen.
The MP3-CD unit gets an all new design with much user friendly and ergonomic radio station buttons. The dual zone Climate control unit also gets new design and is much more user friendly. Brushed aluminium inserts around the centre dash adds a lot more ornamental value to the cabins rich feel. The centre console is built using two materials, black plastic and wood finish.
The iDrive control unit and the iDrive shifter both get the brushed aluminium finish. The iDrive gear shifter is a very welcome addition to the 3 Series. Just besides the iDrive shifter is the drive mode selector using which you can toggle between the Sport, Comfort or Eco Pro modes. A twin can holder is neatly placed in front of the iDrive shifter that also can be closed with a lid that doubles up as a storage bin. The centre arm rest is adjustable for reach and has storage space underneath it. You also get the USB and AUX ports placed in here.
The New BMW 320d comes with beige leather upholstery. The driver’s seat is fully electrically adjustable for height, reach, incline and back rest angle adjust. The front seats are very well shaped, offering near perfect comfort and support. On the rear, the extra dimension of the New BMW 3 Series adds-up to a lot of extra space. The extra 93mm of overall length and 50mm of extra wheelbase on the New BMW 3 Series sums up to extra headroom, legroom and knee room.
Set the front seat to driving position and when you sit at the rear, the extra space available is instantly felt. BMW has also increased the size of the door pockets and seat pockets to accommodate larger bottles and other stuff. The rear AC vents are standard on the New BMW 3 Series. You also get an electric folding rear curtain and manual side window curtains to increase privacy or to keep out the unwanted sunlight.
The cabin light are now in white LED while the floor lights are in yellow so a mix of yellow and white makes the cabin appear at night when you enter the New 3 Series. The New BMW 320d boasts of the finest quality of interiors and with its extended dimensions also adds up to the comfort level for its occupants.
The New BMW 320d Luxury Plus comes powered by the renowned BMW TwinPower Turbo Diesel engine. The BMW 2.0-litreTwinPower engine on the new 320d with a capacity of 1995cc makes 184bhp @ 4000rpm and has torque levels of a monstrous 380Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm. This engine is mated to an all new 8-speed tip-tronic automatic gearbox. This super powerful motor can touch speeds of 100kmph in 7.6seconds which is just a second slower than its petrol counterpart, the BMW 328i. The TwinTurbo engines from BMW are award winning motors that include many ‘Engine of the Year’ awards.
The engine uses a few mind boggling technologies and components that go a long way in enhancing its efficient dynamics. A composite aluminium crankcase combined with the latest generation common rail direct injection system with a VNT turbo charger gives some mighty power and efficiency levels to this engine.
Push the button start on the new BMW 320d and the engine settles down to idle with a nice sweet roar. Shift to the drive mode and the new BMW 320d chugs ahead in sheer harmony. The eight speed automatic transmission shifts the gears with super accuracy and the gearshifts are extremely unnoticed. The new BMW 320d comes with a special Driving Experience Control function where one can customise accelerator response, engine response, power steering characteristics and the Dynamic Stability Control setting. The driver can choose between the Eco-Pro, Comfort and Sport mode and the gear ratios that are pre-set accordingly and work flawlessly under any drive condition.
The outgoing BMW 3 Series seemed to be slowly losing the original plot as they were tuned lighter and handled a bit unlike the traditional BMWs. Now everything is back again on the right track with the New BMW 3 Series, the steering feedback is razor sharp, suspension is stiffened as it should be and the car handles like a dream. We have always been great fans of BMW cars and the new 3 Series does not let us down, in-fact it takes that trust and loyalty that we have a step or two further.
The new BMW 320d has superb driving sense and the driver is always involved. The BMW 320d stays planted at all drive speeds and conditions steady as a rock, you have the tip-tronic mode to turn to when you are in your naughty mood. The electromechanical steering system on the New BMW 320d feels and performs with remarkable precision and gets the driver a well-balanced feedback. The rear seat comfort on the move is right up there to the highest levels and yes the cabin is super insulated from any external noise.
We drove the car maximum in the Eco-Pro mode which is when the car tunes itself to be more relaxed and extra sporty. The fuel efficiency levels are also at peak in this mode.
Innovative features like the Auto Start-Stop feature come real handy in traffic situations or at a signal. When you activate this system the engine automatically shuts off to save precious fuel and when you need to go just release the brake paddle and the engine comes back to life. The BMW patented Brake Energy Regeneration system is also a standard feature now on all the New 3 Series.
The New BMW 320d boasts of a very long list of equipment and feature list. We try to list a few of them that we came across during our test.
Navigation system – One of the best and most detailed GPS systems on the large coloured display unit that we have seen on a car in India yet.
Online check for engine oil, tyre pressure, brake pad status, next service schedule etc – You don’t even need to step out of the vehicle to check the levels of the engine fluids or the air pressure.
Reverse camera – Very handy feature that comes with inbuilt interactive Park Distance Control system.
Auto Start-Stop System – This system worked flawlessly during our busy traffic runs, it takes time to get used to it but once you get used to it, it really does save a lot of fuel.
Drive Modes – Eco-Pro was the most used mode by us during our drive. The Comfort mode was best suited for the highway runs while the Sport mode gave the best pleasure and power from the TwinTurbo engine.
Sport Display – In this mode the main colour display shows you a digital meter showing the power in kW and torque in Nm as you input the accelerator pedal, just like in a video game.
You also have a digital copy of the owner’s manual with pictures and explanation all preloaded on the New BMW 3 Series.
BMW Apps and Facebook – Well these features did not work as they needed some pre configuration to be done, but yes they should also be fun to use.
We managed a best fuel economy of close to 11.5kmpl in city conditions and a best of 15.4kmpl on our highway run during our test on the New BMW 320d.
The New 3 Series competes with the arch rival the Mercedes C Class, Audi A4 and the Volvo S60 in its segment.
The BMW 3 Series if one of the most sold luxury sedan cars, not only in India but also worldwide and is a benchmark of sorts. Bettering something that is already the best is something very difficult and with the new 3 Series, BMW has just managed to do that. Comfort levels are much higher, thanks to the larger dimensions. In other words, we can say everything has got better and nicer.
The new BMW 320d does ride and handle beautifully and there’s nothing much that one can find faults with. With best in class drive pleasure, drop dead sporty and athletic looks, refinement and performance thanks to the TwinTurbo, the gem of an engine, the new BMW 320d is our best bet in the compact luxury sedan segment as of today.
Fun to drive and a very good overall package is the easiest way to sum-up the new BMW 320d.