BMW NIP AND TUCK
BMW has just given the 3-Series range a refreshing nip-and-tuck. You might well ask why. It is only three years since the current model was launched – the fifth generation in a line stretching back three decades – and it didn’t seem in any urgent need of an update. But it’s been given one and looks all the better for it. The changes are subtle. There are tweaks to the front bumper, lower valance and headlights. The look of the bonnet has been beefed up with new ‘precision’ lines etched into it. The side sills have bee re-profiled and the door mirrors are bigger. Then at the back, there are new light clusters with LEDs, another new bumper and a restyled boot-lid. Perhaps the most welcome change is an update to the iDrive controller, often criticised for being too complex and not intuitive enough. It now has a new operating system and has been given menu features to make it easier to use.
There is a choice of five diesel engines, all with third-generation common-rail piezo direct injection. The newest diesel in the range is this 330d, an all-aluminium six-cylinder, three-litre unit boosted by a single turbocharger with variable vane geometry. The new engine has an extra 14bhp and 15lb ft more torque than its predecessor, making it impressively powerful with electrifying performance – the 0-62 time is now half a second quicker at 6.2 seconds. But the car is very discreet about its awesome power. Even in this M Sport version, there is nothing brash on show to boast what’s under the bonnet. As well as being quicker, the new 330d is also cleaner, and Euro 5 emissions regulations compliant. The CO2 output is down by 11g/km compared with the previous model, dropping it down a band for Vehicle Excise Duty.
In common with all other 3-Series models, the 330d comes with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics package as standard kit, including low-rolling resistance tyres and other fuel-saving features. But it doesn’t have the automatic stop-start economy enhancer that is fitted to non-sixcylinder models.
The 3-Series has long been the benchmark car in its class, the one by which the driving appeal of rival models is always judged, and that is unchanged with this minor facelift. It has pin-sharp handling and taut responses that make the car feel alive. You could wish for a bit more room in the back seat, and the firmness of the ride will occasionally rattle your fillings, but nothing much else will wipe the smile off your face when you drive it.
RIVALS: AUDI A4 3.0 TDI QUATTRO S LINE, MERCEDES-BENZ C 320 CDI SPORT
- Engine: 2993cc, 6 cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Max Power: 245bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 384lb ft at 1,750-3,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,800kg
- Combined Consumption: 45.6mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 164g/km (D)
- 0-62mph: 6.2secs
- Max speed: 155mph
- Insurance Group: 17