BMW’s 3 Series is the baby in the line of its luxury sedans. But this baby has got lighter, fiercer and overall a lot better. The seventh-generation has the best of BMW packed right into it, but is it enough?
The exterior design has some changes to it that are highly subjective. The front signature kidney grill, which also has louvres that open up to cool the engine, is more prominent than ever before. In fact, this is the biggest kidney grill that has ever been fitted in a 3 Series. There’s not subtlety in it, which may seem a little too much for some, but I loved the new facial detail. The tail lights adopt the new sleek one-line design language BMW has been implementing in all their new cars. The cuts and creases along the bonnet and the twin exhaust pipes lend the 3 some sportiness, but the design of the car does have a few imperfections. The design of the alloy wheels look a tad dated, while the door handles and their cavity could have been sleeker and cleaner looking. That being said, the overall exterior of the car is well done and there’s enough to identify this as the latest generation of the 3 Series.
The new 3 is stacked on the inside and there’s a lot to talk about here. Stepping inside, you’ll be greeted by a well laid-out cabin. It features an all-digital instrument cluster, which has had its fair share of criticism. It does take time to get used to, but once you spend two to three days driving, you’ll get comfortable with the idea of it. The 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment unit runs on BMW’s latest iDrive 7.0 interface that is a delight to use, with absolutely no lags whatsoever. The infotainment system can also be controlled with a physical dial placed next to the gear that has a trackpad atop it, which lets you scribble letters and form sentences. It is a pretty cool concept but seems unnecessary since most right-handed drivers would struggle using their left hand to scribble in letters. Other cool quirks include a highly-responsive virtual assistant and gesture controls that prove to be helpful while driving.
A feature I was particularly excited about was the reversing assistant, but things didn’t exactly go as planned. On paper, the reversing assistant is a feature that precisely reads the driver’s steering movements and, in case you need to back out, activating it will make the car reverse in the exact same way you came in, all without you touching the steering. But it seemed moody. It did work most of the time, but it failed on me enough times for me to be embarrassed when I excitedly told other passengers to note how the car backs up on its own. When it did work, it was wonderful not having to worry about scratching your car or banging into an annoying person who made an informed decision to cross your path only when you hit reverse. Ambient lighting is a subtle touch, but helps add a lot of character to the cabin. The seats are extremely comfortable, especially for those long drives. Backseat passengers have decent legroom but headroom could be a problem for overly tall passengers. Annoyingly, the middle backseat passengers will be forced to put their legs on either side of the huge transmission tunnel jutting out from the floor panel. While the car does support Apple CarPlay, a major drawback for me was to not have Android Auto. Boot space is taken up mostly by a spare tyre, but is still big enough to fit in two duffle bags and one big suitcase. On the safety end, you get six airbags, ABS, Attentiveness Assistance, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) side-impact protection, electronic vehicle immobiliser and more.
If you buy a BMW, you expect it to handle like one. And the 3 is a true-blue BMW in that aspect. The ride quality is buttery-smooth with minimal engine or road noise seeping inside the cabin. Mumbai’s infamous potholes gave it their best, but the 3 handled them surprisingly well. The 8-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox eases you into smooth gear shifts. BMW is marketing the 3 as a ‘sports sedan’ and while it doesn’t really fit into that category, this engine does pack a punch. We drove the two-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that comes with 190 horses of power and a peak torque of 400 Nm. The engine gives you the freedom to comfortably cruise on city speed limits as well as enjoy a high-speed pushback in your seat as soon as you put your foot down on the throttle. The 3 is available in two diesel variants (BMW 320d Sport and BMW 320d Luxury Line) priced at Rs 41.4 and Rs 46.9 lakh respectively, as well as one petrol variant, BMW 330i M Sport, priced at Rs 47.9 lakh.
The arrival of BMW’s latest 3 Series comes at the perfect time. Its biggest competitors in the market right now are the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4, and both these cars have not had a renewed iteration come out for a while now. The 3 not only earns brownie points for its technological advancements, but also for its design. While it has always been targeted towards the mature buyer, the new design makes it highly attractive to youngsters as well, those who’ve got some money in the bank, of course. The timing of its arrival, interesting tech goodies, renewed design language and the powerful engine has helped cement the 3 Series as the leader of the pack in the luxury sedan segment.
2.0-litre diesel (also available in petrol)
Rs 41.4 to 47.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, virtual assistant, gesture controls, reversing assistant