By Khulekani Dumisa
Recently we attended the launch of the new BMW 3 series. The 3 Series is a key player in the BMW stable having sold over 15million units, since being launched more than 40 years ago. Unlike most sedans, the 3 Series continues to sell well notwithstanding the onslaught from SUVs. It was important with this iteration that BMW produces a car that will continue the trend that has been set by the 6 previous generations before it. We think BMW has managed to do that.
The new BMW 3 Series is 76 millimetres longer than its predecessor (at 4,709 mm), 16 millimetres wider (1,827 mm) and just 1 mm taller (1,442 millimetres). BMW has managed to do all of this whilst managing to keep the vehicle a whole 50 kgs lighter. Upfront, a new design with a larger grille and wide bumpers will give the BMW 3 Series a stylish look. Distinctive full-LED headlights come as standard, while the LED headlights with extended features and adaptive LED headlights with BMW laser light for non-dazzling high beam (with a range of around 530 metres) are available as an option. Darkened LED lights with a horizontal L shape give the back a wide appearance.
When you step inside the new 3 Series, you are struck by the newly designed dashboard. Stand outs are the new infotainment screen and instrument cluster. Requiring a bit of an adjustment is the start/stop button for the engine which is now positioned in the newly designed control panel in the centre console, where the gearshift lever or newly designed selector lever is joined by the iDrive Controller. The cabin space is generous with notable increase of shoulder and height room in the back. A 480-litre boot offers improved loading comfort. A 40: 20: 40 split-folding rear backrests is part of standard specification but an automatic boot lid operation is an optional extra. The latter should be standard in a vehicle in this class.
Leading innovation in the BMW 3 Series is the Driving Assistant Professional, Lane Keeping Assistant and Reversing Assistant. Driving Assistant is the Steering and lane control assistant, which works together with the driver to help keep the vehicle in the detected lane, Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection and evasion aid, and Reversing Assistant, which can reverse the vehicle for distances of up to 50 metres by steering it along exactly the same line it has just taken when moving forward. Other safety features (some of which are part of Driving Assistant Professional, Lane Keeping Assistant and Reversing Assistant) included Lane Departure Warning, Collision and Pedestrian Warning, Active Cruise Control, Lane Change Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Cross-Traffic Alert.
Making your life easy in the new BMW 3 Series is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, an intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt “Hey BMW”. You can personalise the name of your BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant by giving it a name. This system will come in handy by explaining things like the features of the car, making calls and performing other tasks which will allow the driver to focus on the road.
Two four-cylinder engines are available at launch; one is a petrol and the other a diesel. The BMW 320d makes 140 kW and 400 Nm whilst the 330i kicks out 190 kW and 400 Nm. BMW claims as combined fuel consumption of 4.7 – 4.4 l/100 km for the 320d whilst 6.1 – 5.8 l/100 km is estimated for the 330i. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and distinguish themselves for good power delivery. The 330i is quick at take-off with BMW claiming a sprint of 0-100 km/h at just 5.8 seconds. Drivers will also appreciate acceleration that keeps on coming even at high speeds. The 330i will also see the driver not sweating it at the pumps as we managed to get a fuel consumption of at least 9.2l/100 km in our test route which included a bit of spirited driving. Both models feel comfortable and this is thanks to, among others, the lift-related dampers, which are making their debut in a BMW model and are included in both the standard-fitted suspension, and optional M Sport suspension. Interestingly some of the safety features like Lane Keeping Assistant with active side collision protection and the evasion aid can be slightly intrusive when kicking in during a drive but this is a small price to pay for added safety.
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