BMW 3 Series is the best selling sedan by the German giant being the choicest car for young enthusiastic buyers looking for a powerful and precise handling everyday car. Sitting in the middle of its product lifecycle, 3 Series has been given a mid-life update. Don’t be jumping to conclusions as the updates are not just cosmetic. BMW has plonked an all new 2.0 diesel engine along with crucial suspension upgrades. This new 320d M Sport is a prime example of a tasty update tempting people to get a diesel performance Bimmer.
The previous 3 Series was a handsome looking car, but was getting pushed behind with the arrival of fresher and younger rivals. This new one is not much different than the previous model, but small changes across the body have indeed raised the design stakes for BMW. The new LED headlamp design makes it look a lot angrier and rakish up front, hunkered down ready for a charge. This one here is a one with M Sport package which is slightly more edited on bumpers and lights. M Sport package comes in this fantastic Estoril blue colour, loads of M badges, M puddle lamps and slicker 18-inch alloy wheels. There is so much splattering of ‘M’ on this one that you just might call it overkill. The colour deserves another mention as it makes this 320d look more a high performance saloon than an entry level luxury car, full marks there.
Like the exterior, inside too has sportier appeal with M Performance badges, sport seats, steering wheel with cool looking and functioning paddle shifters and a lot of carbon fibre stickers. As the car’s cabin is setup fairly low to the ground, you get a sense of its athletic nature. Really ingress and egress is more inclined for younger audience. Another treat is the Head-Up Display adding to that coolness quotient you would happily associate to your sporty Bimmer. Seats are supportive and you can adjust them to your body posture. They hug you completely while driving through tight corners and are evenly comfortable when you simmer down on your way back home. Rear seats too are agreeable for two passengers. However the third one will be fighting for leg space between the other two and that huge transmission tunnel. Cabin is much quieter and you barely need to raise your voice for a pleasant conversation. Though the cabin might not be as plush as the Mercedes-Benz C Class or the Audi A4, but it is sporty and lends an air of lightness.
Engine, performance and gearbox
The centrepiece for the new 3 Series is its new 1,995cc TwinPower turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine. It puts out 190bhp of maximum power, which is up 6bhp on the outgoing model, with 400Nm of peak torque from 1,750rpm. Its characteristics are fairly similar as its predecessor but it feels more refined and plain sailing than before. The ratios on the 8-speed Sport transmission have been tailor fitted for Indian roads. Shifts are quick and seamless, and the paddle shifters work beautifully when you fancy an involving drive. BMW India also claims a generous 22.69kmpl efficiency figure from this new model. Engine grunt is delivered very linearly and the ton comes up in just 7.2seconds which is pretty decent for a 2.0litre diesel. Top speed number hovers around the 235kmph mark. Driving modes include Comfort, ECOPRO, Sport and Sport+ settings altering engine and gearbox responses. Sport+ coupled with manually controlled shifts is a boon for a spirited drive.
Ride and handling
The previous generation 3 Series had slightly harsh ride quality, but the package handled so well everyone overlooked this tiny niggle. Now however the ride has been smoothened and it glides over uneven surfaces. Also since the rear seats are comfortable, this softer setup makes it a relaxing car for chauffeur driven customers as well. Handling as usual is sublime with perfect weight distribution and a excellent grip levels. So easy is the drive and handling package on the 3 Series that anybody can just hop in and have a lot of fun driving this thing. The 18 inch wheels on this M Sport might feel fragile and uncomfortable, but they are wide and stick to the ground like a Gecko absolutely refusing to break traction. The steering has been made lighter than before which makes it great for city use, but bit twitchy on fast highway speeds.
Features and safety
In terms of features the new 3 Series comes loaded with practical conveniences. The updated i-Drive infotainment system gets an 8.7 inch screen on all variants except the base which has a 6.5 inch screen. Both front seats get electrical adjustments with the driver’s seat getting memory for two people. Another major advantage is the addition of satellite navigation in i-Drive system that works quickly adapting to set routes. No compromise on safety on the new 3 Series with 8 airbags, cornering brake control, ISOFIX child seat mounting and much more. BMW Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control will absolutely keep you out of harm’s way even through spirited driving. Run-flat tyres will indicate when they go flat, and you do get a spare as well.
The BMW 320d is still the best driver’s car in the bracket and improving its ride quality has further made it a great package. This car is an excellent all-rounder in everything it does. The interior is feature packed, more comfortable than ever, it looks very desirable now, more fuel efficient and looses nothing on its driving dynamics. Coupled with BMW’s Finance, after sales services and buy-back offers makes it the perfect choice in the entry luxury sedan segment.
Images by Pawan Sharma