We recently attended the media launch of the BMW 3 Series LCI in Gauteng and we were left quite impressed with the improvements that the Munich-based firm has made. Noteworthy, BMW has sold over 16 million units of the model since its introduction in 1975, and over 1.1 million units of the current 7th generation model.
Up front, the updated 3 Series boasts a redesigned kidney grille with new double bars, flanked by slimmer full LED headlights which are now fitted as standard. The daytime-running lights now feature an inverted L shape. Optionally available are a set of Adaptive LED headlights which are recognizable by the blue accents within the covers.
Lower down, air intakes in Black high-gloss are present and serve the function to cool the braking system.
At the rear, the 3 Series is largely unchanged barring the lower bumper which has been redesigned. The exhaust tailpipes now measure 90 or 100mm in diameter dependent on the engine variant.
To add to the already sporty nature of the 3 Series, the M High-gloss Shadowline trim and 17-inch light alloy wheels are standard amenities.
Stepping inside, the 3 Series has received a major overhaul and this is thanks to the addition of the standard fitted BMW Curved Display which measures at 12.3-inches for the information display and 14.9-inches for the control display. We were initially concerned with most vehicle functions moving to to the control display however operation especially whilst driving isn't a hassle.
The climate control functions are permanently housed at the bottom of the display regardless of the menu displayed, making it easy to operate on the fly. The iDrive Controller is still present which also makes the operation of various functions simple.
The gear selector has also been replaced by a lever which takes up less space. Standard amenities include an automatic climate control system with three-zone adjustment, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, extended storage package, park distance control with front and rear sensors and BMW Live Cockpit Plus with BMW Maps navigation system.
Safety and Technology
The BMW 3 Series benefits from the standard fitment of a wide array of safety and technology systems such as Front Collision Warning with brake intervention, Cruise Control with brake function, Speed Limit display with no-overtaking indicator, Manual Speed Limit Assist and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Return.
Optionally available features include lane change warning, the BMW Head-up Display and Driving Assistant Professional.
Engine and Power
Several engine choices are on offer in the BMW 3 Series, namely: one diesel and four petrol variants. Noteworthy, all engines now boast electrification in the form of 48V mild hybrid technology. At launch, we drove arguably the pick of the bunch, the 320d and the range-topping M340i xDrive.
The former is powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel which delivers 140kW and 400Nm. We adore this engine variant as it combines a good dose of grunt whilst still offering superb fuel economy without breaking a sweat. On road comfort is commendable too although riding on 19-inch light alloy wheels. We can confidently argue that the 320d is the pick of the bunch in the 3 Series range.
The M340i xDrive however offers a different kind of experience. Powered by a 3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbopetrol, the sports sedan is capable of 285kW and 500Nm. True petrol heads will of course lean towards this model. With a rear-wheel drive biased xDrive system, our launch route boasted just the perfect back roads in Gauteng to let the sports sedan rip. With Sport Plus engaged, transmission in Sport, manual shifting engaged and DSC turned off, all 285kW felt as though they were being put to good use.
What we really love about the M340i xDrive is how usable its power is. It has plenty power however it doesn't feel intimidating. Sure, its great to have the highest power outputs there are but what good is that if you can't use all of that power responsibly on the roads. The M340i xDrive is a great middle ground between a 'normal' 3 Series and a full-blown M3. With a near perfect soundtrack too thanks to the 6-cylinder, we believe that the M340i xDrive is one of the best performance sedans on the market currently at its price point.
With that said, below is the entire 3 Series range with pricing:
BMW 318i Sport Line - R767 893
BMW 318i M Sport Package - R817 893
BMW 320i Sport Line - R832 893
BMW 320i M Sport Package - R882 893
BMW 320d Sport Line - R880 313
BMW 320d M Sport Package - R930 313
BMW 330i M Sport Package - R953 197
BMW M340i xDrive M Performance - R1 338 206
BMW M340i xDrive M Sport Package Pro - R1 353 206
We can't wait to get better acquainted with the 3 Series range over a longer test period.