AutoClique were recently invited to the New Zealand launch of the BMW X1 and 3 Series LCI. You might have read my review of the X1 from the first day of the launch. I rather liked it. The X1 and the 3 Series have similar safety technology so I’ll try not to repeat myself here. On the second day of the launch it was time to get into the new 3 Series LCI. LCI stands for Life Cycle Impulse, which is BMW for facelift.
With the release of this sixth generation LCI, the 3 series is celebrating its 40th birthday. The technology has advanced somewhat since 1975, but the ethos of the 3 Series is still the same – a family car that’s great fun to drive. The 3 Series accounts for 25 percent of all BMWs sold, though the balance is shifting towards SUVs in recent years.
The LCI has been re-styled externally to give the impression that it is wider and lower than its predecessor. LED headlights and taillights are standard across the range. The interior has been improved with lots of little tweaks, extra metal trims, more ambient lighting, a sliding cover on the centre cup holder, and many other little extras.
Across the range, the 3 Series now features BMW’s new EfficientDynamic modular engine design, sharing components across different engines, for example all feature the same pistons with 0.5l per piston from the 3 cylinder right up to the 3.0 straight six. The twin scroll turbos have been redesigned and are integrated into the exhaust manifold to reduce distances and improve throttle response. This combined with reduced volume and pressure in the intercoolers means the turbos spool up quickly, and minimise lag.
The impressive fuel consumption figures are helped by some clever technology including auto coasting, brake energy regeneration, stop/start, and disconnection of the aircon, coolant pump, oil pump, and other systems when they’re not required. Even the power steering is turned off in a straight line to save power. This sort of non-intrusive fuel saving tech helps to save fuel without the driver even noticing.
Driving Assistant is standard across the range which includes Forward Collision Warning and Light City Braking, Lane Change Warning and Rear View Camera. Auto parking is also standard, which will do the steering for you while you park, either parallel or laterally.
For the launch we had a 320i and 330i, both with 2.0 litre turbo petrol engines, and a 320d XDrive 4×4 with the 2.0 litre turbodiesel. BMW expect the 320i and 320d to make up the majority of New Zealand sales but interest is strong in the 330i and the 330d as well. The 330d is only available in xDrive Touring spec in New Zealand, starting at $109,000. It comes with a straight 6 3.0 litre turbodiesel, making 190kW and an impressive 560Nm. It reaches 100kph in 5.3 seconds but combined fuel consumption is only 5.3l/100km. Yes you’re reading that right, the diesel is more powerful and faster and more fuel-efficient than the petrol. It’s also quite a bit more expensive, but the value is made up by BMW including a lot of extra kit as standard.
What would it be like to live with?
Day two of the launch arrived and we set off on our way back from Omapere to Auckland via some of the twistiest and quietest roads in Northland. First up was the 330i, which had the optional MSport pack as well as the heads-up display with speed limit info. The HUD is excellent. It’s clear and easy to read even in bright sunlight, appearing to hover somewhere above the bonnet. The speed limit is displayed to the right of your current speed as a little, colour speed limit sign. It’s very accurate and changes exactly as you pass the roadside signs for speed changes. The 330i has the Business Satnav included which gives a wider 8.8” screen and a really cool aerial view mode which looks like Google Earth or Apple Maps, with the buildings all textured like the real thing and drawn in 3D.
Through town, in Comfort mode the 330i was very quiet, with a firm ride, but never harsh over bumps. Once on the open road with the car in Sport mode, it had a noticeably different character with tight handling, a sharper throttle response and gears held for longer when accelerating. Like all BMWs, the 3 Series has 50:50 weight distribution, and the 330i handles superbly. The push from the rear wheels as you accelerate out of a corner is really satisfying, and combined with the 185kW turbo engine and that eight speed auto transmission, it really is a pleasure to drive. At higher speeds it’s surprisingly quiet, even with 19” wheels and run-flat tyres.
The next 60km passed in a bit of a blur, a blur of excellent roads, tight corners, hill climbs and swift overtakes, all done with a big grin on my face. Unlike the X1 I drove the previous day, I never felt the safety systems activating underneath me. I’m sure they were at times, but the lower centre of gravity and mechanical handling of the 3 Series made it flow through the corners with ease. The MSport brakes are excellent, with good feel and giving real confidence, slowing the car quickly and cleanly.
There was an occasion where I was climbing a hill through some road works on some very loose gravel, doing about 15kph, and I tried cornering with a little too much enthusiasm to see how the car would react. There was a slight slip of the rear wheels and the car allowed the tail to start to slide, just a tiny bit, before the ESP and traction control kicked in, limiting the throttle, bringing the car into line and just driving around the corner. This illustrates how great these systems are, and how they could save you from a serious accident at higher speeds.
The interior of the 330i is a lovely place to be. The leather seats are excellent: electrically adjustable in many directions, comfortable and supportive. The steering wheel is chunky and fat, which I really like. The instruments are clear and simple with the traditional BMW layout of two large dials for speedo and rev counter, and digital displays below and in the centre for the fuel gauge and other instruments. And as mentioned previously I love the heads-up display.
The day was all about driving and I didn’t test the the stereo. I wish I had as the 330i comes as standard with an upgraded 9 speaker system with an extra 205W amplifier, compared to the six speakers in the 320i and 320d. The standard system in the 125i was really good so I bet this one sounds awesome.
For the next leg of the trip I was in the 320i. Not the best order way to do it really as I was moving from a car with 50kW and 80Nm more. The 320i had the standard 18” wheels, and didn’t have the MSport pack. This was immediately noticeable, with a softer ride and a little more roll on corners. That’s not to say the 320i is soft though, it’s still firm and corners beautifully. I definitely missed the extra power and torque coming out of corners and on straights. In the 330i I never touched the shifter paddles but in the 320i I kept wanting to change down to get a bit more acceleration. It’s far from slow of course, and unless you’re on a cross-country back road run like this I doubt you’d use the extra power. But when you do, it’s so good!
The 320i still has a lovely interior with the same great quality and finish. The leather seats are good, but not quite as nice or supportive as the ones in the 330i. The boot is a good size and comes standard with cargo nets and snap-in metal boot organisers. Rear seats are split 40/20/40 to get longer items on board if you need to.
The final leg of the journey was covered in a 320d XDrive Touring. Similar to the 330i this car had the MSport pack, 19” wheels and MSport brakes. I definitely preferred the firmer ride and improved brakes over the 320i. The extra torque and 4×4 traction made the 320d feel noticeably quicker than the petrol equivalent, despite the extra 150kg weight of the wagon.
Finally we pulled back into BMW HQ in Auckland. Given the chance I would happily forgotten about my flight home and taken any of the 3 Series to carried on driving all the way to Wellington. If I had to make a choice for a long trip the extra power of the 330i would win me over, but the 320d xDrive would come a very close second. As a family car the X1 is cheaper and bigger inside and arguably more practical, but as a driver’s car the 3 Series is the one to have.
What it’s up against
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||0-100km/h||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Jaguar XF Luxury Sedan||2.2l 4 cyl turbo diesel||148kW/450Nm||5.1||8.5s||$90,000|
|Jaguar XF Luxury Sedan||2.0l 4 cyl turbo petrol||177kW/340Nm||8.1||7.9s||$90,000|
|Mercedes C250 Wagon||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||155kW/350Nm||6.2||6.8s||$89,900|
|BMW 330i Sedan||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||185kW/350Nm||5.8||5.9s||$88,000|
|Lexus IS200t Limited||2.0l 4 cyl turbo||180kW/350Nm||7.5||7.0s||$86,400|
|Mercedes C250||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||155kW/350Nm||6.0||6.6s||$86,500|
|Audi A4 TFSI S Line||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||155kW/350Nm||7.0||6.5s||$85,400|
|HSV Clubsport Sedan Auto||6.2l V8 petrol||325kW/550Nm||12.9||4.9s||$85,390|
|BMW 320d xDrive Touring||2.0l 4 cyl turbodiesel||140kW/400Nm||4.9||7.6s||$81,000|
|Audi A4 TDI S Line||2.0l 4 cyl turbodiesel||130kW/380Nm||5.1||7.9s||$80,900|
|Volvo V60 T5 R-Design||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||180kW/350Nm||6.2||6.4s||$74,990|
|Volkswagen CC FSI||3.6l 6 cyl petrol||220kW/350Nm||9.3||5.1s||$74,000|
|Volvo S60 D4 Luxury||2.0l 4 cyl turbodiesel||133kW/400Nm||4.2||7.4s||$73,990|
|Lexus IS200t||2.0l 4 cyl turbo||180kW/350Nm||7.5||7.0s||$73,900|
|BMW 320i Sedan||2.0l 4 cyl petrol turbo||135kW/270Nm||5.8||7.2s||$72,000|
|Volvo S60 T5 Luxury||2.0l 4cyl petrol turbo||180kW/350Nm||6.0||6.3s||70,990$|
The good and the bad.
What do we think?
The 3 series is a fantastic driver’s car. It is well built and has a quality interior. The 320i is fast and fun to drive but the extra poke of the 330i really makes it excellent. Likewise the 320d XDrive is a great drive, and even easier on the fuel. Safety and technology are impressive. It’s a premium car with a premium price, but it’s obvious where the money goes, and it’s a worthwhile investment. Like the X1 the 3 Series has a five year warranty, three years’ servicing and five years’ roadside assist included.
Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5
|Vehicle||320i Sedan||330i Sedan||320d xDrive Touring|
|Vehicle Type||Medium Sized Sports Sedan||Medium Sized Sports Wagon|
|$72,000 NZD +on-road costs||$75,000 NZD +on-road costs|
|$72,000 NZD +on-road costs||$88,000 NZD +on-road costs||$81,000 NZD +on-road costs|
|Tested Price||$77,750 NZD|
Sport Line – $2,00019-inch alloys – $1,750Head Up Display – $2,000
M Sport – $5,000Comfort Access – $1,000 Head Up Display – $2,000 Speed Limit Info – $800
M Sport – $5,000
19-inch alloys- $1,750
Head Up Display – $2,000
Comfort Access – $1,000
|Engine||BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine, combines a twin-scroll turbocharger with Valvetronic, Double VANOS and High|
|BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine, combines common rail direct injection and a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, with exhaust system Diesel Particulate Filter|
|Transmission||Steptronic Sport automatic transmission, 8-speed gearshift with gearshift paddles on the steering wheel|
|0 – 100 kph||7.2 seconds||5.9 seconds||7.6 seconds|
|Length x Width x Height||4633x1811x1429mm||4633x1811x1434mm|
|Cargo Capacity||480 litres||495-1500 litres|
|Fuel Tank||60 litres||57 litres|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 stars|
|Warranty||Five year warranty, three years’ servicing and five years’ roadside assist|