In a market that’s more about SUVs and Utes, it’s hard to believe that some brands are still offering a range of sedans. However, the BMW 3-Series is not your run of the mill sedan; now in its seventh generation, it’s showcasing itself as the ultimate sports sedan. That may sound presumptuous, but they have the pedigree behind its evolvement to be that bold.

In 1975 when the first 3-Series was launched, it changed the face of sports sedans and has done so with every generation. To date, they have sold more than 15 million models worldwide, which is rather impressive.

However, times are changing, especially here in New Zealand. SUV and Ute sales now account for around two-thirds of the sales in New Zealand. This has not steered BMW away from pushing a large range of vehicles that are not just SUV’s. In 2019 after the launch of the 3-Series, we will also see the 8-Series Coupe, i3 and i4 (maybe 2012) coming to market. They will also have some new SUV’s –  X5, X4, X2, iX3 (maybe 2021), X3M and X4M.

Why more M vehicles? Because we are a performance-driven market, with the largest share of M vehicles per cappa in the entire world. Yes, little old New Zealand is a car-mad nation, and we hope that brands like BMW never forget that.

The launch

It’s here now, the seventh generation 3-Series BMW, and it will be launched with two models in New Zealand. Both have four-cylinder engines; one is petrol (the 330i) and the other is diesel, the 320d. Later in the year more models will arrive, with the 330d, 330e and M34i. There was even talk of a new 3-Series Touring too.

Let’s start with the 320d; as mentioned it’s got a twin-power four-cylinder diesel that produces 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, not bad from a 2.0-litre. It’s got a combined fuel consumption of 4.8 and a 0-100km/h time of 6.8 seconds. Even for a diesel, these are the right figures for a base-level sport sedan. But what does it cost? Well, the base price for the 320d is $77,500, which is more than the previous generation. However BMW said that the spec level is much higher than any previous models.

As standard both cars come with 8-Speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission with gearshift paddles, Active Protection, Adaptive LED headlights with extended contents, Adaptive M Suspension (more on that later), 3-zone climate control, BMW Head-Up Display, BMW Live Cockpit, DAB+ digital radio, electric adjustment for front seats, heated seats for driver and front passenger, 10-speaker 205 watt digital amplifier, M Aerodynamic package, front and rear bumpers and side sills, speed limit info, sport seats for driver and front passenger, variable sport steering and wireless smartphone charging.

On top of that you also get BMW Connected+, BMW Concierge Service, ConnectedDrive Service and Apps, ConnectedPackage Professional, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Remove Services and TeleServies. And to finish it all of you get a 5-year warranty, 3-year service inclusive and 5-year roadside assist.

The 330i comes with a 2.0-litre twin-power 4-cylinder and generates 190kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It has everything the 320d has and a bit more. You get 19” alloy wheels over the 18” on the 320d, and it also includes Comfort Access system including the BMW digital key, Driving Assistant Professional, M Sport brakes, Parking Assistant Plus including 3D view, and upholstery leather ‘Vernasca’. As you would expect the starting price is also higher then the 320d, with the 330i starting at $89,900

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty decent package for the entry level models

The Tech

This must be a first, or if not, rather uncommon. A base model with the top-spec adaptive M suspension as standard. There is no other suspension available, this is it, it’s the top spec. BMW are so confident with it, that it’s going to be a standard option on all new BMW 3-Series sold in New Zealand. This is what has helped to make this car the sports sedan they believe it is. You can have sport driving feel without floppy comfort suspension. You need to be able to make changes to the stiffness and damping which is what they offer, with 3 customisable settings: Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro.

The most noticeable change will be to the driver’s instrument cluster which has now changed to the BMW Live Cockpit. This 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster is the same from the new X5, and has a very modern high-tech look and feel to it. No more bulky dails; nice sleek digital information blended and overlaid in a far more useable fashion. This is also paired with the new central display, which has the latest iDrive. This latest version allows you to make massive customisable changes to what things are displayed by the use of widgets.

One of the newest features that has come out in the new 3-Series is the BMW intelligent Personal Assistant. This for want of a better description is like having Google Home or Amazon Echo built into your car. Based on our tests during the day’s events it was pretty easy to use. To activate it, you just say “Hey BMW” or “Hello BMW”. This actives the assistant who then asks you how she can help. The voice in the cars tested was a woman – I am unsure if this can be altered to a male voice if you have that preference. Once she has asked you how she can help you can ask her a wide range of commands. Some of the examples we had on hand were, “How far to our destination?”, which would tell you the time remaining. We asked here what the weather was in Munich and she told us, while supplying a display of the day’s weather on the central monitor.

We could tell her that we were cold, and she would reply with “what temperature would you like to set”. As you can imagine this went on and on, with 90% of all questions getting a logical answer. All in all this was nice new addition to the BMW lineup. You can see a quick test we posted on our social media page – LINK

All this new tech sounds like the humble car is becoming very complicated, which is why BMW are putting support in place for second and third handovers to new car customers. They believe that the first handover is clouded by the sheer excitement of collecting their new car. Everything else, the features the how to use demos are all forgotten once the owner gets home. A second and third handover makes a lot of sense, once the initial excitement has settled. If owners take up on these opportunities I think they will really start to find how useful some of the extended features of their new cars can be.  

The Drive

During the day’s events we had only been able to test out the 320d, as we were not quick enough to get behind the wheel of the two 330i models at the launch. We will however get a chance later in the year to do a full review on it.

The 320d we drove was optioned with a lot of extras. It had the new Acoustic glazing for front and side windows, which made the driving experience very serene, where we barely even noticed the sound from the diesel engine. It also had Ambient interior lighting, BMW Gesture Control, Comfort Access System, Driving Assistant Profesional, instrument panel in Sensatec, leather ‘Vernasca’ upholstery, lumbar support for driver and front passenger, M seatbelts, Parking Assistant Plus and Sun Protection glazing. This drove up the price of our 320d to $87,900.

Over the course of the day we spent around 3 hours in the cars, just enough for a taste. Behind the wheel of what is the bottom-spec 320d, you couldn’t tell it was the billy basic model. It was really nice to drive, and dare I say it, drove like a far more expensive vehicle, probably thanks to that Adaptive M Suspension. It was so smooth and quiet, more like a 5-Series then a 3-Series. I was told the power in the 330i was much more exciting, but I never felt that the 320d was lacking at all. It didn’t suck my eyes into the back of my head, but it was no slug either.

In Comfort mode it soaked up the scenic roads we drove around, making the drive all that more relaxing. In Sports mode you could feel the entire car change, firm up and become a lot more agile, just waiting to go.

It was great to see the new 3-Series, and we are looking forward to being able to do our full reviews later in the year.


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