The BMW 3-Series has had an unparalleled reputation both for its supreme handling and entertaining drive dynamics in the premium midsize segment for more than 40 years and this, the seventh generation, raises the bar even higher.
Having seen it in the flesh at the Singapore Motor Show earlier this year, no test drive review is needed to convince Malaysians on the virtues of owning this new 3-Series. Instead it will be up to its selling price and features.
A little history lesson
When the first BMW 3-Series was launched in 1975, it revolutionised the segment and became BMW’s most successful model.
The saloon is the core of the BMW 3-Series range, of which over 15 million units have been sold worldwide, and it is regarded as the heartbeat of the BMW brand.
With revised styling, superior driving dynamics, exceptional efficiency and innovative features, this latest iteration opens an exciting new chapter in 3-Series progression.
Sizing up the new 3-series
Without the older 3-Series sitting side by side you will not be sure if this really is a brand new car. The new car is 85 mm longer than its predecessor (4,709 mm), 16 mm wider (1,827 mm) and just 1 mm taller (1,442 mm).
Its wheelbase has been extended by 41 mm to 2,851 mm, as has its track widths (front: by 43 mm, and rear by 21 mm). So, it’s a bigger Bimmer and rightfully so as the 5-Series has also grown.
This is where the biggest changes can be seen immediately. The newly-designed instrument cluster and control display form a large surfaced screen grouping, while the controls not included in these units are arranged into clearly structured function panels.
Displays and buttons for the air conditioning are at the centre of the instrument panel while the light functions are operated via a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel.
The start/stop button for the engine is now positioned in a control panel in the centre console that houses the gearshift lever or newly designed selector lever, the iDrive Controller, electromechanical parking brake and the buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch unit.
Boot capacity is 480 litres, and its new partitioning into primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space.
A weight loss
This new BMW 3-Series saloon weighs 55 kg less than its predecessor. The body itself is 20 kg lighter, while aluminium front spring struts and engine subframe have cut 7.5 kg from the overall weight.
A further weight saving of almost 15 kg is due to the use of aluminium for the bonnet and front side panels. However all this makes no sense if the buyer is a sumo wrestler who loves oily mamak food.
The juicy bit – the test drive
First and foremost, you must understand BMW engineering. The engineers know how to put together a drivetrain and this is very important once this four-cylinder engine is ignited.
It’s all about the engine, and the 1998cc forced inducted engine is a fun-loving machine. Producing 258 horses and 400 Nm of torque, this engine never runs out of steam. The maximum torque delivering 4400rpm gives the engine a lot or tractability.
The eight-speed Steptronic gearbox is a smooth operator. With good gear ratios, this transmission makes the ride energetic and the average fuel consumption meagre.
Fuel consumption is good if driven with less enthusiasm. Not bad for a car that is capable of going from 0-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds seconds and with a top speed of 250km/h!
It has a great chassis, perfectly rigid and superbly balanced due to BMW’s years in motorsports and the “M” series cars. The suspension ensures exceptional handling.
Thanks to the direct and precise steering, you can place the car within millimetres of the curb, and the new run-flat tires are not as hard as before.
Click the drive into “Sport” mode and the steering, throttle response and shifts are sharpened. You can immediately feel the precision of the steering.
Turn-in, and balance through the apex, even if washing off a lot of speed, remains as sharp as other BMW sports sedans. The Sport+ mode kicks it a notch higher and frees up the stability control thresholds, but this is best left aside when driving on public roads.
So what should you do?
Please be sensible and not compare the pricing of this new 330i with the previous plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 330i which had a huge tax incentive.
The days of low priced PHEV luxury sedans are long gone as the Malaysian government lost billions of Ringgit in import taxes previously.
At RM328,000 BMW has given just the right amount of features to compete with the Mercedes-Benz C300 which is priced at RM304,000 and the Audi A5 Sportback Quattro at RM340,000.
If you cannot decide which is the best buy for your needs, take a test drive of each car on the same day and then over dinner, decide which car excited you the most.
Specifications for BMW 330i
Engine: 4-cylinder Petrol Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Steptronic
Max Output: 258bhp @ 5000-6500rpm
Max Torque: 400Nm @ 1550-4400rpm
0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds
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