The F30 generation 3 Series was introduced in 2012 in India and continued BMW’s tradition of outstanding performance and great dynamics. But with an impressive new Mercedes-Benz C-Class to fight off, an all-new Audi A4 arriving later this year and a fresh and desirable newcomer on the scene which goes by the name of Jaguar XE, the 3 Series needs to stay fresh in order to overcome its rivals.
BMW has taken the cue and has given the 3 Series a mild facelift and updated interiors. The 3 Series just went under the knife and, along with subtle changes to the exteriors, the 320d now is also available in an M Sport package. The changes however, aren’t just skin deep, and BMW has also plonked a brand new engine under the hood. For now the 3 Series is just available in the diesel guise. So are the changes comprehensive enough to make it significantly better than its predecessor? Read our full-blown Road Test to find answers.
Design and Style
The exterior changes are subtle but are designed to make the 3 Series appear lower and wider than before. Up front, the bumper is new and the grille with longer horizontal elements, and revised LED headlights gives it a more cohesive look. At the rear, BMW has added sharper bumpers and tail lamps with different elements. BMW has also introduced the M Sport variant on the facelifted 3 Series which includes those beautifully crafted 18-inch wheels which really gives the sedan a sporty stance.
The updated 3 Series sits on the same platform as the existing model, although BMW has slightly tweaked the chassis setup for better driving manners. You get retuned dampers and a marginally stiffer suspension in a bid to ramp up the agility. BMW has also added two extra anchoring points per wheel as compared to three on the old car, which aids rigidity and will be able to take the car’s weight more effectively. The electric power steering system has also been reprogrammed for better feel.
The 320d at just over 1.4 tonnes is by far the lightest car in its class. This is a great achievement considering how spacious and feature-laden the 3 Series is and the savings are mainly made through use light materials in its body and construction.
The 3 Series’ interiors were never its forte and despite improvements it still isn’t. In terms of design the dashboard and other bits remain unchanged. The dashboard layout is ergonomic and everything falls to hand easily. But it looks a bit too simple and utilitarian as compared to the classy cabin of the C-Class. Where it differs as compared to the old car is in terms of colours and textures. BMW has now added gloss wood on the dash and doorpads and the choice of lighter colours help to liven up the cabin. The MSport steering which is similar to the one on the BMW M3, looks fantastic and those beautifully finished aluminium paddle shifters give you a sporty feel. The iDrive display is larger than before too and as ever, it is quick responding and a very intuitive to use system.
Where the 320d really excels is in terms of space and comfort. The well bolstered front seats offer great support and its 12-way motorised adjustment lets you find your driving position easily. The rear seats with their high seating position feel very supportive and offer ample legroom and under-thigh support. An armrest with cupholders folds out of the centre seat backrest but stows away neatly so as to not bother the middle passenger. The large central tunnel, however, makes it best for two at the back. The cabin is practical too with lots of storage options for all passengers. The boot is big enough for your weekend luggage but that is if you decide to leave the space saver spare tyre behind.
Safety and Equipment
The 320d in the M Sport trim is quite well equipped. It comes with features like Head-Up display, Bluetooth with audio streaming, USB connectivity, a 205 W music system with 9 speakers, iDrive touch with handwriting recognition, integrated hard drive (20GB), Sat-nav with 3D maps, full LED headlamps. The M Sport Package also adds a more aggressive looking grille, M logo on the car key, door sills, front fenders and the leather steering wheel.
In terms of safety the 320d gets all the essentials expected of a luxury saloon. It comes with eight airbags, ABS ESP, side impact protection, tyre pressure monitor and run-flat tyres.
Engine, Performance and Braking
To keep the mechanicals up to date BMW has plonked a brand new 2.0-litre diesel engine under the 320d’s hood. The new B47-designated unit gives a slight 6bhp and 20Nm increase over the old N47 engine. Although the 90.0mm bore and 84.0mm stroke measurements are the same as before, BMW claims the B48 is new from the ground up.
It gets a new Bosch injection system which operates at a higher 2000bar pressure as compared to the 1800bar on the old engine. It also features seven-holed injector nozzles for more precise fuel flow and combustion. It also gets a new Honeywell variable geometry turbocharger that suffers nearly 50 per cent less in frictional losses thanks to new bearings. BMW has also dumped the ZF automatic unit for the Aisin made 8-speed gearbox.
The first thing you notice as soon as you start this motor is that there is a definite improvement in refinement. It settles down to a pretty quiet idle. Step on the gas and the immediate responses of the engine are quite impressive. The 320d accelerates in an extremely linear manner and this makes it deceptively quick. This is a quick car, whisking you forward from as little as 1500rpm and it’s only when you look at the head-up display that you realise that you’re going much faster than you anticipated. Unlike most diesels, the action is not only concentrated in the lower reaches of the powerband. This motor is very free-revving and visits to the redline are pleasurable. The new eight-speed automatic gearbox is on the money too. It makes the most of the engine’s power and the gearshifts are fast yet very smooth and precise with minimal jerks. In Sport mode, it hangs onto revs longer, kicks down faster, and in Sport Plus, through paddle shifters, you can hold on to every gear and decide when you want to shift.
The 320d registered mighty quick times on our Vbox equipment. It just takes 7.14 seconds to reach 100kph, which makes it 0.6sec faster than the old car, and 150kph comes up in a very impressive 17.27 seconds. These impressive times are also thanks to the launch control the 320d M Sport comes equipped with. Thanks to the potent gearbox, the in-gear times even in eco-pro mode are pretty brisk. 20-80kmph takes a scant 4.85 seconds and the 40-100kmph sprint is completed in an equally impressive 6.1 second.
Ride and handling
Combined with the strong engine, the comfortable ride makes the 320d a great long distance car. The suspension is supple over bumps, it remains almost silent over most surfaces albeit the sharpest ones. There is, however, some amount of bobbing at high speeds and the 3 Series does not ride as flat as we would have liked.
The 320d feels light on its feet and willing to change direction too. It rolls a bit on turn-in initially, but quickly settles down with loads of grip and composure. The steering has a reasonable amount of weight and accuracy is really good, but there is some amount of artificial feel in the system and cars like the Mercedes C-Class and Jaguar XE has moved the game forward in this respect. Make no mistake, the 320d is an impressive driver’s car, but just that rivals like the Jaguar XE have caught up with BMW in this department. The brakes have great bite and feel from the brake pedal is fantastic despite it having regenerative braking system.
Price and Fuel Efficiency
Thanks to the more efficient new diesel motor, the Eco-pro mode, Start-stop system and regenerative brakes the 320d returned some really impressive figures. It returned 11.8kmpl in the city and an equally impressive 16.2kmpl on the highway. This gives it an impressive range of 800km thanks to the large 60litre fuel tank.
The 320d in this M Sport trim is priced at a whopping Rs 44.5 lakh. In our eyes the Luxury Line which costs Rs 41.5 lakh comes with most of the essential features is the one to go for.
Final Rating: 4.15/5
The BMW 320d has become a much more alluring buy thanks to the cosmetic changes and the impressive new diesel motor. Interior ambience is much improved too but it’s still not the best and leaves a lot to be desired. But other than that, it is hard to fault this BMW sedan. It is comfortable, spacious, the new engine is a gem, the ride and handling is impressive and fuel efficiency is great too. The 320d now is an all-round package and unlike most BMW’s, it’s a car to buy not only with your heart but with your head too.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
|CAR NAME||BMW 3 Series|
|Variant||320d M Sport|
|Displacement||4 cyls, 1,995cc|
|Valve gear||4 valves per cyl|
|Power||187.74bhp at 4000rpm|
400Nm at 1750-2500rpm
|Power to weight||117.7bhp per tonne|
|Torque to weight||250.78Nm per tonne|
|CHASSIS & BODY|
|Type of assist||Electric|
|CAR NAME||BMW 3 Series|
|Variant||320d M Sport|
|PERFORMANCE & BRAKING|
|20-80kph in 3rd gear||4.85s|
|40-100kph in 5th gear||6.12s|
|Tank size||60 litres|
|Seat base length||500mm|
|Loading lip height||680mm|