Spent an evening at BMW GB headquarters in Bracknell having a good nose around the new BMW 3-series. Any thoughts on the subjective nature of discussing the exterior styling were put to one side for the night (for what it’s worth, I’m a fan of the new 3’s looks…), with judging the new additions to the 3-series line-up and the interior quality and space on the agenda instead.
BMW brought along three examples of the car for the evening of tyre kicking, one each of the new Sport, Modern and Luxury variants.
These three new additions to the range are BMW’s attempts to add some Mini-style customisation and greater distinction to its core junior executive saloon line-up.
They’re also there to create greater cohesion and a more logical progression through the range, with the more focused Sport and M Sport sitting on one side above the staple ES and SE models and the more luxurious Modern and Luxury models sitting on the other.
The general interior quality of all three pre-production models was excellent. There are soft touch materials in all the right places, and the front seats were high on comfort and adjustability. If it is possible to find a nice driving position without actually driving the car, this is something I achieved…
One welcome standard addition across the line-up is an iDrive controller and 6in colour screen in the dashboard, which will add a premium feel to even the most poverty stricken 316d ES model.
Switching to the back seats, the rear cabin is not somewhere I’d be too keen to spend ample time in on a long journey. Although access to the cabin has been improved by wider door openings, the seats being nicely sculpted and kneeroom boosted thanks to a 50mm longer wheelbase; headroom remains an issue.
Your average 5ft 10in adult such as myself will discover their head touches the headlining. Footroom is also less than generous for anyone looking to stretch his or her legs out under the front seat.
These pictures of the car were taken at a separate event in Munich, and a 6ft 2in BMW employee fronted up to sit in the back to demonstrate the rear cabin room. If ever a picture said a thousand words, it’s this one. Why not make the planned China-only long-wheelbase model available to the rest of the world, BMW?
Of course, which distinct 3-series model a buyer picks will come down to personal taste, but of the three on show, the Sport is the one that really looks the part for me.
The Modern is BMW’s attempt of injecting some Scandinavian feel to the 3-series. And although the cabin was light and airy, the ribbed wood trim undid all the good work for me. Volvo is still the best firm at making a Volvo.
The interior quality of the Luxury seemed beyond approach, but a vivid shade of brown for the leather and some questionable wood trim were turn offs for me.
The Sport is only available on the lowered-powered four-cylinder 316d, 318d, 320d and 320i models, which should preserve some exclusivity for the M Sport model that gets dynamic upgrades over the Sport’s purely aesthetic tweaks.
In particular, the 320d Sport is right on the money for me for what a typical junior executive saloon buyer in the UK is after.
Here’s a car that’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine puts out 181bhp and helps the car crack 0-62mph in 7.5sec, but at the same time contributes to combined economy of 62.8mgg and CO2 emissions of just 120g/km. And with that engine chosen alongside the Sport trim, the car also looks the part thanks to its 17in alloys, subtle bodykit, and sports seats and steering wheel for the interior.
Think we’ll be seeing a fair few 320d Sports driving up and down Britain’s motorways come February 2012…