Ultimately for the BMW buyer, this is what it is all about and why they keep coming back, drawn like moths to a flame. For decades, BMW has prided itself on extracting more performance from its engines while providing lower fuel consumption than its rivals. With the modern 3 Series, this trend is not simply maintained, but augmented.
To go into the individual performance characteristics of each engine option would take more space than we have, but just taking the key model – the mid-range 320d diesel – provides an example that, with a few variances here and there, is broadly representative of the range as a whole.
A standard, manual, two-wheel drive 320d hits 62mph from rest in 7.5sec and carries on to a top speed of 146mph.
The equivalent Audi needs 8.4sec and hits 140mph, while the C 220 CDI Mercedes also requires 8.4sec, although its top speed is 144mph. But in terms of what matters – the feeling you get when you put your foot down – the BMW is in a league of its own. Four-wheel drive versions are the merest fraction slower.
But there’s always more to a BMW than bald performance. The diesels are the smoothest, quietest powerplants in the class, while the six-cylinder petrol M340i motor isn't quite the snarling, howling beast you’d hope for. It’s actually a twin-turbo unit, but so readily does it respond to your right foot that you’re rarely, if ever, aware of it.