In a similar vein to the X5 and the recently introduced X7, BMW’s designers have taken the 3 Series’ image in a bold new direction – one that might not carry the same delicate sense of everyman appeal that has characterised many of its predecessors.
The car’s classic three-box profile is still present and correct, and despite the fact that some of our testers detected a whiff of Lexus about the styling detail, you couldn’t fail to identify it as anything other than a BMW. But the G20 3 Series is a larger, wider and taller car than the F30 that preceded it: something that may just put off those who value an abiding sense of compactness about cars of its ilk. At 4.7 metres nose to tail, it’s now 85mm longer than its forebear, and just 66mm shorter than the influential ‘E39’ 5 Series. A wheelbase that has been extended by 41mm, however, should pay dividends in terms of rear passenger space.
Despite this increase in size, the new 3 Series is up to 55kg lighter than the F30, being based on Munich’s aluminium-rich ‘cluster architecture’ platform. BMW claims a 1455kg kerb weight for the 320d in automatic form; Millbrook’s scales put our generously optioned M Sport test car at 1639kg, with that weight not only spread very evenly front to rear, but from corner to corner as well.
Significant chassis upgrades have been implemented to ensure the 3 Series retains its dynamic edge. Its front and rear tracks have been widened, and negative camber angle for the front wheels has been increased. Its body is stiffer, and the introduction of new ‘lift-related’ dampers gave BMW’s engineers even greater scope to further hone the Three’s body control and ride.
Most of the engine variants available are either 2.0-litre petrol or diesel units, with the 261bhp six-cylinder 330d crowning the diesel line-up. Our 320d’s four-pot develops 188bhp at 4000rpm and some 295lb ft of torque – just like its predecessor did – delivered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. That TwinPower Turbo diesel engine now features multistage sequential turbocharging as opposed to twin-scroll parallel turbocharging in an attempt to improve response and efficiency.
Four-wheel drive is available for the 320d, while the forthcoming M340i performance model will employ BMW’s xDrive system as standard. Variable-ratio power steering features as a function of M Sport trim, while fully adaptive dampers are an option (although our test car didn’t have them).