What is it?
A mid-life facelift for what may be the most important and enduringly popular executive car the world has ever known: the BMW 3 Series. Now a remarkable four decades old, the car was a symbol of Britain in boom throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s – and its success story continues.
The current ‘F30’ generation was introduced in 2012 and continued Munich’s best traditions of outstanding performance and rear-drive handling. It also went straight to the top of our road test class rankings – where it stayed until very recently.
But with an increasingly popular 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 in the shape of the Jaguar XE, the 3 Series needs to move forward just to stand still at the moment.
In fact, standing still may not even be a guarantee of success. Thanks to the introduction of the 4 Series line and the demise of the 3 Series Coupé and Convertible, BMW’s wider 3 Series brand has undoubtedly lost a bit of its old lustre and quietly dropped out of the UK’s top 10 biggest-selling cars.
Which may partly explain the lengths to which BMW has gone with this unusually far-reaching mid-cycle update - there’s clearly a consolidation job to be done. And this is not just the usual headlights-and-bumpers revision – although new optional LED headlights and reshaped bumpers front and rear are included in it. New turbocharged petrol and diesel engines come in under the bonnet, coupled to an updated optional eight-speed automatic gearbox, while extensive changes have been made to the 3 Series’ suspension, cabin and equipment.