1) From its new light but lovely steering to its throttle response, even through to the relatively small amount of muscle required to pull its handbrake on, the new BMW 3-series feels more all-of-a-piece than any car I can ever remember in this segment. The word fluid may have been invented specifically to describe the way this car operates.
2) The US market was so disapproving of the old car’s ride apparently, especially in the rear seats, BMW made it priority number one to put right. As a result, project chief Dr Udo Haenle was given ‘quite a lot more money’ to spend on dampers than his predecessor – which is always a good place to start when engineering a new car. So thanks for that the people of America – the new Three is more comfortable than it might have been in the back, just because of you.
3) BMW claims the new Three is some 45kg lighter than the old, but strictly speaking that’s not true. The only model with a carry-over engine is the 335i, and that’s only 20kg lighter than before, despite featuring a lighter exhaust system. Then again, even a 20kg reduction is impressive considering the body shell is a) bigger and therefore roomier than before and b) 20 per cent stiffer.
4) BMW reckons it has all but cracked the ride comfort issue with the new Three’s runflat tyres, and on the evidence of the various test cars we sampled, I’d have to agree. Because the suspension mounting points are so much more rigid in this instance (than before), everything else on the chassis works more efficiently – including the dreaded RFT rubber. Result is that it now rides as well as it handles, even on the optional Sport suspension.
5) The Eco Pro system. Every new 3-series comes as standard with what BMW calls a Driving Experience Control system, a button down by the gearlever that allows you to switch between Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro modes. In Eco Pro mode, a digital bar graph appears within the rev counter and gives a visual indicator as how you can get the best economy out of your car. At the same time, the throttle map changes and allows you to feel through the pedal where the best rev range is in each gear to generate maximum economy.
The idea is to make achieving maximum mpg merely by altering your driving style something to actively enjoy doing, to relish even. It’s a clever idea that works surprisingly well in practice. And if you do manage to keep the revs in the right band you get another visual counter that shows precisely how many miles you’ve saved on each journey. BMW claims that in independent tests, involving non-specialist drivers, the average driver saves 20 per cent by using Eco Pro. At £6.20 a gallon, that’s not to be sniffed at, you’ll agree.
And one reason why the jury is still out – all the test cars on the launch were fitted with a quite staggering array of options, most of which were from the sporty side of the catalogue. So we can but wait to try a car with zero options fitted, ie one with a non-sport equipped chassis and six speed manual gearbox etc. Hopefully it won’t all fall part when we do...