Ah, the Highveld. The good news is that these days when you test drive a new BMW in Gauteng you don’t worry so much about trucks and taxis trying to wipe you off the road. That’s because the road itself is trying to kill you. From Midrand to the Cradle of Humankind to Bronkhorstspruit and back, your eyes are glued to the road surface in front of you, hoping for a few seconds’ warning of the gaping craters that will destroy the front end of a shiny new R880 000 3 Series faster than you can blink.
Which would be a shame, because the new BMW 3 Series features a great front end. The redesigned headlights and kidney grille sit above impressive dragon’s-nostrils air intakes. The LED headlights are slimmer, with blue light effects below them to give the front end a striking Tron-like appearance in the darkness. Those adaptive LED headlights are as hi-tech as everything else in the 3 Series, with cornering light, non-dazzling matrix high beam (no, we don’t know what that is), dynamic range control, and variable light distribution (yes, we do know what those are). The 3 Series’ rear end is also revamped to look more muscular. And the exhaust tailpipes now measure 90 or 100mm across. You laugh, but dreams are made of less.
It’s what’s on the inside
The interior is a completely new experience, dominated by a 12.3-inch information display behind the steering wheel and a 14.9-inch control display merging into a single, hi-res unit. As in BMW’s new X1, greater touch- and voice control has reduced the number of buttons and controls throughout the cabin. Within this curved display are the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and the My BMW App, a fairly intuitive interface between driver and vehicle.
There are five models in the series, with one diesel and four petrol engines. All of them will spark the desire to drive one.
Heading the engine range are two BMW Performance models. This means the 3 Series covers an output range from 115 kW to 285 kW. Mild hybrid technology gives a particularly rapid response and increased efficiency to the six-cylinder in-line petrol engine and the diesel unit.
All engines for the new 3 Series link up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission as standard. Its sporting character is emphasised by the gearshift paddles on the steering wheel.
Standard on all models except the BMW 318i is an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission with particularly sharp shift dynamics, providing a really dramatic Launch Control function for traction-optimised acceleration off the line and unlocking quick bursts of mid-range power with its Sprint function. Be ready to spend a lot of time pressed back into your seat.
3 Series skills
A host of automated driving and parking systems augment comfort and safety. Too many to mention, really, but here they are: standard equipment includes Front Collision Warning with brake intervention, which detects cyclists as well as vehicles and pedestrians, Cruise Control with brake function, and Lane Departure Warning with lane return. Options include lane-change warning, Head-Up Display, and Driving Assistant Professional, which comprises the Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Cruise Control, and traffic light detection.
The 318i, 320i and 320d range from R767 900 up to R930 300. The 330i M Sport is R953 000, and the M340i xDrive starts at R1.338m and goes to R1.353m with the M Sport package Pro. If that seems like a lot, think about those gearshift paddles on the steering wheel…
Images via BMW