Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bucket Seat: BMW 3 Series Face-lift - First Impressions

BMW are calling this "the most advanced 3 series yet" and they're right, its the latest installment to a model range that turned 40th this year and it's amazing to see how it's grown into the car that it is today. Last week I attended the launch of the face-lift 3 Series which kicked off at the Rosslyn Plant, the birth place for a car that's accountable for 25% of BMW's sales. Since the plant's inception in 1974 it's played a pivotal role for the company, apart from producing the 3 series sedan, it also manufacturers parts that get sent to other BMW plants around the world. It's a state of the art place, with it receiving the Platinum Plant Quality Award in the J.D Power Initial Quality Study, thus making it the best plant in the world! Quite an accolade for the guys in Rosslyn, it's great to know that such high standards of quality is maintained by the brand even beyond it's borders. The plant reached another significant millstone this year with it producing it's One millionth car, there was a special ceremony with the big chiefs of BMW SA present to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff at the plant. 

Right, now that the history lesson is over, time to get down to business of the reason I was there, the new 3 series! Yes it is new, but it''s just a face-lift version of the F30 sedan and very minor at that. To the untrained person they might not even make out the difference as they're very minimal. There have been changes to both the front and rear lights with optional full-LED. This emphasises the sporting credentials of the car, so says BMW. For me it does look cool, with the front lights having a distinct horizontal profile that line up with the kidney grille and the rear lights having that flowing LED cut to it. 

The main change to the car though is the engines, the entire range receives new engines apart from the 330d. Four new 4 cylinder and a new a 6 cylinder petrol engine are added to the line up with the the 328i and 335i making way for the 330i and 340i respectively. The 330i engine packs quite a punch with it pushing out 135kW and a lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions rating than it's predecessor. This is all thanks to a new cooling system that's developed for the modular BMW Efficient Dynamics engine family, which all feature the BMW Twin Power Turbo's. 

At the launch I had the opportunity to drive the range topping 340i, just like the 335i it is a force to be reckon with. The new engine is extremely responsive to the driver, allowing them to access all of the power when needed. The figures are astounding for the car with it producing 240kW and a combined fuel consumption of 7.7-6.5l/100km. It was a breeze to navigate it to the windy mountain passes of the Magaliesberg. On the way back I opted to jump in the new 320d, which also receives a new engine and  now standard with twin tail pipes, as is the 320i. This car was the one that intrigued me the most, being a top seller for the range it was nice to see what improvements BMW had made to the car. The engine is outstanding, apart from improved fuel consumption which was already quite good, it's performance levels have been tweaked, with it having less turbo lag than the old model. 

As per normal, there will be a host of packages the cars will be available in, for a broad scope of customization and for the enthusiast, BMW will be launching a 40th Year Limited Edition model which will feature exclusive details only available for it. 400 of these will be made in the various engine types, and market dependent. 

Overall, BMW have upped the game with their new 3 Series, yes while it might not look that much different from the previous shape, it's ticking all the right boxes in terms of being more efficient and more powerful which makes a big difference in driving enjoyment. BMW will also bring out a 330e plug-in hybrid early next year, proving their on going research into the plug in technology. After driving the old 3 Series Hybrid, Im keen to see how that one performs. The range kicks off with the now 318i at R409,000 up to the 340i which starts at R656,000. Not that badly priced if you have to compare it to its German rvials but with this one you can say it's being produced locally at the best plant in the world. 

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