What is it?
Luxury and driving pleasure have always been the focus of every BMW, and with the sporty 3-series luxury sedan, the brand’s bread-and-butter model, it’s no different. The car recently received a facelift and in the wake of the ongoing anti-diesel sentiment in India, BMW has now brought back the petrol model in the form of the 320i.
The engine in question displaces 1,998cc and comes with a twin-scroll turbo to boost performance. Power produced is a healthy 184hp and there’s 270Nm of torque. Like all traditional BMWs, power is sent to the rear wheels and there’s an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The car is available in two variants – Prestige and Luxury– which retail at Rs 36.90 lakh and Rs 42.70 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), respectively.
The exterior of the car remains unchanged from the diesel 3-series, but what keen drivers may miss is the sportier body kit and bigger 18-inch wheels that the diesel 3-series offers on its range-topping M Sport variant.
What’s it like on the inside?
BMW did update the interior of the 3-series recently with the facelift and it now makes use of better quality materials all around. The insides are a bit brighter and more plush looking, and there are more metallic highlights thrown around. However, it still doesn’t feel as plush as the class-benchmark, the C-class. Some of the plastic bits still feel hard and the basic design has started to age a bit as well. What some older customers also won’t like is the low and sporty seating position that is typically BMW. The rear seats though, have plenty of legroom and support for the thighs and the seat-back is better than most cars in its class.
In terms of equipment, the more expensive Luxury gets a new and larger 8.8-inch iDrive screen, 20GB of internal storage, navigation, a 205W-nine-speaker audio system and full-leather seats. This variant also gets steering-mounted paddle-shifters for the gearbox and Sport+ mode(the Prestige version only gets three driving modes – Comfort, EcoPro and Sport).
What’s it like to drive?
With 184hp available, acceleration is quite strong. 0-100kph takes just 8.14 seconds and 140kph comes up in 15.03 seconds, the latter as quick as the diesel 320d; Merc’s C-class petrol, which accelerates from 0-140kph in 14.98s is marginally quicker though. The engine also behaves like a typical BMW motor. To begin with, it’s almost impossible to tell that this engine has a turbo; power delivery is smooth and there are no sudden spikes in the power curve. Power also builds seamlessly from as low as 1,500rpm. There’s an extremely strong tug past 3,500rpm and the four-cylinder even spins all the way to 6,800rpm. It isn’t nearly as enthusiastic in the last 1000rpm as some of BMW’s earlier naturally aspirated engines and it doesn’t sound nearly as sweet either, but what it loses out in enthusiasm, it more than makes up for in mid-range punch. That said, there is a hint of hesitation when you try and accelerate from around 1000rpm, but apart from that, this motor is just very impressive.
Otherwise the 3-series is the super ride, handling and steering package it has been since its launch four years ago. The steering is full of feel, body control is very good and the 3-series corners with a degree of poise and confidence its rivals just can’t match. What makes the package even sweeter is that this new car rides quite beautifully, absorbing most of the bumps and potholes you come across on our roads with plenty of suppleness and silence. You do encounter the stiffness in the springs when you run over sharp bumps, but that’s only to be expected.
Should I buy one?
The 3-series has always managed to blend comfort and fun to drive in a single package, and the new 320i is no different. There’s a fair amount of performance on hand, the car drives beautifully and comfort on the back seats is excellent too. Those who expected it to be priced a bit lower than the diesel, as earlier, are likely to be a bit disappointed though. Still, the new 3-series is a real BMW and is right up there with the best cars in its class; the compact luxury sedan to buy if you like to drive.