BMW's new 3-series is big and bold

The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.
The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.PHOTO: BMW
The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.
The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.PHOTO: BMW
The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.
The BMW 3-series has been given a makeover that includes a new range of modular engines.PHOTO: BMW

BMW's facelifted 3-series packs wow factor with a new range of engines

BMW has long prided itself on making cars that deliver a rich driving experience. This ethos is best reflected in the 3-series.

It has been 40 years since the performance compact's introduction, and the model accounts for one- quarter of BMW sales.

The current model (known by its F30 code) is the sixth generation, a mid-life facelift - or Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) - version which has just been released.

The biggest news in the makeover is the new range of modular engines. It premieres in three cylinder choices (yes, three) - four- and six-cylinder petrol engines and four-cylinder diesels - all sharing a common design.

Each cylinder is 500cc, so you can guess the capacity of those engines.

  • SPECS/BMW 340i SEDAN

  • Price: To be announced

    Engine: 2,998cc 24-valve twin-turbocharged inline-6

    Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic with paddle shift

    Power: 326bhp at 5,500rpm

    Torque: 450Nm at 1,380-5,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 5.1 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh

    Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Performance Motors

The new power plants are all boosted by BMW TwinTurbo technology featuring all-aluminium turbos. In the petrol units, exhaust gases now have a shorter trip to the turbocharging system, which means a faster response when power is summoned.

The 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine finds itself in the entry level 318i, which replaces the 316i. It produces the same 136bhp and 220Nm as the outgoing 1.6-litre four-pot.

Next up is the 320i, featuring a new 2-litre four-cylinder in place of the previous 1.6-litre. It generates a hearty 184bhp and 290Nm.

The 330i uses the same 2-litre engine, which is tuned to produce 252bhp with 350Nm. The previous 330i used a 2-litre unit that made 245bhp and 350Nm.

The 335i, a hot favourite, is gone. The 340i now takes its saluted spot with a new 3-litre straight six. It produces 326bhp and a whopping 450Nm of torque.

That is 20bhp and 50Nm of additional power and twisting force to propel the 1,530kg sedan from 0 to 100kmh in 5.1 seconds.

The older car, which also weighs 55kg more, does it in 5.5 seconds.

The 340i is not only quicker, it is also more efficient, emitting 10 per cent less CO2 than the 335i. Who says you cannot have your cake and eat it?

BMW says the eight-speed Steptronic transmission has also been revised to be more efficient. It does this with a wider gear spread and reduced torque converter slip during gear changes.

And when another driver overtakes you, it drops up to two gears at a time on kick-downs, depending on the urgency of the chase.

In the test car, the 340i feels like a supercharged engine rather than a turbo - there is hardly any lag.

Power delivery is urgent and linear, with torque spread from a low 1,380rpm to 5,000rpm.

With stiffened suspension and improved damping, the 340i is a joy to pilot through the twisting Bavarian back roads.

As always, the 3-series is beautifully balanced. You are at one with the car that "talks" to you through its tight chassis and precise steering. It begs to be driven faster but a 100kmh speed limit is enforced on the winding country roads in the region.

Looks-wise, changes are minimal and not apparent at first. The side air intakes have widened and the central one is also reworked.

The front indicators are now LEDs and sit above the headlamps like "eyebrows". Two LED daytime- driving lights join the headlights in each pod and there is choice of full LEDs as the main illuminator. The rear lights glow via LEDs.

BMW has always upped the ante when rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz C-class edge closer to its lofty standards. In the 3-series LCI, it is clear it has succeeded.

•The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'Three's a crowd pleaser'. Print Edition | Subscribe