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Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new BMW 3 Series

I am about to reveal something I really shouldn’t, especially as a motoring journalist. But here goes nothing: I hate a road trip! Unless it is under six hours at the most and it means I am going to Plettenberg Bay, I am not interested. Imagine the look on my face when I realised I would be driving almost nine hours, in no particular direction, with no actual destination and with no padkos. The only silver lining was that it would be in the new BMW 3 Series.

With 15 543 000 BMW 3 Series’s (that’s a tricky plural!) sold around the world in just over 40 years, this car is not messing around. No other BMW can rival it, it is the most successful model for BMW and number one in its segment. The sixth generation took less than two years to sell a million units. How will this seventh generation fare? I think you already know the answer to that question.

Imagine being a designer for BMW or more specifically, for the BMW 3 Series. It has such a history, such heritage, such a strong fan base. No one wants to mess with that, but at the same time, you have to keep it moving forward, keep it fresh and modern and hope to hell that it is positively received worldwide.

This new BMW 3 Series is longer, wider and ever so slightly taller (1 mm) than its predecessor. As is expected, the BMW kidney grille and headlights are the dominant themes at the front end of the car. What do you think of the styling? The colour palette to choose from is probably one of my favourite things about the 3 Series. That blue!!! No, but also, that grey!

I am also thrilled with the interior. BMW has finally moved up in my books (that’s a hard feat, I must add). It’s all still very familiar BMW, but has been tweaked for a more modern, clean and refreshed finish. It’s also helluva comfortable. Long-road-trip comfortable.

BMW 3 Series interior

BEAM ME UP, 3 SERIES

The new BMW 3 Series is beaming with tech . It’s fast on the track to autonomous driving with features like Lane Departure Warning, and Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, the latest version of which also alerts the driver when a cyclist is detected. Other options include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function and the Driving Assistant with Lane Change Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Cross-Traffic Alert. Also offered is the Driving Assistant Professional, which features Steering and lane control assistant. Just say, “Hey BMW,” and your assistant will be there to assist with your every need. Even if you just need a blast of cold air to your face and some racy music to perk you up, just tell your assistant that you are tired. It will do the rest for you.

Most needed for South African drivers perhaps is Parking Assistant, which takes over steering, acceleration, braking and gear changes with the Steptronic transmission when driving into and out of a space. Its range of functions also includes the Reversing Assistant, which can reverse the vehicle for distances of up to 50 metres by steering it along exactly the same line it has just taken when moving forward. That’s flippen awesome!

There are too many optional extras and features to list here, I will let someone else do that for me.

POWERED BY…

Two derivatives will be available here in South Africa. First off you’ve got a 320i with its 135 kW and then the BMW 330i with its 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbopetrol engine which gives you 190 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque. It will get you to 100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds. This was my favourite one to drive on the launch. It feels more sprightly and responsive. Throwing it around Franschhoek Pass and pushing it on some of the quieter back roads, led me to a moment I don’t often experience. That of connectedness. I felt very connected to this car, to the road, to the overall experience of driving this 3 Series. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving enthusiasm and all. I know it all sounds very “Namaste” and sh*t, but really, having been in this car for over four hours, I was still enjoying every moment of driving it. That says more than you will ever know. Also…my butt didn’t fall asleep. Not once.

The 320d boasts a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel under the bonnet which gives you 140 kW and 400 Nm of torque. It will get you to 100 km/h in a slightly slower 6.8 seconds. The steering is direct and the ride smooth, albeit for a few sports-bra-moments that hit me right in the kidneys. Having driven the same route in both cars, I can say for certainty that I had more fun in the 330i, but that’s not to say the 320d isn’t also a hoot to drive. There is also a 195 kW six-cylinder in-line diesel engine that powers the BMW 330d.

BMW 3 Series

BMW has stepped up its game quite considerably with its new 3 Series. I want to say it didn’t really need to, if you look at some of the competition, but if you think about where cars are headed, the 3 Series needed to retain its relevancy in the coming years and this new model will have no problem doing just that. BMW fans should and will be proud!

PRICING FOR THE STANDARD BMW 3 SERIES:

BMW 330i: R649 000
BMW 320d: R649 000

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