02-10-2019

BMW 3 Series 320D - Driven

REVIEWS

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BMW- Sheer Driving Pleasure.


What’s in the name anyways but? It’s that tagline under that matters the most to many, and if there is an auto giant which has managed to leverage those three magical words to the fullest, it has to be BMW. In an age where manufacturers are being mercilessly trampled by emission norms and consumed by the needs of mass market customers, BMW hasn’t quite gone with the rulebook. Sure, certain trends, such as the inflated kidney grille have not gone down well with too many, but it won’t be wrong to say that the German auto giant has stuck to its morals of making driver oriented cars, seldom divulging from its morals.

The 3 series then should, in theory, be the epitome of what the brand stands for. Think about it, it’s a sedan (I don’t need to add any justifications here), just the perfect size so as to not blunt driving dynamics, and also aims to compete in a price bracket where ample rewards await if the right package is on offer. In what was a bit of a dampener though, the previous generation couldn’t quite stand up to everything BMW (enthusiasts) wanted it to be. The F30 (BMW’s way of naming its generations of cars) looked the business, had the engines, and even had an EPS that by and large made up for the deletion of the hydraulic power steering that its predecessor boasted of. What didn’t quite work out in its favor was the softly sprung suspension and the lack of adaptive dampers in the Indian market, the former being a rather abrupt departure of what one would come to expect of a BMW. More than half a decade on, and the 3er had also started to face the heat from rivals such as the Mercedes C class and new entrants such as the Jaguar XE, both of which offered a credible alternative to the Bavarian brand’s bread butter model.

The goal for the G-20 then is quite simple. Fix all that was wrong with its predecessor, while adding some of that BMW touch its predecessor had lost.

Design Language - Exteriors

Coming to the design, it’s not quite surprising that BMW has decided to stick to an evolutionary theme of redesigning its cars, a rule which has found common acceptance among many German car manufacturers. As a result, overall I feel, the silhouette of the G-20 remains largely similar to the F-30, except for the fact that the G-20 feels a bit sportier with its hunkered down design. The front end is dominated by the signature kidney grilles, which thankfully haven’t been overdone, further flanked by the tapered headlamps that now feature an all LED setup. The 320D gets the kidney grille in chrome, as opposed to the 330i which has it blacked out. I prefer the blacked out treatment.

The side profile will again remind one of the F-30, with very little changes visible to the naked eye. The strong shoulder line takes precedence again, while the rims seem to fill up the wheel arches a lot better than before. Other elements such as the stubby boot and the imposing front overhang remain more or less the same, with the increase in wheelbase (of around 40mm) not being very evident either.

The rear end is where I think the design is a bit of a departure, from both, the evolutionary theme of changing designs and what one would come to expect of a BMW. The tail lamps signify a major change and wear a much simpler look as compared to the previous generation 3 series. The squat stance of the car gives it a planted feel overall, but it might not be as recognizable as its predecessor was (or even its siblings are) and might pass of as a Lexus too.

To sum things up, I would say, the new 3 series is every bit of the sports sedan it claims to be on the design front. With its strong shoulder line, kinks across the side profile and the aggressive squat stance, it’s quite obvious BMW has done their homework on this front, especially considering there wasn’t much they did wrong when it came to the previous generation 3er either. Now shall we get on the inside to see how it is on the inside.

Design Language- Interiors

Interiors is where BMW focused this time. The new design philosophy seen in the BMW X5, makes its home here. And I think it feels refreshingly good. The very first thing that you notice when you step inside the car is the all new digital instrument console, which catches your attention in a jiffy. The resolution is super sharp and the display quality is HD. The amount of data that the MID throws is magnanimous, you just don’t have to take your eyes off the road to view the data. Apart from all the data that is shows, for the enthusiast in you, it shows you the amount of G Forces working on your body, as you corner the car or accelerate down harder and also shows the real-time torque and horsepower used while you are driving the car around.

As you look around the cabin, the first thing you notice is the shift in start-stop button, it moves from the dashboard to the central console now, typically Audi style. As usual the central console also has the buttons for different modes, i-drive knob and for the first time in six generations, the 3 series gets electronic hand brake. Speaking of the buttons all around, they have perfect haptic feedback and overall feel nice and sturdy to operate. This generation of BMW also get the same design theme for the gear-knob which was first seen in the X5.

The fit and finish every where is notch above the competition and overall the cabin feels nice and premium. The prominence on the dash is the 10.25 inch touch screen, which just like the driver console has sharper resolution. And the new i-drive makes it so easy to use. Amongst all the premium cars out there in the market today, I find BMW’s i-drive the best system to use as it does not distract the driver from his primary role- focus on the road while driving the car. The car also comes with voice assistant to control most of the features in the car, like changing the sound tracks or changing the temperature in the car or navigation system and so on. A nifty feature, over which most of the people went gaga and Hector was sold off in a jiffy.

The rest of the cabin is very well thought of. The way the dash and central console is angled towards the driver, it instantly gives you a a commanding view over everything.You sit low and the steering just feels sporty to hold. Everything inside the new 3 series is simple, clean and easy. The front seats are well contoured, while I would have loved if they would have some more lumbar support and a tad better cushioning, but all these complains go away moment you fire up the engine.

The real truimp of this generations BMW 3 Series has to be the rear seat. Generations after generations, customers of the 3 Series always had just one complain, rear seat comfort and space. Well, in this G20, BMW finally addressed those complains, not only the car has more legroom and headroom in the rear, but the seats themselves are far more comfortable then the outgoing car.

Audi’s in my opinion had the best ambient lights around in the cabin, they always were the benchmarks, but BMW, with this generation of 3 Series, surpasses them, easily. The 3 Series has the best looking interiors in the night especially when the ambient lights lit up. It’s soothing to the eyes and yet electric at the same time.

In Car Entertainment

This was one area where I personally felt disappointed. I am not saying from the perspective of the fabulous 10.25 inch touch screen system or the updated i-drive system with the latest operating software, but I am saying from the ICE perspective or In Car Entertainment perspective. Sure the car comes with wireless Apple CarPlay, but misses out on Android Auto, the system has great interface, but at the price point, we were expecting BMW to give Harmon Kardon audio setup just as it gives in its other line up of cars. This I feel is a missed opportunity for BMW, as the other players in this segment are already offering audio setups from Burmeister, Meridian or even Harmon Kardon. In fact the upcoming new Jaguar XE which is getting launched on thr 4th December, comes with brilliantly setup Meridian System too. 

Stand alone, however, I played various tracks, right from Bollywood, to EDM, to Sufi to instrumentals, the output was decent enough to to satisfy a regular joe, but an audiophile in you, will definitely miss the crisper output the others in this segment give.

The better part is this screen is one of the best screens out there in the market. You can control it via touch, via buttons around the centre console or via rotary dial or even via the touch pad. You take a shot how you want to use it. For me, the rotary knob was the best fit.

Performance- Engine and Gearbox

I had the 320D with us for the review in its diesel avatar. It’s the same mill that does duty in this 3 series which was present earlier, what more in same state of tune- 190 PS of power and 400 NM of torque. Right now the engine is BS6 ready and the BS6 compliant version will only come post April 2020.

One thing that I immediately noticed once I fired up the engine is that how silent the engine has become. There is absolutely no engine vibrations or harshness or noise inside the cabin. Revv the engine and then you do hear a rumble inside. The engine has got enough grunt and the car has plenty of pulling power, and has capability of reaching triple digit speeds in no time. Speaking about triple digit speeds, as per the new government regulations, this BMW 3 Series comes with a warning chime moment you hit 120 kmph, which in our opinion is a good as well as bad feature to have good because it helps you to keep the speeds in check, bad because, well, when opportunities are right, or you are on the test track, you cannot explore the full potential of the car because the chime keeps bugging you.

The ZF designed 8 speed gearbox as always works fantastically well and is always ready to be in the right gear at the right time to ensure that there is no loss of power as you are wanting to fill that gap in front of you are just cruising down the line on the freeways.

Performance- Ride, Handling and Drivability

It’s a BMW, and if generations after generations, 3 Series, were known as benchmark for the way cars should handle, I am glad to report, the new 3 Series, negates the flaw that F30 had. The new 3 Series handles brilliantly well, the steering is really very very sharp and you point it where you want to go and the car just goes in that direction. BMW may have slightly softened up the suspension as compared to the outgoing car, well that’s for the Setthji sitting behind, but that no where has hampered the way this car drives or handles. To counter attack the softness, BMW has added dampers which ensure that the car is well poised when the driver in you is wanting to attack the corner.

While the expensive BMW’s come with adaptive suspensions, the 3 series does not get one, but put the car in the Comfort Mode, and the car is able to absorb the undulations on the road pretty well. Putting the car in the Comfort Mode also softens up the throttle response, the steering wheel gets softer and overall the car looses its hunger to move forward aggressively. Put it back into the Sport Mode or Individual Mode, all these parameters change and the car surges ahead with certain pre-degree of urgency. And while doing so, it pastes a wide grin on your face.

I drove the car practically everywhere, on open highways, city roads, city traffic, but not on single occasion did I find the car uncomfortable to live with. As the car feels home on an open tarmac, it does feel at home in city traffic too. Put the car in Comfort or Eco Pro Mode and the car will be happy to chug along the car in the front with no complains at all. Never does it felt unsettling to drive in bumper to bumper city traffic.

Overall then, it’s a vast improvement over the outgoing car as far as the ride and handling is concerned, the car is more sharp and more agile now whether through the straights or the corners.

The Verdict

I started with this line- Sheer Driving Pleasure.

The BMW 320D, is the latest car in the segment, it has grown bigger, wider and longer in size as compared to its predecessor. It has the best interiors in its segment today and the fit and finish levels are industry benchmark.

Sure there are hits and misses with the car. For starters, the 320D in particular misses out on gesture control and wireless charging, both of which the 330i get. The seat cushioning could have been more plusher, the C Class spoils you to the core with various electronic seat adjustments and even electric steering wheel. The Virtual Display setup can be changed to your taste, which again is not possible in this 3. What more BMW globally has removed the rear curtains completely, which in my opinion is a bummer.

But, the BMW’s are always built for the driver in you. And this BMW 3 Series, does not disappoint on that front. At times you just don’t want to reach your destinations coz you have already fallen in love with the car. The way she handles the corners, the way she simply goes in the direction you point her, the way she stops sharply with utter confidence without loosing the tail, unless you want her to, the way she accelerates from stand still, the way she makes you feel in total control the way she interacts with you as a driver, and the way- she’s just- A Sheer Driving Pleasure

For that ladies and gentlemen, she’s the best executive sedan at the price-point.

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BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar

About Author
Nilesh Sawant
Nilesh Sawant

With an experience of over 3 lac kms of driving across the continents and with extensive experience of driving on the tracks, and passion for technical things around anything on wheels, reviews written by Nilesh are crisp and to the point.  



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