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The new seventh generation BMW 3 Series was launched in Cape Town at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay to the catch phrase “don’t be driven by technology,  drive it!” Just some of the new intelligence inside the new 3 series is BMW’s new Personal Assistant which operates by saying “hey BMW” (or you can change its name to whatever you want), will help you set functions such as navigation, change radio stations, set your temperature and call numbers by voice.  You will also get the Driving Assistant Professional with next-level driver assistance and extensive safety and comfort features with Parking Assistant Plus which parks the 3 Series on it’s own. If you want to make use of the Digital Key option which allows you to open and drive the new three series with nothing else but your phone.

New 3 Series models available to the public for now are the  BMW 330i and BMW 320d. Both vehicles are driven by a two-litre twin-turbo 4 cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The 330i produces 190kW and 400Nm and will take you from 0-100km in 5.5 seconds, while the 320d is capable of 140kW and 400Nm and does 0-100km in 6.9 seconds. With the new 3 Series drive even more precise and direct than before thanks to chassis and body dimension modifications the new 3 Series comes with better weight distribution and lower centre of gravity not to mention they have managed to shave 55kgs off too! Lightweighting design has seen the suspension and drivetrain make use of aluminium more than before, and the bonnet and front wings are aluminium too. All of the changes coupled together with BMW suspension tweaks like an updated damper system that cuts out the road harshness and delivers an even more refined driving experience.

Testing the 320d at the launch and the torque from this quiet diesel was impressive, especially on the motorway in sport mode. I found acceleration a little delayed from the turbo lag in the diesel while trying to overtake but once it got up to speed, there is more than ample power from the unit and still more if you need. Likewise the 330i was as good along the open road but agile through the tight and twisties of Franschhoek Pass. The fine tuning in weight ditribution and balance can be felt in the handling of the 330i being noticeably more precise and direct through the bends with super quick performance from a daily commuter.

Fuel consumption figures claimed by the brand are 4.7 – 4.4   litres/100 km for the diesel and 6.1 – 5.8 l/100 km for the BMW 330i.

Inside the cabin, there is a layer of premium feel while the new cockpit and infotainment screen gives a sophisticated look to the re-designed dash. It’s here where you feel how much bigger the new 3 Series feels with better ergonomic design. The 12.3” fully digital instrument display and a 10.25” Control Display dominates the dash as a command centre.

Exterior design sees the future of BMW design say BMW SA. A cleaner use of line has simplified the overall look of the car making it seem more aerodynamic with smoother surfaces. The double kidney grille seems to be more elongated than before which gives the car a wider looking stance from the front with the addition of the Hofmeister Kick iconic design now part of the C-pillar. Available for first time in 3 Series are optional laser lights that see up to 530m ahead, double the range of LED headlights.

Overall the new 3 Series has always been the top seller for BMW, and it’s the first BMW which was truly proudly South African with Rosslyn Plant being it’s home for so long. Locally the 3 Series dominated sales for not only these reasons but were globally very popular selling over 15 million units. With that BMW had to make this generation of 3 Series yet another milestone from the Marque – which is exactly what they have done.

By Jay Groat