Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This car is incredible. They swear.

On Test… BMW 320d

They’re swearing in Germany. And not just at the Greeks either. In fact, the blame for this increase in expletives among its usually teutonically restrained citizens can be laid a lot closer to home. Two southern German cities, to be precise... Ingolstadt and Stuttgart. It’s here, echoing down to the surgically pristine assembly lines of Audi and Mercedes-Benz, that a slew of particularly colourful profanities have exploded from the frosted glass and aluminium boardrooms above.

The reason? The new BMW 3 Series… it’s a game changer. What was looking like a fairly even race among the A4, C-Class and the 3 Series – with personal preference being the only real differentiator – has turned into a no-brainer. The new 3 Series is simply that good. Of course it’s the whole package that makes a car, but one aspect of the new Beemer can proudly claim to be the reason for all that uncouth language.

The chassis...

It’s not often one gets into a car occupying a lofty niche like the “the small premium sedan segment and immediately notices how different it feels to its competitors. But one really does with this. The balance, the precise turn-in, the predictability, and the poise around corners are all hugely impressive. And a large part of the secret is the Driving Experience Switch Control button nestled next to the gear lever. This electronic wizardry allows one to switch between Comfort. Sport, Sport + and Eco Pro mode with the difference being changes to the car’s suspension settings (if fitted with the optional adjustable system), throttle response and gear-shift patterns

The car on test – the 320d – is probably the sweetspot of the whole range segment. In terms of performance delivered vs fuel efficiency vs price paid, this turbo charged 1997cc diesel is the equivalent of that immensely satisfying , vibrationless thunk you feel when you and your 3-iron absolutely middle down the fairway. Its 135kw output might not blow you away, but the 380Nm of torque means plenty of power through most of the rev range, which is really what one needs in daily driving conditions.

It’s hard to argue against this new Beemer. Perhaps those headlights with what look like overtly long tearducts aren’t to everyone’s taste, but there is none-the-less an overall balance to the car’s exterior design. Inside of course, it’s as well screwed together as it gets. But that’s all incidental when compared what this car can do on the road. One always feels plugged into a BMW – driving dynamics is the impeachable brand promise – but never quite like this…

The BMW 3 series base prices range from R363 052 (320i) to R547 190 (335i). 
The 320d starts at R390 500

(Review published in the July issue of Khuluma, the Kulula in-flight magazine)