New cars -- BMW 3-series
Continuing the Trend
As MLC reported in December, BMW have launched the third version of the 3-series, the first models of which are just now reaching Britain. To say that this model range is the most significant to have emanated from Europe in the last six months does not overstate the case, particularly bearing in mind the quite substantial improvements that have been carried out.
Some may regret the loss of the classic look, but we have no doubt that within a year, the 3-series’ new look, which fits in perfectly with BMW’s corporate shape, will make its predecessors look dated and old fashioned, even if the Cabriolet and Touring will soldier on for another year in this clothing.
First to arrive in this country are the four-cylinder 316i (£13,950) with an admirable 0.29Cd figure, and the 325i (£21,250) powered by the 24-valve 6-cylinder engine we tested last November. These two models will be followed by the 318i (£14,950) and the 320i (£21,250) in June.
While the new model is 0.4 inches higher and 1.9 inches wider than its predecessor, it is the extra 4.3 inches in length which are the most important statistic. The one complaint continually made against the 3-series was the lack of rear seat legroom. That has now been rectified, while at the same time, BMW have not lost the opportunity of improving an always good dashboard layout.
Although less important in this country, another objective the engineers have tried to meet is to make the car more stable in snowy conditions by achieving a 50/50 weight distribution. The engine has thus been moved further back in the compartment and the battery relocated to the boot. At the same time body rigidity has been increased by 30% in flexural distortion and by 45% in torsion.
The result is not only a better balanced car for the snow drivers, but a car that now has simply outstanding handling attributes for the rest of us to enjoy. The ride, meanwhile, is firm but never harsh. For those who want an even firmer ride but pin-sharp precision, BMW also offer the M Technic Sports suspension. While both models will come in five-speed manual form, the four cylinder cars will not have the option of BMW’s five-speed automatic transmission, but will have to make do with the familiar four-speed box.
According to BMW, service costs have been reduced, the four cylinder cars by 1.7% over 3 years/56,000 miles, but the six cylinder cars by a more substantial 17.6% over the same period/distance. According to a post-budget review of car operating costs published by Leasecontracts, the monthly running cost of the 316i, based on the new 17.5% VAT, insurance premiums, fuel costs at £1.80 per gallon excluding VAT on a 12,000 mile a year average, would be £412 per month or 55.21 pence per month, the 318i £434 per month or 54.00 pence per mile, the 320i £490 per month or 60.79 pence per mile and the 325i SE (Special Equipment) at £598 per month or 72.76 pence per mile. These are good performance figures when compared to many of their rivals because of the excellent projected residual values. The new 3-series BMW looks set to continue the success story of its predecessors — WPK