The price has increased with the higher level of dynamics

The BMW 3-Series has had an unparalleled reputation both for its supreme handling and entertaining drive dynamics in the premium midsize segment for more than 40 years and this, the seventh generation, raises the bar even higher. Yes, from the moment we first saw it in the flesh at the Singapore Motor Show earlier this year, we knew that no test drive review was needed to convince Malaysians on the virtues of owning this new 3-Series, instead it was all up to its selling price and provided features.

The iconic and super expensive E30

A Little History Lesson

When the first BMW 3-Series was launched in 1975, it revolutionized the segment and became BMW’s most successful model. The saloon is the core of BMW 3-Series range (of which over 15 million units have been sold worldwide) and is regarded as the heartbeat of the BMW brand. With revised styling, superior driving dynamics, exceptional efficiency and innovative features, this latest iteration opens an exciting new chapter in 3-Series progression.

Sizing Up This 3-Series

Without the older 3-Series sitting side by side you will not be sure if this really is a brand new car. The new car is 85 millimetres longer than its predecessor (at 4,709mm), 16 millimetres wider (1,827mm) and just 1 mm taller (1,442 millimetres). Added to that, its wheelbase has been extended by 41 millimetres to 2,851mm, as has its track widths (front: by 43mm, and rear by 21mm). So, it’s a bigger bimmer and rightfully so as the 5-Series has also grown.

Cabin How?

This is where the biggest changes can be seen immediately. The newly-designed instrument cluster and Control Display form a large surfaced screen grouping, while the controls not included in these units are arranged into clearly structured function panels.

Displays and buttons for the air conditioning are at the centre of the instrument panel while the light functions are operated via a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel. The start/stop button for the engine is now positioned in a control panel in the centre console that houses the gearshift lever or newly designed selector lever, the iDrive Controller, electromechanical parking brake and the buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch unit. Boot capacity is 480 litres, and its new partitioning into primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space.

A Weight Loss?

This new BMW 3-Series Saloon weighs up to 55kg less than its predecessor. The body itself is 20kg lighter, while aluminium front spring struts and engine subframe have cut 7.5kg from the overall weight. A further weight saving of almost 15kg is due to the use of aluminium for the bonnet and front side panels. However all this makes no sense if the buyer is a sumo wrestler and someone who loves his oily mamak food daily.

The Juicy Bit, The Test Drive

First and foremost, you must understand BMW engineering. This German car manufacturer prides itself for its engineering. The engineers know how to put together a drivetrain and this is very important once this 4-cylinder engine is ignited. It’s all about the engine, and the 1998cc forced inducted engine is a fun loving machine. Producing 258 horses and 400 Nm of torque, this engine never runs out of steam as you push and push it within the limits of your driving ability (talking about average drivers and not track day specialists). What’s more, the fact that the maximum torque is delivered at 4400rpm gives the engine a lot or tractability.

The 8-speed Steptronic gearbox that comes with this car is a smooth operator. With good gear ratios, this transmission makes the ride energetic and the average fuel consumption meagre. Fuel consumption is good if driven with less enthusiasm. Not bad for a car that is capable of going from 0-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds seconds and with a top speed of 250km/h!

For a powerful engine to be able to express itself, it needs a great chassis, this where the BMW engineers know a thing or two about as they have used their engineering development from their years in motorsports and of course their ‘M’ cars. It’s perfectly rigid and superbly balanced. The suspension attached to this car is not anything to write home about in terms of give, but it ensures exceptional handling. Thanks to the direct and precise steering, you can place the car within millimetres of the curb, and a mention has to be made for the new run-flat tires that come as standard fitment which are not as ‘hard’ like their previous provided set.

Click the drive mode into ‘Sport’ mode and the steering, throttle response and shifts are sharpened. In this mode, you can immediately feel the precision of the steering. Turn-in, and balance through the apex, even if washing off a lot of speed, it remains as sharp as you will find in other BMW sports sedan. There is also a ‘Sport+ mode that makes it sharper again and frees up the stability control thresholds, but this better left aside when driving on public roads as we found out a couple of times.

So What Should You Do?

Please be sensible and not compare the pricing of this new 330i with the previous plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 330i which had a huge tax incentive awarded by the former MITI team and MAI team. The days of ‘low priced’ PHEV luxury sedans are long gone as the Malaysian government lost billions of Ringgit in import taxes thanks to the previous MITI and MAI team. Looking forward, this is the price of luxury cars, PHEV, EEV or just plain petrol driven and at RM328k BMW has given just the right amount of features to compete with the Mercedes-Benz C300 which is priced at RM304,000 and the Audi A5 Sportback Quattro which is price at RM340,000.

Our Suggestion

If you cannot decide which is the best buy for your needs, take a test drive of each car on the same day, from morning to tea time and then over dinner decide which car excited you the most or delivered the best drive for you.

Specifications BMW 330i

Engine: 4-cylinder Petrol Turbocharged

Capacity: 1998cc

Transmission: 8-Speed Steptronic

Max Output: 258bhp @ 5000-6500rpm

Max Torque: 400Nm @ 1550-4400rpm

0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds

Top Speed 250km/h

Price: RM328,000.