Sunday, October 23, 2011

The New BMW 3-Series


Last week in a rather low-key, in-house ceremony outside the Munich factory, arguably the best sport sedan maker – BMW – churned out the latest offering to the world of their bread-and-butter model in the lineup, the sixth-generation 3-series.

Over the years, it has more or less become an established fact that if there is a 4-door sedan combined with the characteristics of a balanced sports car, then it is BMW's 3-series. There have been several - and still are - to take that smug off BMW's face, Mercedes and Audi to name a few, but no one has been able to capture the true meaning where two separate entities, sedan and sport car, combine to make one sport sedan better than the Bavarian automaker. BMW have always down on to offer their customers variations in the form of 2-door coupes and cabriolets with different engines, but in reality the 3-series' success is gauged by their 4-door edition.

As of now, there aren't many reports to suggest if this 3-series is any good, or bad, to drive than the earlier models but facts and figures, as always, have looked mighty impressive.

This 3-series has the same, trademark rear-wheel drive and 50:50 weight distribution, coupled with the fact that this is 50mm longer and 37mm/47mm wider front and back  than the, now previous model, though this 3-series has yet to go on sale.

As far as the comfort and driving feel goes in this new car, nothing has been left to chance. The body has been stiffened, the chassis has been refined; in the front, the aluminum struts, wishbones and swivel joints are completely independent. The power steering, BMW claims, has also not lost its magic. It has lost 50kgs in the quest to feel lighter, more economical and quicker.

However, this new body might well be fast but there is a sad news in all this excitement. The powering setup has a complete array of turbocharged engines, which have been traded for naturally aspirated in-line six-cylinder engine. There have been talks, especially concerning to GCC, that the BMW would offer additional non-turbo options, which means six-cylinder engines might get to keep their place only in a certain market segment. But that is yet to be confirmed. What is confirm is that there is going to be an Active-Hybrid engine offered only in USA and Europe which has the same six-pot 3.0-litre turbocharged engine with 306bhp on the tap but also an electric motor producing 54bhp.

The 320i, powered by a new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine which will produce 184bhp and 198lb/ft. of torque, while the 328i gets a 245bhp and 258lb/ft. version of this engine and that's it. For all those old-timers, BMW has dropped the 325i and 330i completely out of their range. The 335i is still there with same twin-turbo charged 3.0-litre six-pot as before, the only range in the entire line-up of 3-series to offer that traditional engine layout.

Looking at the interior, the fit and finish aside, which BMW has worked on over the years to match with the performance figures, 3-series gets an extra 15mm more legroom and 8mm more headroom in the back. And you might wonder they've done this at the cost of giving less space in the boot. But no, even that has gone up by 20 litres to 480 litres compared to the fifth-generation model.

BMW offers three trim variants – the Sport line, Luxury Line and Modern Line – along with an optional M sport package comprising of sporty suspension and body kit, and cabin trims. In addition to that, this 3-series carries over the gadgetry features from its elder sibling, 5-series, which includes variable steering, dynamic damper control, brake energy regeneration, iDrive computer, heads-up display (HUD), surround-view cameras, parking assistant, USB/Bluetooth and much more. With so much on offer and with so many variants and versions of the same 3-series, it would be pretty boring and equally mind-numbing, to mention the price of each model, so we do away with it.

Coming back to the topic of dropping out, the in-line six-cylinder layout has been given up by BMW, all in the name of environment and economy, though mostly due to the former factor. It is sort of a shame to see a name as big as BMW dropping out on its V10 for the new M5 and now BMW has finally decided to draw the curtains on their, perhaps, most cherished creation, thanks mainly to the constant environmentalists-blabbering, excruciating government regulations and ever-fluctuating fuel prices.

With an eye on the automobile industry and with every model followed by a new model being put to comparison to the preceding one, this is no different as well. This new 3-series has new Z4-like pointy nose, which gives it more of an aggressive and angry look. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the back, which looks more like a work of computer's 'copy-paste' aide because the rear resembles the current 5-series in every possible sense. But if you are going to be looking from the front of this 3-series, then you've made your day.

It has been touted to make its first public appearance at Detroit Motor Show in January 2012, but with so much already revealed, it would just be a formality. What matters to us, like to everyone it does, would it be same 3-series which won awards and hearts from jury and die-hard fans, respectively? We would patiently wait.

Picture Courtesy: BMW Official

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