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Driven: BMW 3 Series facelift

2008-11-05 07:12

Hailey Philander

Unveiled to the international media just a few weeks ago at the Paris Motor Show, the revised BMW 3 Series is now available in South Africa.

The subject of a mid-life cycle revision, this 3 Series sees most of the changes to its outside.

The exterior has been dramatically altered, with the new bumper arrangement, slightly enlarged kidney grille and new headlamps giving the car a decidedly more aggressive stance. It does look a lot like a baby 7 Series, but given the Three's more compact dimensions, the additional bonnet creases and wider headlamps work particularly well.

Changes have been made at the rear too, where the Three now sports a new bumper and the tail light cluster's single indicator bulb has made way for several LEDs.

New iDrive

New interior materials have been added, although the "chequered" metallic finish worked a lot better with the black interior than the sandy beige, we found.

The most significant adjustment within the cabin, though, is the new iDrive system. A lot less annoying than before, its functionality is greatly improved by the use of direct controls for the audio and navigation systems (an idea seemingly adopted from another German manufacturer).

iDrive's central wheel now allows for toggling between menu functions as well as turning to select different menus. The new system was designed to be a lot more intuitive and less demanding for drivers to use, although this benefit will likely only really reveal itself with kilometres of travel.

Thankfully, those kilometres spent learning the tricks of the iDrive controller will give you the chance to put the sedan through its paces. Since the 3 Series's dynamic appeal was not lacking, not too many adjustments have been made to the running gear.

Significantly though, the track is wider by six millimeters at the front and 24 mm at the rear, which translates to better composure through those faster sweeps on your favourite stretch of twisties.

New 330d

The engine range also remains mostly unchanged, but for the addition of an all-new straight six turbodiesel unit using third generation common rail diesel injection technology. 

Power on the 330d's new motor is up to 180 kW while torque is up to 520 Nm at 4 000 and 2 000 r/min respectively. This equates to an increase of 10 kW and 20 Nm over the previous unit and enough torque at low engine speeds (most of the torque is available from 1 750 r/min already) to validate the 7% increase in fuel economy BMW talks about.

Average consumption on the combined cycle is 6.3 l/100 km while CO2 emissions are pegged at 167 g/km. And this on a car that still manages to be sporty, covering the 0 - 100 km/h sprint in 6.1 seconds.

All other engines, and the available transmissions, remain unchanged on the Sedan and Touring (which has also been tweaked) models.

The 3 Series Coupe and Cabriolet will continue unchanged, apart from the adoption of the new seven-speed M-DCT dual clutch gearbox on the 335i-badged models as part of the revision.

320i Start - R286 500
320i - R303 000
320d - R341 500
323i - R337 000
325i - R367 500
330i - R424 000
330d - R432 500
335i - R477 000

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Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in SA

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