BMW 3 Series Facelift (2015) First Drive

BMW 3 Series 0035

BMW has given its popular 3 Series sedan a facelift and we attended the launch at Rosslyn north of Pretoria to see what’s changed and to give the fresh 3 a drive.

This year marks 40 years of the BMW 3 Series sedan, a model range which has proven to be hugely popular around the world. The 3 Series accounts for about 25% of BMW’s sales and since its introduction to market way back in 1974, more than 14 million of them have been delivered to customers worldwide, making it the most successful model range in the BMW stable.

Currently in its sixth generation, the 3 Series sedan has a rich history and BMW is building on its past success with the newly facelifted 3 Series which was launched in South Africa this week. The launch took place at BMW’s Plant Rosslyn near Pretoria, home of the 3 Series, and we were there to see what’s changed and to experience the new 3-Series where it matters most - on the road.

What’s New?

On the styling front, the 3 Series now features a sharper design. New front aprons and larger revised air intakes emphasize a wider stance while the newly designed headlights and LED daytime running lights give the 3 Series a modernised look. Customers can now opt for full LED headlights which is offered as an option. At the rear, new L-shaped LED taillights are fitted as standard across the range and twin tail pipes hint at the sporty nature of the 3 Series.

The theme of sportiness and elegance is carried through into the interior and BMW has incorporated new materials including the combination of leather, chrome highlights and high-gloss surfaces. The centre console now features a sliding cover for the cupholders and the BMW Connected Drive infotainment system also features an integrated SIM card and customers can initiate map updating at any BMW dealership free-of-charge for a period of three years.

New engine range

The biggest changes however can be found under the bonnet. From launch, BMW will offer four petrol engines and two diesel engines sourced from the modular BMW EfficientDynamics engine family, all featuring TwinPower Turbo technology. With improvements in both power and economy, the power spread for the petrol engines range from 100 kW all the way up to 240 kW while the two diesel engines offer 140kW and 190 kW respectively.

For starters, there’s now a 3-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine on offer in the 318i with 100 kW and 220 Nm of torque. The 320i features a new 4-cylinder 2.0-litre engine offering 135 kW and 290 Nm of torque while the new 2.0-litre unit in the 330i generates 185 kW and 350 Nm of torque. Replacing the previous 335i, is the new range-topping 340i, fitted with an all-new 6-cylinder 3.0-litre engine developing 240 kW and 450 Nm of torque.

On the diesel front, the 320d is fitted with a new 4-cylinder 2.0-litre engine which offers 140 kW and 400 Nm of torque while the 330d with its 6-cylinder 3.0-litre engine offers 190 kW and 560 Nm of torque. The 3-Series can be had with either a 6-speed manual transmission, 8-speed Steptronic transmission or the sportier 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission. The automatic Steptronic transmission is fitted as standard on the 330d while the Sport Steptronic is standard on the 340i.

BMW is also offering a bespoke 40 Year Limited Edition 3 Series which features a special paint finish and a host of exclusive features. Only 400 units will be made available in South Africa.

Lastly, the team at BMW has further improved damper technology, stiffened the suspension and tinkered with the steering to deliver more precise and dynamic handling. And in case you were wondering, all changes apply to the BMW M3 too.

Hybrid coming soon

In March 2016, BMW will also be launching thde new 330e Plug-in Hybrid in South Africa which will offer fuel efficiency of 2.1L/100km with an electric range of 35km. In terms of performance, the 330e will sprint to 0-100kph in 6.3 seconds and is capable of reaching a top speed of 225kph or 120kph on electric power alone.

How Does The BMW 3 Series Drive?

The launch route covered almost 400km which gave us ample time to put the BMW 3 Series through its paces. Our first test was in the range-topping 340i in M Sport trim and from the outset, it was eager to push on and once the road opened up, there was no holding back. Performance in the 340i was quite impressive and with a claimed 0-100kph sprint time of 5.1 seconds, it had no problem leaving other traffic in its dust.

The 8-speed Sport Steptronic worked seamlessly to get the most out of the 3.0-litre engine and the shift paddles behind the steering wheel increase driver engagement substantially. The steering felt well-weighted and the throttle is super responsive. With your foot planted flat, power is delivered quickly and the 340i leaps forward with great intention and pace. It's a thrilling drive. Four driving modes including EcoPro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ can be selected. In Comfort mode, the 340i sounds quite sedate, but Sport mode creates a deeper, sportier thrum from the engine.

However, what impressed me most about the 340i was its ride quality and handling. Road quality on the launch route was poor, yet the 340i did an excellent job of delivering a solid and composed ride, even with Sport mode engaged. The 340i with 240 kW and 450 Nm of torque is certainly not short of grunt and customers can look forward to an engaging yet refined drive from this new 340i.

Our second stint was in the 318i in Sport Line trim with its 3-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo engine, the same engine that powers the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. With 100 kW and 220 Nm, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the 318i. It was comfortable to drive and like the 340i, it was well composed on poor road surfaces. Yes, it’s a bit slower with a claimed 0-100kph sprint time of 8.9 seconds, but once the 318i gets up to speed it copes well in traffic and has sufficient power to overtake and push on if need be. This unit was also fitted with the 8-speed Steptronic transmission which performed admirably.

Overall, the new BMW 3 Series impressed us in terms of handling and performance and the interior is a comfortable place to be. We will hopefully have the facelifted BMW 3 Series on test soon to give it a thorough evaluation. For now though, take a look at the pricing structure for the facelifted BMW 3 Series below.

BMW 3 Series Price in South Africa

Model Price
BMW 318i 6-Speed M/T R409 000
BMW 318i 8-Speed Steptronic R427 900
BMW 320i 6-Speed M/T R443 000
BMW320i 8-Speed Steptronic R461 900
BMW 320i Sport Steptronic R467 200
BMW 330i 6-Speed M/T R516 000
BMW 330i 8-Speed Steptronic R534 000
BMW 330i Sport Steptronic R540 200
BMW 340i Sport Steptronic R656 000
BMW 320d 6-Speed M/T R472 000
BMW 320d 8-Speed Steptronic R490 900
BMW 320d Sport Steptronic R496 200
BMW 330d 8-Speed Steptronic R596 000
BMW 330d Sport Steptronic R598 700