IF you are after a sedan that has handled the test of time well, the BMW 3 Series is one of the longest-serving models around.
The 3 Series has gone through various incarnations, continuously striving to meet the demands of the market and to maintain its place in an expanding line up of competitors. It has kept the German brand’s wheels rolling for almost half a century.
The bedrock of the brand, upon which many of the fancy, shiny bits and bobs in other models are assembled, has been a faithful servant, delivering the goods with unerring reliability.
Even as talk of fancier ideals are rolled out, the 3 Series still purposefully powers on.
Except it is less of a workhorse and has evolved over time to match the brand’s audience profile.
Evolving Into Its Role
The latest iteration of the 3 Series shows just how far the model and the brand has journeyed.
In its latest impression it is more comfortable in its sleek form – nothing overly flashy but displaying measured design sensibilities. The new slim headlights and the slimmer kidney grilles (compared to some of its brandmates) give it a slightly sharper mien, with the rear reflecting this trimmer appearance.
Much larger than its original form, the 3 Series now is quite a comfortable car to be ferried around in. There is a deep boot which doesn’t compromise too much on the rear seat comfort.
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The 318 model used to be close to the base unit, but with engine technology and other refinements, it delivers a lot more with a 2-litre turbocharged engine these days.
In Sport mode, it’s enthusiastic without being showy, with paddle shifters allowing for quick gear changes to take it through fast corners without losing its sense of purpose. And in other drive modes, there is no significant downside to its performance.
The sprint to 100kmh is achieved in over 8 seconds; making it fast enough. But it still can’t outrun the certificate of entitlement prices, which, when added to the cost of the car along with other taxes brings the wallet-shredding price to more than $330K*.
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Operating System Snafus
The latest operating system 8 for the infotainment system allows for a large curved display that sweeps across the dashboard from window to the centre console. While it still sticks out a bit, it is more in sync with the relatively clean interior lines.
But with the rollout of Singapore’s electronic road pricing 2.0, that clean look will be dashed with an ugly, outmoded display. Good thing you can also use your smartphone instead of installing that unsightly display unit.
But the OS8 is still a bit temperamental. At times it freezes – usually when you’re figuring out which exit to take at a tricky junction.
And there are a few quirks about the car. The underwhelming sound system is adequate but lacks oomph. And there’s a rattle from the buckle of the passenger seat knocking against the B-pillar which can be annoying, and disrupts what is certainly a smooth runner.
In fact, the 318 is too smooth, some may argue. For those familiar with the older versions, that silence can be somewhat unsatisfying. Those who’ve been born later probably wouldn’t care less.
The 3 Series has always been a major model for the BMW brand. Having driven a number of them over a few generations I have to say this is probably the most accomplished edition of this bread-and-butter model of BMW. It is a smooth runner and it is extremely versatile as a car that could sit comfortably in the parking lot as an executive family sedan, or for a young couple trying to find their way in a highly taxed world.