BMW’s new 3 Series is a shot in the arm for sports sedans

Since its debut in 1975, BMW’s 3 Series has been the heartbeat of the brand and is the world’s biggest-selling premium car. In 2018, the Bavarian company unveiled the seventh generation of its most successful model.

A car of such success and relevance is impossible to ignore, so when BMW invited me to attend its press launch in Australia, I cleared my schedule in double-quick time. I was looking forward to being one of the first few people from Singapore to experience the sedan before it goes on sale here.

The new BMW 3 Series now features a notch in the headlight contour, a notable design change from its predecessor

At a glance, the numbers hint at changes in the right direction for the new 3 Series: 41 mm longer wheelbase and increased track widths of 43 mm (front) and 21 mm (rear). In the metal, the latest generation has a low stance that underscores its sporty potential.

The other obvious change is to the car’s taillights

Now in a standard two-tone array with the red L-shaped section of the taillights having a three-dimensional look, the new 3 Series’ rear lights lend visual width to the car when viewed from behind. The darkened section is reminiscent of sports cars and works well on paint choices of a darker shade, such as this Mediterranean Blue 330i, but I’m not sure if it blends well with a car in white or silver paint, particularly if the owner opts for the Luxury Line trim, which emphasises elegance through the use of chrome in various design features on the exterior.

The newly designed gearshift lever is shorter and more tapered than the previous generation’s. With a different shape, BMW probably considered it necessary to re-locate the Park button due to how the driver’s hand is expected to operate the lever. Those already familiar with BMW ergonomics will unfortunately need a period of adjustment as this new placement of the ‘P’ button isn’t the most intuitive.

New in the car is the ADAPTIVE driving mode, which automatically adjusts the steering, accelerator response, shift dynamics and damping to the user’s driving style. Depending on the car’s specifications, this mode can also use information from the car’s navigation system to optimise the car’s settings for the route ahead.

The BMW Live Cockpit Professional

Available as an option, the BMW Live Cockpit Professional is a high-resolution instrument cluster using a fully digital display to improve the clarity of information provided to the driver at any given time. Because of how BMW have decided to present the information, the digital needle in the tachometer (on the right) progresses in a counter-clockwise direction. It’s another thing to get used to, but unlikely to affect the car’s drivability or functionality.

As part of the press launch, we took turns to drive the cars from our hotel in Albury to Feathertop Winery, where lunch awaited. The route planned for us took us through Mongans Bridge before making a sharp right off the Kiewa Valley Highway and carving through Tawonga Gap Road.

Driving out of Albury’s city centre for the first time in this car was effortless; the interior is of course different with various upgrades in design, information displays and materials, but all the controls were in familiar locations and felt natural to use. The cabin was well insulated against tyre roar and wind noise, making the drive very pleasant regardless of the speed at which we were going. The powertrain in the 330i (258 hp and 400 Nm from 1,550 rpm through an eight-speed Steptronic transmission) felt like it had a lot more to give as we drove through the Australian countryside; the brakes were easy to modulate, allowing the car to shed speed quickly and smoothly; and the car’s clever suspension setup buffered most of the uneven surfaces while communicating essential information from the tyres’ contact with the asphalt.

Parked up at Feathertop Winery along Victoria’s Great Alpine Road

Despite having less than half a day with the car, it already left an impression with its new design language and excellent driving dynamics. In Singapore, we know the BMW 330i sedan will be the first derivative available for the seventh-generation 3 Series. This will come in the Luxury Line and M Sport trims, priced from S$216,888 and S$231,888 respectively with COE.

The latest BMW 3 Series offers a very attractive proposition for someone in search of a new sedan that can comfortably ferry your family around, yet also clean up nicely for when you’re driving it to the office. In an era when crossover vehicles and compact SUVs are all the rage, BMW’s latest sedan ensures this segment continues to be a compelling option for those who don’t need any off-roading potential in their cars.

I attended the BMW 3 Series media launch in Australia as a guest of BMW. All opinions are my own.

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