BMW 3 Series launch

Quick drives in the 328i and 335i

By Shahzad Sheikh

You may not know it to look around the GCC market (where BMW’s 7 Series is the biggest its biggest selling saloon followed by the Five) but the 3 Series is the best-selling premium car in the world. It’s sold 12.5 million since it launched in 1975. We recently got a brief introduction to the all-new 3 Series at the Dubai Autodrome.

The new sixth-gen car is longer by 93mm, wider and gets a completely new face with a new body. Inside it’s all familiar stuff, but there’s more space in the back. There’s more boot space and a set of three flavours (initially at least) plus the standard ‘Classic’ spec to choose from.

The three are Sports Line, Modern Line and Luxury Line – these are essentially trim packages, with a few differences in the front spoiler and the wheels.

So for the Sports Line you get red accents on a black interior, light oyster interior and wood trim with more chrome on the outside for the Modern Line, and Luxury Line gets you better wood etc… In fact you can still just take a ‘Classic’ version and spec it up yourself, but we’re told choosing one of these three would save you a bit of money. And M-Sport packs will come later.

You only get two engines here for now – badged the 328i and the 335i, and both are twin-turbos. For all three trim lines the pricing is the same: AED230,000 ($ ) for the 328i and AED273,000 ($ ) for the 335i.

The 328i is actually a 2.0-litre four-cylinder producing 245bhp and 258lb ft, giving 0-100kph in 6.1seconds and a top speed of 250kph. The 335i is an in-line six cylinder unit putting out 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque. It’ll hit 100kph in a very handy 5.5seconds but is also limited to 250kph.

First impressions? Best looking 3 Series for a while, the front looks particularly mean. The rest is more evolutionary, but it’s certainly a handsome looking compact saloon.

Our on-track experience was limited to a few laps in convoy – most of which was rather slow-moving. Obviously we didn’t try any of the new gadgets on the car such as the ConnectedDrive and the Surround View, nor the ECO PRO driving mode which tunes everything for maximum fuel economy – we didn’t think you’d be interested in that anyway.

We did try it in Sport and Sport Plus modes and can confirm that performance was more than adequate in both cars, the 328 feels surprisingly sprightly, and you don’t feel at all short-changed by driving a four-cylinder BMW. Of course the smooth straight six does feel more familiar, and the performance is properly punchy. It also has a massive and totally flat peak torque curve that goes from just above idle at 1200rpm up to 5000rpm.

And it now gets an eight-speed transmission as standard for our region. Once you’ve figured the BMW joystick shifter out, and employ the paddles, you’ll find the changes quick and responsive.

In Sports Plus, on the few opportunities there were to clear some space and hurl it through the corners, it feels tight, well planted, with eager turn-in. The 50:50 balance makes itself apparent in the response of the chassis, the back does move and come into play, but traction control unobtrusively keeps in check.

So the new 3 Series on first acquaintance, looks great, drives like you’d expect, and seems a practical, sensible everyday car, perhaps even encroaching on 5 Series territory. Can’t wait to get it out on the road for a proper run.

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