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The facelifted BMW 3-series has a new engine under the hood and gets other updates on the inside as well. BMW released this version to take the fight to Mercedes’ C-class and to brace for fresh competition from Jaguar and Audi. The updated Bimmer’s new engine is complemented by a mildly reworked suspension and subtle tweaks inside and out.
On the outside
From merely looking at these pictures, you might think BMW has made a lot of tweaks to the exterior too, but these are only available on the top-end M Sport version of the 3-series. It features sportier front and rear bumpers, M badging on the flanks and is the only one available in this racy Estoril Blue paint shade. What is new and common to all versions of the updated 3-series though are the headlights and tail-lights that are now both full-LED units. It also comes with slightly restyled bumpers and new wheel designs on the 320d Prestige, Sport Line and Luxury Line versions.
On the inside
Although the changes to the interior aren’t significant, enthusiasts will welcome the long overdue addition of paddle shifters (only available on the petrol 328i earlier), apart from which a sliding lid for the cupholders at the base of the centre console is the only bit that’s brand new. The company, however, worked on improving overall quality of materials in the cabin. The changes have made the cabin look marginally richer than before but it’s still not as good as Merc’s C-class.
The M Sport trim comes with a useful heads-up display, sports front seats, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and enough faux carbon-fibre detailing to make you think you are sitting in a proper M car. Among the other features, a sunroof and hi-res 8.7-inch screen for the iDrive infotainment system are standard on the Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport versions, while the base Prestige model makes do with a smaller 6.5-inch screen. There’s still no reverse camera but the car comes with rear parking sensors.
The 3-series is the most comfortable of its luxury sedan peers, if you don’t mind the low-set cabin that is. The M Sport’s shapely front seats offer generous support even on the most spirited of drives, while the rear seats are spacious and comfortable.
The facelifted 320d is the second in BMW’s line-up in India, after the X3, to get this updated 2.0-litre diesel engine. The new engine is identical to the old one in terms of displacement (1,995cc from four cylinders) but otherwise there’s little carried over from before. Peak power is up by 6bhp to 187bhp and peak torque is up by 20Nm to a meaty 400Nm.
BMW claims a 0-100kph time of 7.2 seconds for the new 320d which betters the old car’s time by 0.2 seconds. Performance is similar to the old car’s which is not a bad thing, the older car is great to drive. There’s a strong tug from low in the rev band, genuine punch in the mid-range and even an accessible top-end to exploit. The engine revs quite freely and it’s easily among the most exciting four-cylinder diesel engines around. Where the new engine feels significantly better is in it refinement. That sharp clatter at idle is significantly muffled here and it doesn’t get as vocal as you go faster. The engine sounds a touch coarse but, overall, is a lot nicer than its predecessor.
To complement the engine, BMW has revised the eight-speed gearbox for smoother responses in the city. Even when you’re driving quick, the gearbox continues to delight with rapid, timely shifts –you can always choose to manually intervene using the paddles or the joystick-like gear lever.
From behind the wheel
The 3-series’ driving experience remains as invigorating as ever and has been made better still with tweaks to the suspension. Body movements are noticeably more controlled and the beautifully weighted steering feels that bit more precise.
Is it worth the money?
At first glance, your friends may not be able to immediately tell you that this is the updated model. But from behind the wheel it feels like a much-improved 3-series. The new engine retains the zesty character of the old motor but brings with it crucial improvements in refinement and even everyday driveability. Handling is that wee bit sharper too and BMW claims the new 320d is more efficient as well. At the same time, the 320d holds on to its strengths of good ride quality, comfort and space. In all, the 3-series feels more rounded now.
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