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Driven: BMW sticks with diesel in new-gen 3 Series

All-new BMW 3 Series to offer buyers petrol, diesel and plug-in powertrain options

BMW logo15 Mar 2019

AS ONE of the last diesel-powered offerings in the premium mid-size sedan market, and with a plug-in hybrid on the way, BMW Group Australia says it is committed to offering buyers choice in its new-generation 3 Series. 
 
With competitors such as the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Audi A4 Allroad withdrawing oil-burning offerings, BMW has doubled down on diesel as a price-leading powertrain at launch for its new 3 Series.
 
As previously reported, BMW’s seventh-generation 3 Series range kicks off from $67,900 before on-road costs for the diesel-powered 320d and tops out at launch at $70,900 for the petrol 330i.
 
While the entry-level 3 Series moves up in price by $2100, meaning it is now even more expensive than its Mercedes-Benz C220d ($65,200) sole rival, the 330i remains static in price despite the new-generation changeover, and lines up against the Audi A4 45 TFSI ($70,300), Infiniti Q50 3.0T Sport ($64,900), Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce ($71,895), Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE ($71,940) and Mercedes-Benz C300 ($71,800).
 
Speaking at the launch of the new 3 Series, BMW Group Australia CEO Vikram Pawah told journalists there is still a market for the diesel mid-size sedan, and it was important to offer buyers powertrain choice.
 
“I still think there are people who want that (diesel), and that’s why we are offering that option – we’ve got diesel, petrol … and then we are going to have the plug-in electric as well,” he said.
 
“People who are looking for diesel, are also looking for a price point at the same time.
 
“We are going to offer all the options to our customers because we believe Australia is still a very heterogenous market and people still want different options, and we are here to offer them.”
 
Though 3 Series diesel take-up was around 20 per cent when the previous generation launched in early 2012, uptake had dropped to around 10 per cent in the past three years – a figure Mr Pawah expects to carry over in the new model.
 
As for the most popular powertrain choice, Mr Pawah said the seventh-generation 3 Series engine mix will reflect its predecessor, with the 320i – to be launched later this year – and 330i making up the bulk of volume.
 
“If we look at the past, it would be, for the F30 (series), the 320i and 330i – as a combo, I think they were 70 per cent – and we expect the same thing (for the new-generation 3 Series),” he said.
 
“The sweet spot is the 330i to start off with, and then a bit later on the 320i comes out in the second half of the year.”
 
Kicking off the new 3 Series range at launch, the 320d is propelled by a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine, producing 140kW of power at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm that is fed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
 
For the first time in 3 Series history, no manual option is available in Australia with uptake in the previous three-pedal mid-sizer pegged at around two per cent.
 
Meanwhile, the top-spec 330i punches out 190kW at 5000rpm and 400Nm from 1550-4400rpm thanks to a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol powerplant, which is fed to the road via the same driveline as its diesel-powered sibling.
 
As a result, the 1470kg 330i pips the 1450kg 320d at the post in the zero to 100km/h acceleration benchmark, recording a time of 5.8 seconds compared to 6.8s in the diesel.
 
The base 320d wins out in fuel economy and CO2 emissions though, sipping 5.4 litres per 100km and outputting 119g/km respectively, versus the 330i’s 6.4L/100km and 147g/km figures, while both engines feature start/stop functionality and three driving modes – Sport, Comfort and Eco.
 
Measuring 4709mm long, 1827mm wide, 1442mm tall and with a 2851mm wheelbase, the seventh-generation 3 Series has increased in every dimension, while weight distribution remains at a perfect 50:50 front and rear.
 
Built on an all-new platform, the new 3 Series body is 25 per cent stiffer than before, while the front and rear tracks are also widened for improved grip and stability.
 
Suspension has also been reworked for improved comfort and compliance, and the rear boot will swallow 480 litres of volume. 
 
As standard, the 320d is fitted with 18-inch wheels, head-up display, interior Aluminium Tetragon highlights, BMW’s ConnectedDrive services, three-zone climate control, 12.3-inch all-digital instrumentation, 10.25-inch infotainment system with voice control, satellite navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, and 10-speaker sound system.
 
Buyers also have a choice between the M Sport Package or Luxury Line option at no extra cost – the former bundling an M Aerodynamics package, High-gloss Shadow Line (black) window surrounds, Alcantara/Sensatec upholstered sports seats, M leather steering wheel and M Sport suspension, while the latter features leather interior, fine-wood trim and a sports steering wheel.
 
Equipment in the 330i largely mirrors its diesel-powered sibling, barring larger 19-inch wheels and keyless entry, however the M Sport package adds M Sport brakes and adaptive suspension – the latter of which also lowers ride height by 10mm.
 
Safety equipment in the 320d extends to eight airbags, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera, Reversing Assistant, adaptive LED headlights, high-beam assist and speed limit information, while the 330i gains adaptive cruise control and a surround-view monitor. 
 
As with other BMW models, the new-generation 3 Series is also offered with a bevy of optional extras including steering wheel heating, tyre pressure monitor, automatic tailgate and acoustic glazing, or else buyers can opt for the Visibility, Comfort, Drivers Assistant and M Sport Plus Packages, ranging from $1820 to $5070, that bundles equipment such as metallic paint, laser headlights, sunroof, automatic tailgate, tyre pressure monitor and M Sport differential, among others.
 
Six different wheel designs, eight interior finishes, and five in-cabin trims are on offer, while exterior paint colours extend to 12 options including Melbourne Red, Mediterranean Blue, Sunset Orange, Portimao Blue and Davit Grey.

 

2019 BMW 3 Series pricing*

320d (a) $67,900
330i (a) $70,900

*Excludes on-road costs


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