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BMW's facelifted 3 Series offers more for more

Three change: Volume-selling 320i sedan costs $3500 more at $54,500.

Revised entry-level 3 Series arrives better equipped but costs much more than before

BMW logo4 Nov 2008

BMW Australia will increase the admission price for its volume-selling 3 Series model range by a sizeable $3500 from November 22, when the facelifted E90 sedan and wagon range goes on sale here.

The upgraded compact sports sedan range will start at $54,500, although equipment levels rise considerably to offset this, with the previously up-spec ‘Executive’ now stepping in as the entry-level 320i.

Besides offering the ‘Dakota’ leather trim, power front seats, alloy wheels, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and active front headrests that formed part of the previous, $55,900 Executive package, the new base BMW now includes an exterior lights package that includes door-handle, footwell, interior and puddle lighting.

The 320i Executive also scores USB/audio interface and Bluetooth connectivity, climate-control air-conditioning, an on-board computer and steering wheel-mounted controls.

So, compared to its predecessor, which was by far the biggest-selling 3 Series variant, the 2009 320i Executive is actually $1500 cheaper and demonstrably better equipped.

The diesel-powered 320d, too, loses its $54,100 opening price and is replaced by the virtually identically equipped 320d Executive ($57,400), which also drops by $1500 compared to the outgoing 320d Executive – and also gains slightly more power, torque and operating efficiency.

14 center imageBMW says it has managed to contain the price of the 320d due to its sub-7.0L/100km combined average fuel consumption figure, which automatically exempts it from the new luxury car tax (LCT) regime.

The $65,000 323i sedan undergoes a price drop of $1800, but LCT and other factors have resulted in a $2100 more expensive 325i at $75,900, while – from $107,300 – the 335i sedan now costs $2800 more.

Similar amounts separate old and new versions of the 320i Executive Touring, 323i Touring and 335i Touring wagons. As with the sedan, the cheapest 3 Series-load lugger will now cost you $3500 more than before.

A six-speed manual gearbox is a no-charge option on all MY09 3 Series models, except for the 320d and 335i.

More money buys a new ‘Innovations Package’ consisting of High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with cornering lighting (known as Adaptive bi-Xenon headlights in BMW-speak), High Beam Assist and an in-dash colour screen for the ‘Business Navigation’ satellite-navigation system.

There is also an ‘M Sport Package’ consisting of a bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, an ‘M Sport’ suspension set-up, ‘M Sport’ steering wheel and door sills, fancy paintwork known as ‘Individual high gloss shadowline’, ‘Individual’ anthracite headlining and ‘Aluminium Glacier Silver’ interior trim.

Following the upcoming F01 7 Series, the revised 3 Series uses BMW’s latest ‘Professional Navigation System’ that incorporates a new iDrive Controller and a completely revamped menu structure and eight ‘favourite’ short-cut buttons.

Besides an 8.8-inch high-resolution colour monitor offering full-screen mode for viewing maps, Professional Navigation includes three-dimensional relief maps, a DVD drive and an integrated 80GB hard drive for the storage of up to 8GB of audio files from CD or USB devices.

Visual changes are limited to a subtly modified nose cone, a bulgier bonnet, a reshaped boot (which, along with the front, slightly alters the E90’s silhouette), redesigned tail-lights, reprofiled door mirrors and wider wheel tracks – measuring up to 24mm broader depending on the model.

Partially because of the latter, BMW is claiming improved driving dynamics too.

Some 25,000 examples of the current E90 3 Series have been sold in Australia since its May 2005 launch, while worldwide deliveries have exceeded 1.75 million, making it the most successful 3 Series ever in the same time frame.

However, while those figures are up almost 20 per cent over the previous E46-series model’s efforts, total 3 Series sales of 4103 so far this year is 15.3 per cent down on 2007 levels.

To the end of October 2008, the 3 Series holds a 24.5 per cent share of the $60,000-plus mid-size passenger car segment - down from 33.5 per cent at the same point last year and well down on its direct rival in the new Mercedes-Benz C-class, 5762 examples of which have been delivered this year (up a massive 83.6 per cent) for a 34.5 per cent YTD segment share (up from 21.7 per cent).

Many of those lost sales could also have gone to Audi's new A4, which has overtaken the Lexus IS250 this year in terms of sales and market share, and is currently 54.2 per cent up in third place with 3139 sales.

2009 3 Series sedan pricing:
320i Executive $54,500
320d Executive (a) $57,500
323i $63,200
325i $75,900
335i (a) $107,300
2009 3 Series Touring pricing:
320i Executive (a) $57,700
323i (a) $67,400
335i (a) $111,700

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