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Driven: BMW 3 Series update arrives

Forty years young: Based on the new 340i, BMW's 3 Series special edition celebrates four decades and more than 10,000,000 3 Series sales.

40-year anniversary limited edition headlines BMW 3 Series range update

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BMW logo9 Oct 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

BMW is celebrating four decades of the original sports sedan with a strictly limited 40 Year Anniversary edition that headlines the updated 3 Series sedan and Touring range, priced from $97,900 before on-road costs.

The special edition will be limited to just 40 examples in Australia and serves as the sub-M flagship of the range above the unlimited 340i on which it is based.

Both 340i and 40-year edition share the new 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, which replaces the pre-update 335i, with 240kW and 450Nm – an increase of 15kW, and emissions that fall six per cent to 159g/km.

40 Year Anniversary variants are distinguishable from standard 340is with a combination of either Tansanite Blue paint paired with Opal White Merino leather, or Mineral White exterior and contrasting black Merino upholstery.

Numbers will be limited to 20 of each colour and come with a special M Sport 19-inch alloy wheel design, M Sport exterior package, piano black cabin trims and a 40 years of 3 Series plaque.

At the other end of the spectrum is BMW's eagerly anticipated entry level 3 Series, which resurrects the 318i nameplate for the first time in Australia since the late 1990s when the E46 generation was introduced.

Unlike the fourth-generation version which had a 1.9-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, the F30 318i has a turbocharged three-cylinder displacing 1.5-litres and produces 100kW/220Nm.

Priced from $54,900, the 318i's engine is borrowed from the Mini Cooper and 2 Series Active Tourer, and is the first time a three-cylinder has been fitted to any car in the mid-sized sedan segment.

Acceleration from zero to 100km/h takes 9.1 seconds, while fuel consumption is rated at 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.

Mercedes-Benz is garnering plenty of attention with its new C-Class sedan, while arch-rivals Audi and newcomer to the segment, Jaguar have even newer A4 and XE to weigh in with, but BMW is confident the 3 Series update is enough to keep the competition at a safe distance.

Of the three key rivals, Mercedes streaks ahead in sales with 7409 registrations versus BMW's 3154, but speaking at the launch of the updated 3 Series, BMW Group Australia CEO Marc Werner told GoAuto that focusing on one model was the wrong approach.

“We don’t only look at the passenger cars alone, we look at the SUVs as well,” he said. “We see that there is a 50 per cent trend toward SUV share.

“Having said that, we need to also look at the balance between passenger as well as SUVs. If I compare us to our competitors I would say we are actually in a very good position. We have grown our passenger car sales over the past couple of years to a new sales record and it is our clear intention to continue that trend.”

Mr Werner said that the return of the 318i would offer a “unique price point,” allowing customers to get into a premium mid-sized sedan with a more modest budget compared with the German car-maker's competitors.

“We have no competitors at this point. In time I think that will be a very good strategy going forward to conquest even more customers from the base segment, but this is not our only focus. We are also focusing on our core models – the 320i and the 330i which will definitely be the main volume sellers.

“The 3 Series will remain one of our core pillars with the BMW business in Australia but we are not only focusing on one model like some of our competitors are doing.”

BMW expects the new 318i will constitute between 15 and 20 per cent of sales, while the 330i in sedan form is predicted to be the most popular variant.

Sitting above the 318i are the 320d and 320i 2.0-litre four-cylinder twins, which bring 140kW/400Nm with diesel power and 135kW/290Nm for the petrol.

Pricing is $63,800 and $61,900 respectively.

The 320i can crack 100km/h from standstill in 7.3 seconds and uses 5.8L/100km, while the diesel equivalent gets to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds and burns 4.4L/100km.

The 320i is also available in boot-boosted Touring variety from $65,300, as is the next variant up – the 330i which costs $73,300 or $69,900 for the sedan version.

It also has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, but its increased boost pressure and more highly strung tune pumps out a beefy 185kW and 350Nm – enough to get the 330i to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds and it uses 5.8L/100km.

Top-performing 340i variants dash to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds and use 6.8L/100km.

With 3.0-litres, six-cylinders and one turbo, the B58 is largely similar to the engine under the bonnet of the 335i, but its most significant change is in the charge-cooling system, which goes from front-mounted air-to-air intercooler to top-mounted liquid-to-air charge-cooler.

All versions have BMW's eight-speed automatic transmission, with all but the 318i equipped with the Sport box.

The car's chassis has also been updated with a new steering set-up, strengthened body-connection points and a revised damper rating, which has reduced body pitch when accelerating and braking, as well as roll in corners.

For the model's mid-life update, all versions have been treated to a mild facelift, which brings revisions to the front and rear bumpers when in Sport Line and Luxury Line specification, revised chassis tweaks, new ConnectedDrive features, all-new engines and a new tail-light and headlight design.

Its new look includes a subtle nose and tail reshape with the exception of M Sport equipped vehicles which carry over the bumper design from the pre-update version, but all variants are equipped with the new light look, which brings all LED technology to the range and adaptive lights for the 340i.

330i and 340i interiors get higher-quality leather, or Sensatec synthetic leather for 318i, 320i and 320d, while all variants get ambient lighting, aluminium-look flashes to the dash, centre console and door trims.

On the outside, the sub-330i and 340i cars roll on a new range of 18-inch alloy wheels, while top-spec cars get a 19-inch hoop in a range of designs depending on the chosen styling package.

ConnectedDrive is now standard across the board and brings a selection of web-based services including Concierge Service for the 340i, which connects the vehicle occupants to an operator at BMW's service centre, who can find points of interest and send information directly to the car's information system.

The technology does not require a connected smartphone and uses its own integrated sim card. The service includes three years of internet connection.

Standard tech includes the Intelligent Emergency Call, which automatically connects the car to help in the event of an emergency, Teleservices for keeping service schedules up to date and real-time traffic information.

Smartphone applications have been improved and expanded to include Audible, GoPro and Spotify, with all services and updates available from the ConnectedDrive online store.

Top-spec variants get Professional Navigation and head-up display is now standard range-wide.

The iconic model launched in 1975 with the E21, and BMW recently sold the 10-millionth 3 Series-badged car.

2015 BMW 3 Series pricing*
318i Sedan (a)$54,900
320i Sedan (a)$61,900
320d Sedan (a)$63,800
320i Touring (a)$65,300
330i Sedan (a)$69,900
330i Touring (a)$73,300
340i Sedan (a)$89,900
*Excluding on-road costs

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