Why BMW 3 series still conquers our hearts?
Being car enthusiasts we've all got our hands on games like Need for Speed which had the crown car like the E46 BMW M3 Coupe. Thousands of videos on the internet we've seen where all generations of 3s and M3s are seen drifting on corners or tracks, roads, car parking and even lobbies of 5-star hotels. The aspirational value of the '3' moniker has been tremendous and is ever-growing even today.
Previously, In the year 2017, we had the F30 320d which we took down to Mumbai from Delhi and back. A road trip worth remembering as we sailed through the beautiful Rajasthan and Gujarat at the closure of tourist season and were able to utilise it's brilliant mechanical setup efficiently. The fantastic 2-litre twin-scroll turbo diesel engine returned 23.2 kmpl on the highway between Delhi and Mumbai and it came out to be a cheaper option to travel than an economy airline ticket.
With the new G20 3 Series, things have moved ahead at lightning speed. The redesigned bodyshell and stiffer chassis embodied with beautiful shape that will age very well like all 3 series models in the yesteryears makes for an irresistible package. We delve deeper into what makes this Model Year 2021 BMW 3-series special.
First things first, I am glad BMW did not choose to go full balls with their massive grilles up-front on this 3-series, they look great on larger cars like the 7-series and X7 but going down the line it is an overkill. The nicely shaped horizontally stretched grille looks cohesive with twin-pod Full-LED headlamps and the muscle lines on the bonnet complement it even further.
The front end of the car look very intimidating, it looks very much a 3-series than confusing you for something else. On the sides, the soft body lines and muscle bulges make it look a notch premium than where it belongs, the long bonnet creates a sense of length to the overall silhouette which already is 76mm more than it's predecessor at 4709mm. The larger dimensions have a direct influence on how the G20 3-series behaves on the road.
At the rear, the tail-lamp design is one of my personal favourites. They are sleek and have a 3-dimensional casing which makes it look very sporty and wide from rear viewing angles. There are twin tailpipes at each corner of the rear bumper which enhances the overall sporty appeal of the 3-series from the rear and most importantly, the tailpipes are NOT FAKE!
Further, the new redesigned alloy wheel pattern available on this Luxury Line trim looks much better from the Model year 2019-20 with doses of black borders and diamond-cut effect. The new design language majors on clean lines and subtle forms and this approach are also visible in the transition of flanks into the car's rear end. The T-shaped trim element in the rear bumper mimics the design of the front air intakes in the G20 which are a standard specification on the Luxury Line models.
It will be fair to say that BMW's approach to minimum fuss and great ergonomics continues to get better with every new generation. Thank you to the people in Bavaria for not putting a galore of Touch-pads and Touch-screens everywhere. That being said, everywhere you touch and feel inside the cabin it is all high quality. Not a single panel feels hard to press or scratchy, top-grade ABS plastics, wood panelling and of course the acres of leather padding on everything makes this interior a great space to spend long hours in. I've been driving this car for around 100kms every day and every time I get inside the cabin it makes me feel special and in control of things. The direct touchpoints such as the central armrest, the steering wheel, the plastics behind the steerings, paddles shifters and elbow rest on the doors feel very soft to use which up the luxurious experience. What also compliments the great fit and finish are the lovely seats. They hug you like a jacket hugs your body and wraps it in warmth, great experience in terms of comfort inside the car.
In the centre of the instrument panel lies the display and buttons for the airconditioning system which is very sharply designed and take minimum space on the console making it look neat.
At the rear, the experience is on par with industry standards. The seats are large, cushy and do have a good recline angle for a comfortable 1000km chauffeured trip. No complaints as such on touch and feel inside the cabin, but BMW could have easily shod in a retractable curtain for the rear windows for added comfort during those hot summer days. The Mercedes Benz C-Class and the Volvo S60 have a marginally better rear-seat experience. That being said, BMW has launched the long-wheelbase 3-series GranLimousine in India which covers up all the things that the short-wheelbase lacked giving 110mm more wheelbase and a host of comfort features at the rear.
I should have started my review with this headline, but we had to talk you through the script before we get to the main business of the 3-series. Best drivers executive sedan till date? Yes please! Undisputed for over 3 decades the 3-series embodies a culture of great driving dynamics and fluidity in mechanicals. To start off with, we need to know that weight distribution is utmost necessary for a well-balanced drive, the G20 BMW 3-series retains the 50:50 ratio front and rear respectively and it shows in the way this chassis handles high-stress cornering and braking.
There are some great mechanical upgrades done to the 3-series under the skin for the better driving experience, set of new shock absorbers with lift-related damper are a part of car's standard chassis making a great balance between sportiness and comfort. The car's dynamics can be fine-tuned with a series of precisely matched chassis options. The functionally coordinated interplay of suspension, steering, tyres, brake system and differential lock makes sporty driving an effortlessly enjoyable experience.
The rigorous development of the chassis design enhances the agility of the G20 3-series in quite a number of ways. Many things about the double-joint spring strut front axle and five-link rear axle have been upgraded. Along with the sporty handling, the car's ride comfort and acoustics have been improved drastically. Aluminium swivel bearings and control arms for the front axle, aluminium wheels mounts and upgraded wheel bearings for the rear axle significantly reduce unsprung mass. The front axle, with its high level of component rigidity, the shear panels used to connect it to the body and its specially tuned kinematics enhance the precision of the steering and dynamics while you're cornering.
I observed deeply into the setup and found that the factors contributing to the high level of comfort provided by the G20 3-series include a hydraulically damped torque strut bearing which in theory eliminated the vibrations and oscillation. At the rear axle too, extremely rigid control arms and axle subframes with the use of thrust arms for the body mounting ensure precise wheel location. The elastokinematics of the G20 3-series is absolute perfection and makes the car so much fun to throw around like a hooligan and still be able to control it in a snap.
What also helps in making the G20 dynamic further is the reduction of body weight by 55 kilograms and a drag coefficient of 0.23 which make this car slip through dense air like a chopping blade. All of this is possible thanks to the extensive use of aluminium and high strength steel.
ON THE TRACK.
We took our G20 320d to the Buddh International Circuit to pit it against some of the best-tuned cars in the northern part of the country. The X-Factor Autocross event was plotted through the sectors 2 and 3 of the Formula 1 circuit, comprising of professionally curated corners and braking points. The 320d with it's magnificent and smooth 2-litre twin-scroll turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine produces a healthy 190 bhp of power and 400 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed ZF gearbox which is slick and pulls the G20 from 0-100kmph in 6.8 seconds. But BMW underplays the numbers and in our test runs at the circuit, we got a time of 6.6 seconds with 32psi pressure in all the tires and 7 degrees Celcius ambient temperature.
Our BMW G20 320d won the overall AM-Winner's trophy doing a staggering time of 1:48.9 followed by a BMW F30 330i which did the same circuit in 1:52.4. It really goes to show how great BMW cars are becoming and how easy it is to tame the chassis and extract the best out of its mechanical setup.
As a hardcore car enthusiast, it is really hard to say anything bad about the 3-series moniker. It truly embodies great design with excellent ride and handling balance even today. BMW's focus on giving maximum pleasure with minimum fuss is a bit more Scandanavian than German but it does it really well. Everything inside and outside this car speaks volumes and we cannot deny the fact that this still is one of the best driver's cars ever built. Even the 320d that we have is very exciting to play around with. It returned us an overall fuel economy of 19.3 kmpl in the first 1000kms of living with it (20% highway and 80% in city driving) which is astonishingly high. It's easy on the pocket while fuelling and also while servicing it as BMW scores highly in the most economical after-sales service amongst the German trio. A great car to live with then?