We are driving from Tauranga to Auckland very early in the morning. Feeling super exciting because not only it’s the first day of our trip up North but it’s also the new BMW 3 Series launch today. Of course, when you can play around with some new toys, you feel extremely excited. Ok, we just need a cuppa coffee and we are ready to go.
New cars are parked in front of the BMW Group New Zealand headquarters: both 320d and 330i models in different colours. All cars come standard with M Sport package and look absolutely stunning. The updated design, new sportier shape, bigger grille, narrow headlights and slightly smoked rear lights create a very good-looking combination for this sports sedan. This new G20 is longer than the previous generation for 76mm (which is quite a lot) but it doesn’t look too big because of it. From the first impression, the size and the exterior are absolutely spot on (for my taste at least).
We ask BMW guys about their opinion on what version is going to be the most popular and they say “blue”. So we grab the blue 330i and hit the road. Traffic in Auckland is quite heavy which means more time to explore the features packed in the new 3 Series. The main focus for this car’s marketing is the Intelligent Personal Assistant. This is the system that understands natural speaking and can help you to adjust settings on your navigation, climate control, multimedia and perform many other actions. It’s not a completely new feature (you can find it on the new X5 for example) but it’s the very first time it comes as standard equipment on the 3 Series. Talking about X5, there are many similarities in between these cars: same new version of Live Cockpit Professional, Head-Up Display, Apple Car Play preparation, wireless smartphone charger, USB-C sockets, driver assistance systems and even light carpet and some other features. So it’s fair to say that the new 3 Series has the newest and the most expensive technology packed in a car that can be called one of the entry points to BMW’s model range. Just compare the price: $77,500 is a starting point for the 320d and to get the low spec X5 xDrive30d you have to pay at least $135,200! I know it’s not fair to compare these cars directly – they are too different. But the point is – you get the best of BMW’s tech packed in both cars no matter what the price difference is.
Check out our interactive picture below for some more details on the new BMW 3 Series exterior and interior. Click on pointers to discover extra pictures and notes.
We are almost out of town and crossing the Harbour Bridge. Views from here are fantastic. But today is about what we can see inside the car. And it’s actually quite a lot to explore in here. The quality of the interior is exceptional. Everything feels expensive and very well built. As I already mentioned, all models have the M Sport package as standard so we can enjoy M Leather steering wheel, trim finishers in aluminium tetragon and headliner in anthracite. Another standard feature is electrically-operated sports seats and they are super comfortable doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in traffic or driving on winding roads. With 330i model you get a newly-styled Vernasca leather upholstery as standard which looks really posh. Front seats are heated, but what’s a little bit disappointing is there is no seat ventilation even as an extra option.
Finally we are on some less crowded country roads and here we can check how this car is to drive. There is a lot of dynamic in 330i, it’s fun to drive and adaptive M suspension helps to deal with all the bumps on our way. We go through some straight sections and winding roads with a lot of curves – the new 3 Series is easy to handle in both scenarios. You can feel that there is much more potential in this car and you can go faster, 330i almost make you go to the very limit but then you realise you have to be reasonable with road conditions and speed limits. We are definitely against unsafe driving so we set up the speed limit assist at 90km/h and enjoy the ride.
It’s now time to explore all the intelligent features we have in the new 3 Series. I start with my all-time favourite in any of BMW cars – adaptive cruise control. As you can expect from its name, this system keeps the speed you’ve selected and works together with steering and lane keeping assistant. It also monitors the distance to a car in front and you can adjust this following distance using buttons on the steering wheel. Basically, the car can drive by itself but you still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel because it’s requested by law. Other driving assistant features include lane change and departure warning, front collision warning, rear cross-traffic warning and rear collision prevention. Last two are extremely useful when parking or reversing especially in some difficult conditions. Of course, there is a parking assistant as well to help you with such manoeuvres and a wonderful high-res 360 camera for even more comfort. Another extremely cool thing that migrated from the X5 is reversing assistant. This is the system that remembers last 50 metres you drove and when needed, can automatically do the steering in reverse. There is more on this and all other features in our video that is on top of this page, make sure to check it out.
Successfully parked in front of the restaurant, we are now off for lunch. After a quick break we continue our trip but in another vehicle – it’s now time to test one of 320d’s. This is a diesel model and you can spot the difference in driving dynamics right away. But that’s not a bad thing – it’s still plenty of performance in this engine and you get better fuel economy. In terms of design – there are tiny differences like smaller 18-inch wheels, alcantara seats upholstery, regular brakes and a little bit less advanced driving and parking assistant systems. You can get all of that as options if you want to have this equipment. Our test car has a lot of extra options (almost $12,000 worth) but it all feels quite unnecessary. I mean it’s all very nice but you can definitely live without it if you want to save some money on your car. What I would definitely add though is laser headlights because they are way brighter than a standard LED.
We now have a very short time before we have to get back to the headquarters and give the car back. So we make a stop and check out rear seats. There is plenty of room at the back even for tall people. It’s nice that rear passengers have their own block of climate control so they can adjust the temperature on their own. There are 2 USB-C sockets here and traditional 12V socket so no shortage of charging points. The armrest is quite wide and it is definitely enough space for two passengers to comfortably spend several hours during the road trip. And last but not least – boot. The loading area is reasonably big for a sedan, you can also increase storage space by folding rear seats or folding the segment in the middle to carry longer items like skis or snowboards. It’s totally enough for everyday tasks like groceries shopping.
It’s our first day of the trip up North so we need to return the car and get out of town before traffic builds up. While driving back to BMW’s office, we are trying to sum up our emotions from this day. The new 3 Series is definitely the car I would love to own myself. Why? Its size is perfect: quite compact outside and spacious inside. It’s packed with smart features and extremely fun to drive. It looks modern and sporty. It’s very comfortable which is very important for us as road trips junkies. And for us as a young family, the price is not overwhelming. The new BMW 320d sedan is priced from $77,500 NZD and 330i can be purchased from as much as $89,900. It’s more expensive than the previous generation but you now get a lot of equipment as standard that was optional previously. So it seems like a very fair price for such a great car.
Special thanks to BMW Group New Zealand for inviting us to the launch event and for an opportunity to be one of the first people to test this car.