The new BMW 3 Series is a series of hits and misses or, once more, I might be that my test-unit is off.
With the compact luxury sedan feeling the pressure from deluxe SUVs and from its immediate competition, these cars need to put their best foot forward if they are to remain as gateway and aspirational products. BMW has the most at stake as the 3 Series was an originator, a trendsetter and the which by all others were once measured. The new G20 BMW 3 Series could fall short in my opinion unless properly optioned.
It is altogether possible that my tester was simply somehow ill. I’ve experienced this in the past where a 2019 BMW 430i Gran Coupé I drove over year ago suffered from terrible steering. My 2019 BMW 330i xDrive could also be a victim of some ill sorted components.
About the title…
Specifically, and the issue was quickly evident from the moment I left the pick-up point with the 330i. I’ve developed a habit of programming drive modes and other various settings the moment I step into the car which means, by default, I select Comfort mode for damping and/or chassis control. On the number of included drive modes with the 330i, there is a “Sport Individual” that I programmed with the dampers in Comfort and left everything else in Sport.
You see, the tested BMW 330i included the M Sport package with the optional M Adaptive dampers, but not the M Sport brakes (I’ll touch on this soon.) Typically, these nothing-short-of-genius dampers provides quantifiable levels of comfort all the while delivering an immense level of body control for when spirited driving is on the menu.
As I drove off, I double- and triple-checked that I’d not mistakenly set the dampers in Sport. In short, these dampers do not dampen, or the springs are chunks of concrete. I cannot imagine that BMW designed these dampers to be over-stiff to compensate for a weak structure. I hated them and their lack of compliance all week.
The upside is that the new 3-Series begs to be driven hard. And the harder you push it, the better it responds to your abuse.
Begs to be driven
Here’s the other issue, and why I think my tester was simply poorly optioned out. For the last decade or so, I can’t recall having reviewed a BMW product that did not have the M Sport brakes. My 330i xDrive included the standard brakes and they were terrible. Like the suspension, they are not able to cope with the daily routine. The slightest pressure on the pedal resulted in immediate grabby-ness with ensuing forward jolts – this makes the car almost unfit for stop and go traffic.
But, once more, like the dampers, the closer I got to the BMW’s limits, which were still very far off, the better it behaved. Honestly, and with the right performance options and features, the new G20 BMW 3 Series is worthy.
One of the main reasons lies beneath the car’s bonnet. The twin-power twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine has been revised to produce more power. It is now rated at 255-horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, up 7 and 34 respectively. With the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, xDrive AWD and all that torque on tap as of 1,550 rpm, the 330i launches to 100 km/h in only 5.6 seconds.
What’s great is that it feels faster. Like the car’s chassis, the deeper you dive into it, the more you get. The torque figure stays put until 4,400 rpm, just ahead of max hp as of 5,000 rpm. Acceleration is sustained and constant. This is one quick sedan. And despite the call for abuse from the car, it’ll still average an easy 8.5L/100km.
A word on styling
In a word, the new G20 BMW 3 Series is serious. From all angles, nothing was left to chance and no hasty decisions were made about how all of its panels would come together to make a strikingly aggressive looking car equally seem elegant and poised.
The cabin too is wonderful. The materials, fit and finish are as upscale and proper as you would expect in a 5- or even an 8 Series Bimmer. The dashboard’s ergonomics are 100% logical and very BMW. Its sole fault would be tight rear quarters but the emphasis goes, and always does in a 3 Series, to the front occupants which have the best seats in the house. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is fabulous as is the 10.25-inch infotainment screen and adjoining iDrive 7.0 interface.
Build your 3-Series
The new 2019 3 Series BMW is not inexpensive. The base price is set at $49,000 but the level of included kit is generous, starting with xDrive and the 8-speed automatic. For the knowledge, the 2020 BMW M340i starts at $64,450.
My tester held just over $10,000 in options ($59,295) including the Premium Package Enhanced, the M Sport Package and the delightful and beautiful Vernasca leather. The M Sport suspension ($600) was also part of the ensemble but I would skip it. Instead, I’d opt for the M Sport brakes ($650) and fully enjoy the otherwise impressive car BMW has built.
However, having said all this, please be reminded that the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C 43 wagon starts at $59,900.