Launchpad Ashish Mash takes the BMW 325i out for a spin, and comes back impressed
The 3-series is new to India — it was introduced less than a year ago to our market. It was a brilliant car, no doubt, but it also had a few things that didn’t go down well with Indian conditions. The new 3-Series has already been launched, and it looks the same as the earlier one externally, save for the new alloy wheels that reveal it is an updated model.
Sit in the well-contoured driver’s seat and you will be thrilled to see the mass of high-quality plastics inside. Everything from the dashboard to the indicator stalks and the doorpads are made from top-quality materials that exude luxury. The beautifully-finished steering wheel is brilliant to hold and goes a long way in embellishing the driving experience. The gauges are nice and easy to read and even the small buttons for the air-conditioner and stereo have a built-to-last feel about them.
A good range of adjustments for both the front seats and steering wheel means drivers of all shapes and sizes can find a suitable position. The layout of the dashboard is straightforward with simple stereo and AC controls. It’s also quite easy to get used to the iDrive control system, but do not try to do this when the car is moving. There’s enough legroom for the longest limbs in both the front and rear seats of the updated 3 Series. However, those of you who are over six feet tall will brush your head against the roof if you’re sitting in the rear. Also, the solid construction is visible in the manner in which the doors shut — this gives a reassuring feel. Overall, this is one cabin you will enjoy spending time in.
How it drives
Thumb the starter button on the dash and the engine fires up instantly. The six-cylinder motor, which develops a healthy 218bhp of power, is supremely smooth and phenomenally refined even when pushed to the higher ends of its rev range. Flat-out acceleration is good too and a mere dab at the accelerator pedal is enough to summon instant power, ensuring quick overtaking manoeuvres.
BMW has decided not to provide the option of a manual gearbox on the 325i but the automatic gearbox can be used in various modes. The regular mode works well for daily driving, gear changes are seamless and power keeps building up gradually in each gear. In Tiptronic Sport mode, you can shift gears manually for better control.
Another highlight of the package is the sharp steering, which is one of the most communicative and accurate you will find anywhere.
It feels heavy at slower speeds but weighs up nicely as speeds build up. The feedback you get at highway speeds is very confidence-inspiring.
Body control and good grip give it brilliant poise through corners, making this one of the most fun cars to drive, and is in line with BMW’s focus on driver-oriented cars.
BMW has modified the suspension a little and the 3 Series’ ride is better than before. However, it still feels firm (partly due to the harder run-flat tyres) and makes you aware of low-speed bumps and coarse surfaces, which tend to creep into the cabin. Its rival, the C-Class, does a much better job of isolating the road from the cabin.
The 3-Series is a quiet car and makes for a great long-distance cruiser.
Engine noise is always well isolated and you barely hear it once settled on the highway. Road and suspension noise are subdued over even the worst road surfaces.
The 325i costs Rs. 33 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). It has Xenon lamps, a sunroof and six airbags as standard equipment, which seems decent for its price. While additional power would have been welcome, it is not a major issue. The 325i comes with sensational handling and steering, a refined engine and spirited performance.
To buy or not
It does have a few limitations like the limited rear room and the stiff suspension that can rattle you on less-than-smooth surfaces. But a single drive behind the wheel is all it will take you to be willing to live with these rather than discount the 325i for something else.