BMW 3 Series E92/93 Coupe and Convertible
What we liked
>> Subtle styling changes
>> Finally, proper -/ + paddle shifts
>> Manual gearbox for base model diesel
Not so much
>> Limited cargo capacity on Convertible
>> Less sporty feel of new, softer suspension
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0
About our ratings
-- If it ain't broke...
As the segment benchmark, BMW's 3 Series is a prime example of the adage that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, in line with the minor styling and technology tweaks made to 3 Series sedan early last year, the Bavarian brand's two-door variants have also undergone a subtle mid-life facelift, scoring a new front fascia, headlamps, tail lamps plus the obligatory refreshed colour palette and alloy wheel catalogue.
Tech changes are few but key. The base and top-spec models receive new powerplants, while the 320d also picks up a six-speed manual gearbox (a six-speed automatic is available as an option). The 325i and 330d's (not available at the local launch) drivetrains remain basically unchanged.
Slight suspension tweaks have seen shock absorber settings become more compliant on all but the sportiest 335i M Sport Convertible (BMW is yet to confirm the exact rationale here), while the DCT (dual-clutch transmission) automatic models finally score proper -/+ steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts.
The 335i M Sport models, as the name suggests, now also include the popular M Sport package as standard.
Lastly, for the iPhone generation, all models include USB music player connectivity.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
-- Terrific two-doors are well within reach
Kicking off at $65,600 the new 3 Series Coupe and Convertible range ensures that the premium marque isn't out of reach for those wanting the instantly recognisable cachet that comes with a blue and white propeller badge.
Equipment levels have been retained at the high standard expected from the prestige brand; the generous specification, commodious space and quality assembly evident in each of the four model variants (320d, 325i, 330d and 335i M Sport) are essentially unchanged.
As an overview, and before any option boxes are ticked, the 3 Series Coupe and Convertible pricing sees entry-level 320d Coupe priced at $65,600 with the Convertible starting from $78,500.
The 325i, the first of the petrol-powered variants, begins at $84,900 for Coupe and $98,700 for Convertible while the upper-spec 330d is placed at $94,700 and $107,700 for Coupe and Convertible models respectively.
Topping the range, the sporty 335i M Sport models come in at $116,700 for the tin top two-door while the retractable roof option retails from $129,900.
Of course, as with all BMW models, a convenient and familiar collection of option packages are available, the Innovations Package adding $4700 to the list price of 320d, 325i and 330d models while M Sport Package adds $6500 to the cost of a 320d, $5200 to a 325i Coupe, $6500 to the 325i Convertible and $4200 to 330d models.
M3 models (not tested) remain available and are priced from $158,300 for the two-door Coupe and $176,700 for the Convertible.
-- Less is more... more or less
Owners of the mid-range 325i and 330d models will be happy to know that engine output, fuel consumption and CO2 emission levels for these vehicles have remained static -- neither powerplant's changed from its current iteration.
For the record, those figures are 160kW/250Nm, 9.2L/100km (combined) and 214g/km for the 2.5-litre six-cylinder petrol powered 325i and 180kW/520Nm, 6.4L/100km (combined) and 170g/km for the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel 330d. 0-100km/h times are 7.8 and 6.5 seconds for the two Convertible models respectively.
The 325i Coupe models record significantly better fuel economy results with 7.2L/100km with CO2 emissions totalling 168g/km. The 320d Coupe tallies 6.2L/100km and 164g/km respectively. 0-100km/h times come in at 6.7 and 6.1 seconds.
The low and high end of the Coupe/Convertible spectrum, however, have received a subtle nip and tuck, the 320d adding a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox as standard kit (the six-speed automatic transmission still available as an option) and 335i M Sport receiving a newly developed six-cylinder which for the first time in 3 Series Coupe and Convertible models combines the misleadingly named TwinTurbo, twin-spool single-unit turbocharger, High Precision Injection and VALVETRONIC fully variable valve management.
Diesel powered 320d utilises a strong yet efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit developing peak power of 135kW at 4000rpm and maximum torque of 380Nm between 1900and 2750rpm.
Thus equipped, the 320d Convertible achieves an impressive combined fuel economy figure of just 5.1L/100km (manual) with a CO2 emissions tally of 135g/km. 0-100km/h is managed in a none-too-shabby 8.3 seconds. The figures for the 320d Coupe incrementally better at 4.7L/100km, 125g/km and 7.5 seconds respectively.
Fuel saving Stop/Start technology, part of BMW's EfficientDynamics program, is included as standard on manual 320d models.
Jumping to the top of the range, the 335i M Sport has, despite its technological improvements, achieved no change to the total output figures, still 225kW (now at 5800rpm) and 400Nm (now between 1200 and 5000rpm). The difference however comes from improved CO2 emissions and fuel economy figures which are now 205g/km and 8.8L/100km (combined) for the Convertible (an improvement of 0.7L/100km) and 196g/km and 8.4L/100km for the Coupe -- an improvement of 0.8L/100km. 0-100km/h times are 5.8 seconds for the 335i M Sport Convertible and 5.5 seconds for the Coupe.
As we touched on earlier, the only other significant change to 3 Series Coupe and Convertible models comes in the suspension arrangement with shock absorber rates now adjusted for better compliance at low and moderate speeds.
All vehicles excluding the 335i M Sport Convertible feature the new, softer dampers.
-- Familiarity cedes content
While interior, and indeed most exterior, changes are not major they are noticeable.
New headlights with bi-xenon lamps feature four light rings (also referred to by BMW buffs as corona rings or angel eyes) with a yellow glow for daytime running and modified contours or 'eyebrows' at the top of the headlight assembly. LED daytime driving lights, available optionally with BMW's Innovations Package, are also offered and are included as standard on 335i M Sport models.
Larger, more prominent kidney grilles and wider air intakes (in the lower, outboard edges of the front air dam) also adorn the front fascia as do horizontal chrome bars, positioned just above the fog lamps.
An accentuated character line stretches across the rear end aimed at reducing the visual height boot. The line is flanked by revised tail lamps with a redder lens and new 'L' shaped styling over the LED diffuser bars, similar to that seen recently on the new BMW X5.
As with most mid-life model changes, a new colour palette takes the number of paint colours available to 15 (including three non-metallic options) while new Oyster coloured leather takes the total upholstery choices to six.
Four new alloy wheel designs are also offered ranging from 17- through 19-inches.
-- Two-doors, five-stars
Active headrests, a raft of electronic nannies, six airbags and BMW's safety bodyshell lead the way for a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Braking includes anti-lock brakes with Corner Brake Control, Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution with meaty four-wheel discs included on all 3 Series models.
Dynamic Stability Control with Dynamic Traction Control is included as standard on all 3 Series Coupes and Convertibles while Hill Start Assist features on all models excluding the entry-level 320d.
As with all 3 Series models (excluding M cars), run flat tyres are included as standard equipment with an indicator to let you know when tyre pressure has dropped.
-- Value key to 3's appeal
Apples for apples, the BMW product fairs favourably with its German counterparts on an equipment-for-dollar basis, coming in as the cheaper alternative in most direct (recommended retail) price lists. The value on offer is pretty hard to argue.
Obvious rivals include the Audi A5 and S5 (at the upper end), Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus IS 250 C (against Convertible models only, obviously).
ON THE ROAD
-- Quietly confident
Joining BMW for a punt across the Mt Glorious tourist road on Brisbane's emerald outskirts, the revised 3 Series performs as well as its impressive predecessor in almost every respect.
The manual 320d, the first of the two offerings available (alongside 335i M Sport), is enthusiastic in delivering its meaty low-end torque, but like most diesels runs out of puff around mid-tach. Fortunately a sweet, short throw shift makes short work of cog swaps, ideal for keeping the little oiler in its sweet spot.
In Coupe and Convertible guise (we drove the available manual variants in both); the 320d delivers a suitably compliant ride, thanks in no small part to the revised shock absorbers we mentioned earlier. Trouble is -- and perhaps this is a trait only noticeable when driven back-to-back against the current model -- the revised suspension does diminish the level of feedback from the front end, detracting (if only slightly) from BMW's renowned crisp steering feel.
Curiously, the handling hasn't suffered. The two-door 3 Series is still as tenacious as ever, holding its own on twisty sections of hilled country roads. The amount of input required to maintain direction appears to be the only distinguishable difference in directing the softer set-up across our panoramic course.
The same was true of the 335i M Sport Coupe -- remember, the suspension on 335i M Sport Convertible remains unchanged. Its front end feel measurably different to earlier iterations of the 335i.
Typically, buyers of this car have told BMW a more compromised ride versus handling arrangement is preferred in standard guise (stiffer sports suspension available as an option), and to be fair, for those buyers at least, the revised set up in a qualified and confidently compliant medium.
As was so obviously the intention, the more compliant ride of the 335i M Sport Coupe comes as a welcome ally when back in potholed suburban streets.
Where power deliver is concerned, the 335i M Sport is certain to impress -- in either body style. The engine spins freely to the top of its reach (around 6700rpm) and the new single turbocharger provides masses of torque across a wide and linear band.
It's aurally impressive too. A throaty but suitably restrained exhaust note is met with a hint of waste air rushing on gearshift.
The DCT instantly blips the throttle with a rapid and menacing bark on aggressive downshifts, the revised -/+ paddles (M3 style '-' is on the left and '+' on the right of the steering wheel, replacing the previous push/pull set up) feeling instinctive, deliberate and instantly reactive.
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