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BMW 3 Series 2011 Review

... there is no doubting that the upgraded models have reached a pinnacle of refinement ...

BMW gave the 3 Series a final upgrade before an all-new model breaks cover mid-way through next year.

The 320i is currently the biggest seller -- just ahead of the 320d -- and there is no doubting that the upgraded models have reached a pinnacle of refinement in a process that in the last hurrah for the current "3" is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

The people from Benz made much of the fact that their new premium mid-sizer had been blessed with more than 2000 new bits and pieces and while the new Beemers cannot boast as many as this (it had already been done a couple of years ago), there are some significant improvements in efficiency, technology, standard and optional goodies and comfort.

As well as all that there are price cuts and/or value-for-money tweaks on most versions of a car that is now in its fifth-generation as it celebrates 36 years in BMW showrooms around the world.

There are no fewer than 23 models in the 2012 3-series line-up and they range from the $56,100 320i Lifestyle sedan to the stove-hot M3 convertible with its $173,350 price tag.

In the area of fuel efficiency, BMW has opted to include brake-energy regeneration across the range and in the case of the slick twin-turbo 335i M Sport petrol "six" its combined fuel-consumption figure drops from 9.2litres/100km to 8.7litres.

For the turbo-diesels, while the 320d Touring (read wagon) Lifestyle cranks out 30Nm more torque and 5kW more power, its combined figure has fallen to a pretty miserly 5.4litres/100km.

Also new for the "3s" is Servotronic electric power steering that adjusts the amount of steering assistance to suit the vehicle speed and Bluetooth Office that is mated with BMW's so-called ConnectedDrive. This means that drivers with compatible mobile phones will have Bluetooth connection to functions such as emails, dates, tasks or SMS messages. They can be read on the information screen or read out loud to the driver.

Safety kit across the range includes dual front, front side and side curtain airbags, dynamic stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist and cornering brake control, active front head restraints, rain sensor and rear park-distance control.

The near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, short front-and-rear overhangs, excellent torquey engines and rear-wheel drive of the three versions we did drive continued to confirm of what great drivers' cars the 3-series offerings are. The new steering, new lightweight double-joint front suspension and new high-tech dampers also work brilliantly together to complete the handling credentials.

While the 320d and the 325i are impressive, the six-cylinder, three-litre 330d turbo coupe is simply stunning. The way it delivers its 180kW of maximum power at 4000rpm and a thumping 520Nm of peak torque that is on tap between 1750 and 3000rpm makes it a serious sports coupe that can sprint to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds and ready a limited top speed of 250km/h. And it achieves this while being able to deliver a combined fuel-consumption figure of just 6.2litres.


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Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

323i 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,300 – 14,080 2011 BMW 3 Series 2011 323i Pricing and Specs
335i Touring M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,900 – 43,120 2011 BMW 3 Series 2011 335i Touring M Sport Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,800 – 26,180 2011 BMW 3 Series 2011 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,600 – 27,280 2011 BMW 3 Series 2011 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
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