BMW 320i M Sport is the complete package

BY GRAEME LUND - OCTOBER 21, 2016

It is a while since I have driven a vehicle in BMW’s ubiquitous 3-series category and, as a result of my past experiences, my expectations where very high when I was given the 320i M Sport to test drive.  Having high expectations can often lead to disappointment but not, most definitely not, on this occasion.

Before hitting the road BMW spent a full forty minutes updating me on the new features of this magnificent vehicle.

BMW's 3 Series has long been the benchmark against which other compact luxury sedans are measured and the current series, introduced in 2012, possess a polished interior and a well-tuned chassis along with no less than five different refined and efficient engine options.

The current model’s exterior pays clear homage to previous 3 Series models but has modern touches like BMW's new corporate nose, which features narrowed headlights that spill into the traditional kidney grille.

I had my seven year old, petrol-head daughter with me when I collected the car and she couldn’t sit still with anticipation which became all the more excited when we opened the doors.  The sinuous lines, high-quality materials and an overall feeling of fine craftsmanship put a big smile on both our faces.

Instrumentation consists of BMW's tried-and-true quartet of simple, driver-friendly analogue gauges, while a tablet-style 6.5-inch display screen mounted atop the dashboard displays stereo and vehicle information.

All secondary systems are controlled through BMW's iDrive infotainment setup, which has evolved into a simple and user-friendly system. Redundant controls on the steering wheel and dashboard provide alternate means of accessing the electronics.  It took me no more than 30 seconds to figure out how to connect my cell phone to the vehicle.

The options list on all BMW’s is extensive and very impressive.  It is perhaps these options that differentiate BMW from many of its competitors.   I have listed some of the more important ones below but my advice is to spend some time assessing what is available before making your purchase.

The navigation system is available with Google point-of-interest search and real time traffic information, and it also features a touchpad mounted on the iDrive knob that lets users write out phone numbers, contact names and navigation destinations - and also zoom in or zoom out the map - with a finger.

Other extra-cost gadgetry includes active cruise control that uses radar and a camera to maintain a set distance from the car in front (even in stop-and-go traffic); a Side and Top view camera system that provides a comprehensive view of the environment around the car to aid parking manoeuvres; and a high-resolution Head-Up (HUD) system that displays vehicle speed along with speed limit and navigation info on the lower windshield.

The HUD system originates from fighter planes where pilots don’t have time to check there instrument panel while making high speed manoeuvres.  It works just as well in motor cars.

Once on the road, the 320i M Sport was sublime.  Acceleration, manoeuvrability, comfort, ergonomics and stability, even over our notoriously rough roads, was fantastic.

The BMW TwinTurbo 4-cylinder petrol engine produces 135kW and 290Nm of torque which is more than sufficient to propel this vehicle into the fast lane of any freeway. 0-100km/h is accomplished in just 7.2 seconds.

The Estoril Blue model which I drove cost R622 900 and, I believe, is good value for money.  I was very sad to return this car to Continental Cars.

The 3-Series comes in four models; standard, Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport, for all four models there are six engine options 318i, 320i, 320d, 330i, 330d and 340i and then there are, for all models and engines, three transmission types;  6 speed manual, 8 Speed Automatic Steptronic and 8 Speed  Sports Automatic Steptronic.  Thus the pricing options are vast.

Below are some of the pricing options:

318i 6-speed Manual (basic entry level):                                                             R467 300

320i 8-speed Automatic Transmission Steptronic Sport Line:                        R546 400

320d 8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic Luxury Line:       R583 500

340i 8-speed Sports Automatic Transmission Steptronic M Sport:                R769 300

For more information call 041 502 2200 or visit them at 6 Ring Rd, Greenacres, Port Elizabeth or www.bmw-continentalcars.co.za