A brand new six-speed version of BMW's F1-style paddle-shift transmission system and a new six speed manual gearbox are added to the new Coupé and Convertible, increasing the flexibility and driver-oriented feel of the 3 Series.
The latest version of BMW's Sequential Sports Gearbox (SSG) is now closer to the Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG with DRIVELOGIC) technology of the M3 and, therefore, takes the SMG title to a wider range of BMW owners. Available on 325Ci and 330Ci Coupé, Convertible, Saloon, Touring and 325Ti Compact, the new SMG costs £1,150 and offers F1-derived gear changes via steering-wheel paddles and a shortened, sporty gear stick that can be 'blipped' forward and back. Though not as 'extreme' as the M3 SMG with DRIVELOGIC, the new SMG still provides a truly rewarding experience that brings driver and car ever closer.
For the more traditional driver, a six speed manual transmission (as on the new 5 Series) is now standard on the 330Ci Coupé and Convertible. Top speed of an electronically limited 155 mph is achieved in fifth with sixth, now, a refined cruising gear that also improves fuel consumption at high speeds. You could say a BMW 330i Coupé or Convertible is quite the caring, sharing performance car!
Where performance is being challenged however, active safety remains of principal concern to BMW?s engineers and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is now standardised across the 3 Series range, rather than limited to the six cylinder models.
BMW 3 Series Compact
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Compact can be defined as 'condensed' and the success of the car in the UK suggests that it offers all that is rewarding in the 3 Series models, but in a condensed form.
The third generation Compact, and BMW's entry-point model, was launched in 2001, therefore this year's model update is a fine-tuning job rather than a serious makeover.
The bodywork detailing is confined to a sporty new side sill, a wider boot grab handle and a re-designed rear light cluster (NB: does not feature LED technology). DSC is now standard on all Compacts, whilst the six-cylinder 325ti petrol and the four cylinder 320td diesel cars now incorporate the six speed manual transmission. The SMG system from the 330Ci and 325Ci is also added as an option to the 325ti Compact.
The Compact remains 15 kg lighter than its 3 Series Coupé cousin, and in its super-agile 325ti form, achieves an outstanding 0-62 figure of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 146 mph. Impressive figures are not, however, limited to petrol-power. The 320td Compact features BMW's renowned 2.0-litre diesel unit and manages over 64 mpg on the out-of-town cycle. With nearly 14 gallons available, that's a potential of almost 900 miles between fill-ups.
Warm Off The Press
Recent 3 Series news has not been limited to the 2003 model updates. The new year announcement of a 330Cd, marrying the 3 Series Coupé with BMW's brand new version of its already legendary 3.0-litre diesel unit, caused a minor heart murmur amongst petrol devotees, whilst the introduction of sporty ES models in January launched a BMW 318 for less than £20,000.
Free Service and Maintenance packs on BMW diesels have also been introduced and the availability of the ever-popular 'Sport' derivatives was extended within the range.
Jim O'Donnell, BMW Great Britain's managing director said: "The 3 Series remains key to BMW's success in the UK. The company's ability to remain focused on the model, whilst brand new BMW products like the new 5 Series and Z4 are being launched, continues to provide an incredibly tempting proposition to new and used customers, whether in the retail or corporate sector. We are certainly not complacent about 3 Series and 2003's model year enhancements will keep the range fresh."
"It is important to appreciate that the 3 Series success is due, in no uncertain terms, to the fact that it is a 'range' of models. We sold a record number of 3 Series cars in the UK last year, but less than half were Saloon versions. The beauty of the 3 is its versatility combined with one constant - it remains a great driver's car in all its forms," he concluded.Published 14 May 2003