The Active Security Pack, at £1100, is another example of a rather jumpy autonomous emergency braking system. It has unnecessarily applied the brakes on a couple of occasions, reducing my trust in it in the process. I’d leave it, as I would the £750 Interior Comfort Pack, which adds some ambient lighting that I’ve hardly noticed.
The adaptive M Sport suspension is a must-have, at £515, as is the £1495 Professional Plus media package for the full suite of iDrive function that it adds. BMW’s iDrive is the best infotainment system around in my opinion.
There are also a load of ancillary options, each costing a few hundred quid, that haven’t changed my life so, to me, about £35,000 gets you all the 320d xDrive M Sport you’d ever need before you start haggling on the price.
A colleague with a contact on the BMW board recently shared a fact he’d heard – that one pound in every four that BMW makes is from the 5 Series. Now I know you’re not reading about a 5 Series here, but given the 3 Series is hardly a rare sight on our roads, the point is that even in a world of SUVs, crossovers, SUV crossovers, crossover SUV- coupes or whatever SUV-shaped niche has been filled that week, the humble saloon remains of immense importance to premium car makers.
This tallies with my own experience of life with the 3 Series. I’ve not cast one envious eye towards any kind of crossover since I’ve had the BMW. Maybe it’s just the familiarity of the breed, maybe it’s the quality of the execution from BMW, or maybe it’s just that SUVs aren’t the answer to everything.
The 3 Series is not just a very good car, it is a very good saloon car. I like its lower driving position, the way it involves you in the drive, but also allows you to sit back comfortably on longer journeys if you choose.I also prefer the security of a proper boot that hides its contents out of sight, and have yet to be f lummoxed by anything that wouldn’t fit into its opening. The 3 Series suits my lifestyle, and countless others’, too.
While exterior looks are of course subjective, for me a saloon wins over an SUV in this area, too. A senior Lexus designer recently told me that saloon cars are the hardest to design, because there are three distinct sections to integrate, rather than just getting the front-end right and flowing back from there. I present exhibit A: the lovely silhouette and proportions of the BMW 3 Series.
The best thing of all about compact saloon cars such as the 3 Series? Cheaper rates at my local hand car wash, since they’re not considered a ‘big’ car like an SUV...
M Sport steering wheels are as thick as they come, but I like the chunky feel. You don’t get the hand cramps you might get from gripping something smaller too tightly,and I find it nicely sculpted for motorway wafting. I also like the small but solid shift paddles, and the wheel’s multi- function controls are all well placed for intuitive use of the radio.
Last year I cashed in an editor’s perk and accompanied/chaperoned/stalked Andrew Frankel on a drive to Geneva in a McLaren 650S. All this served to do, however, was to give me the bug for cross continent thrashes.
So I set out to scratch that itch again one blue-skied weekend with a much shorter road trip in the 320d to the town of Amiens in northern France.